Category Archives: Life Lessons

Confession Number Thirteen: The Novice Is Taking It To Another Level

March 23 (2)An Unexpected Shift:

Although I will be a Student of Horse the rest of my days, I feel something in my novice horsemanship changing.  It is somewhat intangible. Writing about it will be very challenging because much of this shift is in the realm of the unseen, the realm of intuition and spirit.  However, the manifestations in the physical world that I will describe may help illustrate the strong yet gossamer thread of complete confidence in the world of the spirit that is becoming a constant in my life with horses and in general.

On a practical level, having had the “crash course in horse” experience the past few years, I am now in a place of understanding; I’ve been exposed to so many elements of horse handling, horse health, horse training, horse care and many different horses, themselves.  This has enabled me to make informed decisions on my own, without needing to believe and trust that every opinion, or what folks claim is horse gospel truth, is actually true.

What is true is that there is no complete “right” when being with horses.  They are all so different; with such different backgrounds, personalities and temperaments that it would be akin to thinking “one size fits all” when it comes to humans.  There are, however, many “wrongs” in the world of horse.  And, then there are simply the grey areas…

Interestingly, however, in this time of “the sleeping bear”, this time of peace, this time of having time in my life, I am finding a new level, a “something else” as I am with, not only my horses, but any horse.

A big part of this this “new level” is occurring because I am spending so much time just being with my horses.

I am resisting the ever-present temptation to bathe them (their favorite thing being to get damp in a bit of drizzling rain, then pick the dirtiest dirt in the paddock and have a marvelous, groaning-with-pleasure roll in it), obsessively fly spray them (organic, of course!) in the Florida bug-ridden tropical weather, love on them, give out way too many treats…all the fun but busy things we humans enjoy with our horses…and instead… just sit there under a tree in the paddock.  They might come over and sniff me a bit or ignore me totally but there we are…together.  I don’t “do” anything.  I don’t even pray, do energy work or send mental or verbal messages to them.

I just… sit.

Don’t get me wrong,  I DO groom them, pick hooves, brush out manes and tails and observe their training and care, as any horse caretaker must do, but not as the heretofore primary agenda when I am with them. 🙂

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I do admit to needing to kiss Spirit’s cute nose sometimes, before I settle myself down…

 

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Sweet Serenity, so quiet and kind, with just a touch of sassy.  Sometimes I sit and look into her eyes and she stares right back, her lips trembling with relaxation.

 

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Sometimes, Baby Doe communicates very strongly that I must scratch her rear end…for hours, actually.  I don’t mind one bit!

I AM doing as many of these things as possible “at liberty”…no halter, no lead rope. Admittedly, with my beloved gelding, the irrepressible Spirit, halter and rope are still necessary for grooming, at least … still,  the kind trainer is slowly accomplishing many things with him at liberty!

The other thing I’m starting to observe is that my communication with my three is becoming more of a two-way street.  I use more body language and respond more in the moment without considering the horse-world-approved right and wrong ways to communicate with a horse. And my sweet horses are clearer, whether with body language or actual mental pictures/words, in what they are trying to tell me.

In past blogs, I related the two times I heard actual sentences from my horses, upon which I acted and achieved the desired results.  The first time was when Serenity instructed me how to disguise her antibiotic medication so that she would actually take it easily instead of the ongoing struggle we had been having.  The second time was when Baby Doe whispered to me that she did NOT want to be a show horse. This led to my actively pursuing having her become mine, aided by the un-showhorse-worthy hitch in her gait (which later turned out to be navicular disease).  Had I not “heard”  her say this, I don’t know, at that time, if I would have had the courage and wherewithal to fight for her the way I did, and she could easily have ended up in cruel hands or put down.

I do still hear certain phrases, instructions and even their individual private names for me (too precious and sacred to share) but, at this writing, I have not yet been able to put these into categories that can be comprehended.  These communications are coming, albeit somewhat disjointedly, due to my own “head-deafness” (this is how I describe my human-ness to them while asking them to be really persistent and clear with me 🙂

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Spirit is not sure whether he’ll acknowledge my presence 🙂

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He decides he will!

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We take a little walk together 🙂

They patiently spell certain things out as though teaching me “A: an Apple, B: a Boy, C: a Cat”.

One example of this would be the time I was hand grazing Serenity just outside Baby Doe’s paddock.  Baby Doe allowed this to go on for a bit and then began plucking at the halter hanging on the nearby gatepost.  I continued to blissfully graze Serenity.  Baby Doe then picked up the halter in her teeth and flung it to the ground outside the gate.  Me: still blissfully grazing Serenity.  Finally, Baby Doe grabbed the gate chain in her teeth and violently shook it.  Me:  “Oh gee, did you want to be grazed now, Baby Doe?”

I put Serenity back in her paddock, picked up the flung-to-the-ground halter and approached Baby Doe.  Normally a bit hard to catch, Baby Doe thrust her head in the halter, gave me about 1 second to clip on the lead rope, another second to open the gate, and with a flounce of her golden mane, stepped out to where the “grass is greener” (naturally OUTSIDE the grassy paddock she is in) and began chomping grass as though she had been starved for 6 months!  Yeah, it was elementary, and I eventually “got it” :).

That is a very basic example of the “conversations” we’re having these days…there are now multitudes of these “conversations” on escalating levels.

But recently a more advanced communication happened, one that I am just now beginning to process.

My three have become quite the tiny herd and upon coming here, their beautiful herd-ish-ness though still exquisite, is, sometimes, impractical for our more “civilized surroundings”.  I LOVE their bond and would protect it with my very being, BUT we do need to calm some of the anxiety that is occurring when one of them is out of sight of the others.  When I say out of sight, I mean perhaps a hundred feet away, around a corner.

The wonderful, kind trainer is working to calm their anxiety.  It is a slow, patient work-in-progress.

Thus,  when the farrier had Spirit under the overhang of the main barn while doing his hooves and Baby Doe was in her back paddock, all training of the easing of the separation anxiety went completely out the window and Baby Doe began hysterically running and whinnying for him.

His front legs were somewhat visible, but his whole body wasn’t.  I went to her and the proffered hay-as-a-distraction did absolutely nothing to calm her.

I grabbed her halter, into which she again shoved her head, then clipped her lead rope on and intended to take her into the neighboring paddock which, at the outside boundary, was only about 25 feet from where Spirit was standing.  She was so overly excited, I was concerned about leading her directly to him outside of the fencing, knowing she could potentially bolt. I couldn’t let her continue to scream in anxiety because this can lead to ulcers and she had just come through a colic the night before (a VERY long night…).

As we entered the neighboring paddock, it became clear that her anxiety was not lessening in the slightest.  Still, I led her to the fence nearest  to where he was standing.  She was still screaming and pulling.

I knew I had to release the lead rope and just let her go, or I could be dragged and perhaps stomped upon.  She was totally hysterical.

I also knew that when I released the lead rope, I had to find safety in seconds and strategized the spot.  Then came the moment.  I reached up to unclip the rope. Time stopped.

Although frantic in her anxious hysteria, she actually looked down at me. I looked up at her.  In that nano-second, we communicated non-verbally.  She conveyed, in that nano-second, that she was not going to hurt me, no matter what.

I trusted that.

I let go.

She ran in a frenzy. I hopped up on the fence.  She ran close to me but not at me.  I felt calm, made “shhh-ing” sounds to her and didn’t fear her in the least. I just hoped to calm her.

While this was going on, the farrier, in his amazing wisdom, brought his tools and the much-missed gelding, Spirit, down to the fence where she was.  Baby Doe immediately calmed. I hopped down off the fence on the other side and then saw the pale faces of the onlookers.

I guess they thought I was crazy, in danger of being trampled and probably was doing a dunder-headed thing when I handled her the way I did.

But I KNEW.  And Baby Doe knew.

In that split second, all the time we’ve spent bonding, having our disagreements, learning from each other, angering each other and loving each other, came together… in that vital split second of communication…as time stood still.

As I move into this new phase, as is common in life, all sorts of people, books and videos are suddenly making themselves known to me that support, explain and teach the new level that I am experiencing.  It is as though a completely new universe of possibility is opening up to me in my relationship with horses.

I had been dismissed, ignored and contradicted so often in the past when I would express my intuitions and knowing-nesses, that I can hardly  believe that I am going down a path now that many have traveled before me!

But, mainly, it’s the horses.  They are the ones patiently teaching.  They are the ones who remain steadfast until humans “wake up” to the oneness of all things in the universe.  They are the ones who don’t need us…but know that we need them.  We need them very much to help us evolve into our better selves.

Liz Mitten Ryan states this so beautifully in her book, The Truth According To Horses (Prima Publishing, 2008):

(The following is a communication of thought information given to her by her herd…)

“Dogs, cats and horses have been your closest companions through the ages. Think of the attributes that are ours.

Dogs are loyal.  They love unconditionally….They surround you with care, with adoration, and they guard you against your greatest fears.

Then there are cats. They show you how to be free. They reward you with their approval when you make the right decision and they will call you on your shortcomings….Life is an adventure for a cat and they will show you how to participate.

Horses are for a … few who have committed to a complete immersion in the life experience.  They are the big commitment most people are afraid to make and will test and try your resolve to grow in spirit more than any other species….

We can give you the peak experience.  Wisdom, Truth, Joy, Freedom, Abundance and Love.

Is there anything else you are looking for?  We will challenge you to become the most you can possibly be.  We are at your disposal. Come when you want to spend time with us and commit to the level you want to grow. We have no parameters. You are the ones who set the limits, the time, space and dimension…

We are limitless beings in a limitless Universe. Come and commune with us and let us show you how to be the best you can be.”

Yes, yes and yes!

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Confession Number Twelve: The Bear Is Sleeping…For Now…

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An Unexpected Peace:

“It was then that Tristan came into the quiet part of his life.  The bear inside him was sleeping.  It is hard to tell of happiness.  Time goes by and we feel safe too soon.”  – One Stab (Legends of the Fall)

For better or for worse, I have, for many years, been fascinated with the movie, Legends of the Fall.  This movie has irresistible sweeping landscapes, sweeping music and sweeping passions.  The story takes the viewer beyond the internal “…and they lived happily ever after…”,  and shows what happens to the characters in the “ever after”.  It reflects the way real life ebbs and flows, albeit with far more dramatic storylines.

More dramatic than my life storylines, at least :).However, I do relate to the concept of the sleeping bear. Ah yes, the bear of hope, anxiety, yearning, fulfilling potential, being driven and my pesky inner “demons” that need healing.

I am in one of those times right now.  The bear inside me is sleeping and I am enjoying a wonderful period of rest, renewal, release and regrouping. (Yep, the truly essential 4 Rs)

By making the difficult decision to bring myself and my three horses back to Florida for a time, I have been shown very clearly that there were underlying issues that needed to be addressed beyond my own exhaustion and stresses.

First of all, my horses.  My horses are very content not to be constantly blanketed and un-blanketed!

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Serenity, in particular, is enjoying the balmy, breezy warmth of Florida

They are enjoying respite from the challenging winds of Wyoming.  They are very peaceful at the beautiful barn I’ve found for them.  Even finding that barn was a miracle.

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I had been making making inquiries about boarding barns in South Florida on a  barn-resource website, and this particular barn owner was the first to reply.  It was the first barn I visited when I got here for “reconnaissance”.  The beauty and peaceful energy, seemingly coming up from the land itself, were all I needed to know.  Although I visited a couple of other barns after this one, there was simply no comparison.  The barn decision was easy and has turned out to be better than expected.

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Spirit and a masked Baby Doe (protecting her eyes from the sun) who had recently had a lovely roll in the dirt 😉

Second of all, I was able to get a farrier to see my three within a few days of arriving.  He’s been with this barn for 20 years.  He actually looked at the x-rays of Baby Doe’s navicular arthritis and spent a long time pointing out things in the images that no one had showed me before.  He has made a plan of action for her best pain management and to help her be a sound as possible. Yes, he’s actually a farrier who “shows up” on many different levels!

He then recommended a trainer that he and the barn owner have known for many years.  I had  already begun interviewing trainers but my “spidey sense” was sending red flags of “No”.

This trainer was open and listened to what I was hoping for for my three.  Each of them has a different personality, background and issues.  She heard that.  As we’ve begun work with them, I see more and more that she really does “get” that each of them is on a different path.  As for my own training 🙂 well, she sees to it that I’m understanding what she’s doing and gives tips and instructions on how I can also do these techniques…in time…

She also made me aware of a new treatment for navicular disease and I’m having the new vet, who understands navicular, out to the barn to implement this treatment this week!  Oh, to see Baby Doe out of pain…!

Then there’s getting back to my riding training…in time…

That’s another huge part of my sleeping bear.  I am consciously choosing to only do one thing at a time…I am resisting the ever-present pressure to take on more than I can handle.  I am taking care of my slightly fragile psyche right now. (By the way, in my way of thinking, it takes a lot of strength to let oneself feel fragile…)

I am also giving myself the gift of time….time to grieve Hercules’ death; time to grieve the loss of some of my dearest, most private hopes; time to sit on my balcony and just watch palm fronds blowing as the sun sets; time to sit in the pasture where my horses peacefully graze and allow my inner time clock to meld with their time clocks.

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Spirit and I having a “discussion”…while Serenity occupies herself in another direction 🙂

Their clocks move very slowly… I watch each move, each ear flick, each eye expression change.  I watch how they’re chewing their grass or hay.  I watch each interaction in the wordless dance they weave together.

I am also giving myself permission not to know. Not to know what’s next.  Not to know when I need to do the next thing for the ranch.  Not to know who is going to be part of my life there, whether as staff or visiting friends.  I really don’t know.  And, surprisingly, I don’t care that I don’t know.

I am enjoying things that I had not given myself permission to enjoy for a couple of years now.  Yes, indeed!  Things such as shopping, not for tack, but for sparkly high heeled sandals.  Things such as actually putting on a cute outfit for the day; something other than jeans, boots and a cotton shirt, since my days, before this respite, had always ended up at the barn, and any clothing gets muddy, torn and faded with barn work 🙂 Things such as taking naps, reading good books and seeing friends I hadn’t had time to see in the past while.

The horses are just fine. More than fine.  They are getting what they need.

Ah yes, the bear is sleeping. But time will go by.  I may indeed be feeling too safe, too soon.

I accept that.  For now, however, this is good.  This is very good.

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Confession Number Eleven: “Even Cowgirls Get The Blues”

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An Unexpected Decision:

It has felt like I’ve been seeing things from the wrong end of the telescope for quite some time now.  I’ve begun not to recognize myself.  Normally, no matter how sad or stressed or grief-stricken I am, there is always this well-spring of joy deep inside me that bubbles up and eventually washes away the sorrow.

This time is different somehow…

The duties, expectations and pressure of getting this little ranch up and running all by myself have been somewhat inexorable.  I’ve enjoyed much of it and I have wonderful, talented and integrous people working for me.  The land is truly God’s country.  The horses are happy.

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Morning antics behind the barn 🙂

Yet, for the past three months, I’ve awoken each morning without my usual excitement to greet the day.  Instead, I’ve been waking up with an anxiety that recently has turned into what I imagine panic attacks to be.  Usually, going out to the barn to do the morning feed, even in subzero weather, has helped to calm down the panic attack symptoms. But not by much.

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Subzero Feedings…such beauty!

Then, since the diagnosis of my beloved cat, Hercules’ lymphoma and the aggressively growing mass in his abdomen a couple of months ago, I’ve had the constant pressure of unshed tears behind my eyes 24/7.  Oh, I’ve shed many MANY tears in private, but in order to do the work at the ranch, with folks around, there were many hours I couldn’t let them fall.  Any potentially joyful moments, instead of transcending the worries I was having, have fallen with a thud on my spirit.

I’ve needed to continually give myself pep talks that I’m doing right by my horses and that they’re okay if, for instance, the farrier flakes out on me, the temperature drops to zero in the middle of the night and I hadn’t blanketed them, if I don’t clean their hooves regularly, if, if, if….

Eventually, I found I’d stopped wanting to do anything and had just been “powering through” the hours in the day.

Then came help, in the form of a couple of dear friends, who were very vocal about my state of mind, “Christine, who the heck are you”?, “We don’t recognize this Christine”.  “You’re vibrating at too low a level for you”.  “What are you trying to prove”?

And the most eye-opening of all, “Did it occur to you that you weren’t meant to run this ranch all by yourself?  Maybe what God has planned was that you get the land, the place and the home ready.  Ready for the people and animals that are to come.  Now it’s all just about done.  Others can finish it up.  Why don’t you take a breather”?

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My home, before ANY improvements. But with that sun behind it…what’s to improve?

I thought long and hard about all this input. And here’s what I realized.

The pressures and grief about my cat and other personal losses  had put me into a “dark night of the soul” which was actually a profound blessing.  It was while wandering in this dark landscape of spirit that I realized I was tapping into areas of my being that were not yet healed.  Areas I hadn’t been able to access until now.

This healing is not a cathartic “one and done” type of process.  Instead it feels somewhat like the aftermath of food poisoning when the poison is out but one’s whole body is aching, cramping and sore.  My soul is aching, cramping and sore right now.  It will take as long as it takes…

So in order to take this “breather” (since, indeed, I’ve prepared this place and it’s ready!) I’m going to take the three darling horses and we’re going to rest in Florida until Spring.  I found a beautiful farm where I can board them and where they can be turned out in a spacious pasture just as they are here.  Their stalls are together and they can come and go into their stalls at night, as they please, just as they do here.

The grounds are beautiful.  The people are kind.  I will be visiting my sweetheart horses all the time but, for these months, they will be full-boarded.  In the meantime, I will get myself back to myself but, hopefully, stronger and more healed.  I will ponder the miracles that, even as I write, are pouring down upon me…as though God and the angels are trying to wake me back up to live in the joy that is normally mine!

And I will incorporate the lessons taught to me by Hercules, the cat and by my three horses.

As Hercules’ illness progressed, I observed him being slightly confused by his ever-changing condition BUT always finding a way to roll with it.  He adapted over and over again.  He showed me that one can adapt to just about anything.  It just feels different.

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Hercules in healthier, sassier times ❤

Baby Doe, my paint mare, has taught me to express myself honestly or just not bother expressing myself at all!  🙂  When I come to her with, either a hidden agenda for what I want to accomplish with her or with trying to hide what I’m feeling, she bites the air and throws her head and wants NONE OF IT.  But if I just talk to her with my voice and heart being in complete authenticity, she’s right there with me.

Spirit, my gelding, has taught me to find the fun in everything and anything, even if it’s just finding a huge stick in the pasture and carrying it up to me in his mouth.  He has also taught me that it’s okay to be very strict with him, albeit with tons of kindness and love, but to not cave in to him when he challenges me.

Serenity, my other mare, likes to take a nap in her stall after evening feed.  When I come down to the barn to let them out, there she is, lying down,  sleeping with her eyes open in a trance, her breath soft and slow.  I sit next to her, pet her and breath with her.  She has taught me by communicating these words, in thought, “Just rest, child.  Rest, next to me. See how lovely it is”?

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My three beloved, goofy, personality-filled teachers and companions!

I will miss Wyoming SO much in these next couple of months but it will be there strong and awe-inspiring, waiting for us to return.  We will return!

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My first glorious sunset at the ranch…way back in August.

 

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Confession Number Ten: I Am Very Bad At Grief

 

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The Wyoming Winter Sky Echoes The Sadness Within Me

An Unexpected Death Watch:

I tried, I really tried to make him well again!  I knew my boy cat, Hercules, wasn’t well.  He had dropped a lot of weight in a short period of time. His little spine felt like a dinosaur skeleton.  He was lethargic and vocally complaining a lot.

I took him to the wonderful vet, Dr. Brenda, and we did everything. Some things we did twice.  She was very accommodating, even though she knew by palpating the mass in his abdomen, looking at the x-rays and the blood tests, that, in all likelihood, he had lymphoma.  But she bore with me as I asked for yet another round of antibiotics, for more tests, for more ex-rays, ANYTHING to somehow make it not so.

Finally, this past Wednesday, we both realized she needed to open up his abdomen to see what this was, if it had spread, if it was removable.  She sent me on errands around town rather than have me drive back up to the ranch.  But in just a few minutes, by the time I had filled up my truck at the gas station, I had a call from her asking me to come immediately back to the vet’s office so I could see the mass for myself.

Most vets wouldn’t have invited the patient’s “mom” into the operating room, but Dr. Brenda had already observed my ability to watch surgical cutting, gore, and spewing blood when I remained present for Baby Doe’s leg “boo boo” surgery.  She knew I wouldn’t faint at the sight of Hercules’ open abdomen 😦

What I did see in my precious boy’s abdomen was the largest, ugliest, most grotesque, hateful mass imaginable.  It surrounded his intestines, it made viewing some of his other organs almost impossible.  For me, it was “hate at first sight”.  Dr. Brenda was right there with me, hating this hideous monster of a mass in my boy’s belly.

She gave me the choice whether to sew him back up and let him live out what was left to him or to give him the meds that would let him gently drift over the rainbow bridge.

After ascertaining the pain management options available to him, added to the fact that he had still been eating, drinking, trotting around with his tail straight up and cuddling with massive purring, I had her sew him back up.

Many might disagree with this decision, but as long as he wasn’t suffering in pain and he was still vibrant enough to get all the love and goodbyes that we all needed to give him, I would wait with him for when he decided it was time…

And so, now, it is just a matter of time.  At the first sign of no appetite, hiding out, and pain in his eyes, I WILL do what is necessary.

In the meantime, there is one room in which he likes to hang out by his water fountain.  I’ve been putting a blanket and pillow on the floor at night to sleep next to him for the few nights I probably have left with him.

My grief is almost unendurable.  He has been an amazing companion.

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Grief….pure grief….

I tell his story on my other website Christine Hendler’s Blog in a May 2014 post titled A Tail of Four Cats as well as a description of what I now realize was the beginning of his cancer in an October 2014 post titled Try To Remember The Kind Of September

In most of my posts, I try to find the lesson to be learned in the experiences I have.  In this experience, here’s what I’ve learned.

First Lesson:  My neighbor, who is a tough Wyoming cattle rancher, and who checks in on me regularly ( I think he can’t quite believe a petite, blond girlie girl is managing and living on 80 acres all by herself), actually reacted with kindness and complete understanding when he came by the other day and all I could do was sob (ugly sobbing, believe me!)  He actually praised my ability to let out my sorrow rather than hold it in.  Who knew that even the toughest cowboys “get it”.

Second Lesson: In horsemanship discussions, it is reiterated endlessly that one has to be the leader that one’s horse can trust. Being herd animals, horses look to the leader (whether horse or human) they can confidently follow.  For me, this has been an ongoing challenge in learning about “true” leadership.  I often berate myself and feel like I will never get to that point that is so prettily written about in the articles and books I read.

On the night I realized that Hercules is indeed dying of cancer, I was having a heck of a time removing the eye mask that Baby Doe must wear daily, since her light eyes could be severely damaged by the sun.

She was in one of her mare-ish Princess/Diva Doe moods and having none of it.  Finally, in my anguish, I said to her “Look, Baby Doe, Hercules is dying and I can’t handle you and your f—ing Diva ways tonight so f—ing let me get this f—ing thing off.”  At which point I broke down sobbing and couldn’t stop.  She slowly turned her head to look at me, took a step closer, bowed her head and touched my shoulder with her nose and invited me to get the mask off without any trouble whatsoever. (By the way, any horse person who tells you they’ve NEVER dropped the “F Bomb” with their horse is not exactly telling you the full story…:)

I learned that leadership equals honesty.  Horses never lie and one can never lie to a horse.  They know.  My anger and grief were my truth and she responded to that truth.

My worry about Hercules, the horses, the ranch and my loved ones, is so intense these days that my forehead needs botox! 🙂  But I still have tremendous faith in God.

I choose, now, to sit in a place of  love and gratitude for my beloved Hercules.  I choose, now,  to wait with him for the moment he tells me, “It’s time. I’m ready.”

I choose, now, that he and I will watch for death…together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confession Number Nine: Wyoming…Finally!

Wyoming Fall and Winter.JPG6An Unexpected Horse and An Unexpected Solitude:

It’s been quite a roller coaster ride!!! Glorious Wyoming, and the joy my horses are experiencing here, are the overriding impressions of almost three months of being in the sweet, grassy. soft, silent, prairie part of Wheatland, WY!!

Only now, given that the much-very- gloomily-predicted-by-locals Wyoming Winds are blowing, seemingly at gale force 😦 , silence is a precious commodity.

So much happened so very quickly upon arrival.  It is somewhat of a blur.

Two things stand out though.

About a week after I arrived, before all the horses got here, I received a message from the glorious mare Serenity’s human.  She, after much struggle, had realized that she needed to let Serenity go.  She explained that she needed to spend time with her son, her work and the cost and time of keeping a horse were getting way beyond her means.  She wondered if I would take her here in Wyoming.  Would I?????  We spoke at length and she convinced me this was what she truly wanted. Four days later, the glorious Serenity arrived here in Wyoming…

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Serenity arrives via Brook Ledge Horse Transport late on October 6!

…On the night of my birthday, October 6 🙂

I am still trying to fathom that after all the love I thought I’d lost and  the grieving I’d experienced, missing that little red mare so very much….she is here with ME.  She is mine!

I am inviting her human and her human’s son come visit her AND me in January.   I plan to continue to get them out here as much as possible.

For the past year or more, Serenity was virtually stall-bound with very little turn out, grazing or even being ridden.  When she first arrived here, she melded almost immediately into my little herd.  She ran for the sheer freedom and joy of it…

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Serenity runs for JOY!.

…and then huddled back in her stall. Which she did often.  I leave the stalls open for all the horses,except at grain time 🙂 so they can go in and out at will.  She chose mostly “in”.

Now, at the two month point, she chooses mostly “out” and grazes, wanders and runs.

Her mane and tail, which had almost been lost, due to stress, are growing back in.  Her eye is softening, losing the white sclera look of anxiety a horse can exhibit. I can “see” the smile on her face when she’s being brushed.

And when her breakfast and dinner are being served, she lifts up her sweet left front leg, curling it under her in excitement as she nickers for faster service! 🙂

This beautiful, kind mare who taught me how to be an improving human two years ago (See my second post on this site, Three Essential Lessons On How To Be An Improving Human; Taught To Me By Serenity, The Horse) is now having the horsey time of her life.

I am honored and privileged to provide it for her.

Enter the next piece of the story, the unexpected solitude.  Due to a series of events too difficult to speak of here, I’ve ended up in the “middle of somewhere” on eighty acres of ranch, alone with three horses and two cats!

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Spirit and Baby Doe “high tail” it to the pasture

I’ve had to re-organize my priorities, my thoughts and my direction.  It’s funny how life prepares one for the future, when one has NO IDEA what that future will bring!  The Third Confession on this site, Revealing The Dirty Little Secrets That Happen At Barns, tells the story of how I received a crash course in barn management with my barn buddy, Felice.  It tells of all our “I Love Lucy” moments, our mistakes and our triumphs.  Thank Goodness!

Because here I am, managing a barn, all by myself.  Somehow I just know what to do and how to organize it.  Those previous months truly paid off!

I have also been blessed beyond belief with a network of support that appeared almost immediately after I found myself alone here.  I now have a young woman ranch-handing for me, a young man (the son of my hay guy) as backup hand, a lovely woman who manages a lot of my household things like cleaning, a retired sheriff/contractor who has built my fences, my round pen, has hired others to build my pole barn and level my arena and good neighbors who stop by and check in with me, just to see if they can be of help.

They have been. Even if just to give sound advice on winter feeding and blanketing of Florida horses in their first Wyoming winter!

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Not even the “bleak mid-winter” yet 😦

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Someone LOVES rolling in the snow!

I am also blessed with a knowledgeable, kind vet and a wonderful farrier!  Every horse person knows just how precious those two roles are.  Now if I can just find the right horsey dentist…:)

I have supportive friends who call, text regularly with encouragement plus offer solid shoulders to cry on and others who send little care packages of love.

But the solitude is still intense.

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Stark beauty

The loneliness takes my breath away at times.

I know God is preparing me for something profound as I am caused to go even more deeply inside my soul, to learn more of who I truly am and what I’m truly made of.

I’m never entirely alone, of course, with three very personality-filled horses, two dear cat companions, the sunrises, the sunsets and oh, those Wyoming stars!

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Just before sunrise at feeding time.

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Each sunset more glorious than the previous ones.

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How can ANYONE be lonely when drinking wine with two superb equines?

Life continues to teach me to “expect the unexpected”!

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The unexpected bluffs just atound the corner from me…lonely beauty!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sixth Confession: How I Went From “Dread” To Joy!

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The very kind, old, gentleman gelding, Buzz. He made sure I felt safe with him.

An Unexpected Horse Angel, Trainer Marianne:

By the time Trainer Marianne entered our lives in late February 2015, I and my two beloved horses had pretty much become ragged messes.   Only my intense, ferocious love for my two, in spite of my novice ignorance, kept the three of us from cracking wide open with desperation.

I guessed at, but was not fully consciously aware of, the things that had been inflicted on these two horses before they became mine.  That, plus my ignorance, coupled with some of the prideful, know-it-all, uneducated barn cronies’ incessant input, combined to create a situation in which I could no longer bear to ride my horses or ANY horse, for that matter. Although I, myself, had never fallen; another woman, who was an experienced horsewoman, had fallen off my gelding during one of our rides, my mare on trail was lifting her head in discomfort, bowing to buck and coming up lame. Plus, the trail “energy” at Treetops Park was becoming increasingly creepy to me. All these elements had driven me into a state, which in the rodeo they call…”The Dread”.

Of course in the rodeo, these cowboys are experiencing massive “wrecks’ which can require months of physical rehab and pain meds.  My “wreck” was emotional and spiritual.

I prayed and prayed for the right trainer to come into our lives.  It felt like these prayers fell on God’s deaf ears and would be never answered.  I did have specific desires for what I required of a trainer.  Perhaps that’s why it took some time ;).

I needed my trainer to partner with the horse, to put the horse first, to not think of a horse as a human commodity and to be able to listen to the “still, small voice within” which, ultimately, manifests in what could be considered:  “Unconventional Training Methods”.

Enter Marianne, Horse Angel. Custom-made for me and my two.

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Marianne, in her horsey, kind way, seeing that Buzz is buckled in. This was his last bit. As of today, we are using a bitless bridle on him. He is so happy

As she began working with and understanding their hurts, needs and lacks in their training, she then turned her focus on me. ” Why aren’t you riding?”, she queried.

“Never again”, I adamantly stated.

“But it’s fun”, she cajoled.

“No it’s not.  It’s dangerous, It’s a job. I hate it.”

“Okay…”,she conceded.

Then I watched her begin the healing process on my two and my heart began to open.

One day she said, “Buzz is a sweet old gelding who gives his whole heart when he’s doing a horse show even though he’s not a show horse. Come meet him”.

I did.  He put his head in my hand and sniffed me all over and allowed me to kiss him… lots! Marianne said, “He never does that.”

I secretly knew he was telling me, “It’s okay, Little One.  You would be safe on me.”

So one day, a few weeks later, when Marianne suggested that I just climb on Buzz bareback and she would lead me and him on a lead rope, I said, yes.  I love bareback riding and it was an irresistible offer.

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Marianne leads me on a bareback ride on Buzz

We rode for maybe 15 minutes.  When I dismounted I knew I was “back”.

Marianne never pushed.  She always waited for me to ask.  But, in time, I was asking and asking.  Let me ride him bareback again.  A hunter saddle?  Let me try that.  My western treeless saddle?  Amazing connection with every muscle in the horse’s back!  Balance? Centered riding? Thighs? Core?

In time, the superb details and the kindness with which she imparted them, caused me to anticipate each lesson with complete excitement.  I couldn’t wait to learn the next thing.  To learn half-halting with the reins, how to use the back of my arms. how to two point…

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The beginning of learning the lifting and tilting of two point. Ultimately the up and down of posting in a hunter saddle rests on this. Legs and heels positioned. Pelvis shifting with the up and down.

and…recently…how to post.  Hopefully…soon… I will begin learning the seated canter 🙂

In a hunter saddle, the momentum of the thrust of the horse’s body makes one feel like one is flying. That, plus the perfection of the rhythm of the up, down, up, keeping thighs on saddle and heels balancing the whole mechanism is a perfection of impulse and synchronization that has become addictive.

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Hunter saddle, beginning posting!

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Western treeless saddle! Awesome feel!

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Posting in the western treeless! Pretty much heaven as I see it!

Marianne, in kindness, encouraged my strength, balance and coordination plus my seemingly innate feel for a horse’s body.  I don’t know that I truly have those gifts but…

Here’s what I do know:

Through patience, kindness, faith and love of human and horse, this novice horsewoman is beginning to experience a world she could not have even imagined. The profound body connection between human and horse is practically indescribable in words.

From the ashes of my “dread”, the pillar of my joy is growing and building.

Perhaps we can all begin to trust that from the “wrecks” in our lives… hope, kindness, patience and a renewal, better than where we started and beyond what we could have dreamed, are all possible.

I am still very much a novice horsewoman and novice rider. 

Sooo much more to learn! 🙂

But, oh, the joy of it all!!!

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Fifth Confession: How I Became A Recovering “Horse Annoyer” ;)

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An Unexpected Truth:

One day, early on in her work with me and my two, Trainer Marianne turned to me and in the most matter-of-fact voice said, “Christine, you are annoying your horses.”

After I stopped laughing until tears rolled down my cheeks :), I considered her words and took a quick self-inventory.

Those that know me in person, know that I resemble a big, ol’ Labrador Retriever.  I express my joy at seeing someone I care about with huge hugs (the equivalent of a Lab jumping up on someone and licking their face all over).  There is much virtual “tail-wagging” in my enthusiasm!  I tend to resemble the Lab wagging his tail so ferociously near the living room coffee table decorated with Swarovski crystal figurines that he sends everything shattering to the floor! Just from the pure joy of love ❤

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This can be distressing to an introvert or someone who is highly sensitive.  Which is funny, because I, too, am an introvert and highly sensitive….I just become a Labrador when I get excited 😉

In the world of horse, this tends to be, to say the least, a disturbing quality.  Horses are slow in their movement.  I am fast with hands flying everywhere.  Horses, being creatures of flight, are always discerning if there is something from which they need to flee.

When I would come up to them, excited, touching, fumbling with halters or lead ropes or just staring because of their amazing beauty, the horse would interpret this as…”something is very wrong and I should flee” or “stop poking and hugging and touching my delicate nose” or  “it’s TOO much sensory input and I’m ANNOYED!”039045

Trainer Marianne, being a kind, gentle soul and somewhat of a horse herself, quietly and persistantly corrected me every time I did something “annoying”.

Here are some examples of how NOT to be annoying to a horse.

1. Approach horses with energy high and a matter of fact attitude.

2. Don’t hesitate in an action, it makes the horse think something is wrong.

3. When leading a horse on the lead rope, don’t keep looking back, it worries them.

4. Don’t stand in front of a horse and stare.  It’s irritating to them.  They don’t stand like that with each other.

5. Don’t talk so much.  Horses communicate with body language.

6. If something like a halter or tack gets tangled while you’re trying to put it on, don’t stand there and fumble.  Take it off and pretend you’re fixing it or doing something that has nothing to do with that failed attempt.  Then they get curious instead of annoyed.

7.  ALWAYS move slowly.

Then she taught me this…

…there’s nothing more healing to a human than to stand in the crook of a horse’s neck facing out the same way they are facing.  Oh how true this is.

In the quiet of a horse’s being, all else is forgotten and one is transported into the profound inner world they inhabit.  This feeling, more than any instruction, taught me.

I’ve cuddled, played with, danced with and loved up pets like my cats and dogs with my  ” Labrador ways” and it always went well!

Ah, but horses are not that.  They have heightened sensitivities, perceptions and a decision making process that says, “Fly first, figure it out later.”  It’s probably how they survived as a species for 55 million years or so.

Horses, if we listen, if we humble ourselves to approach them as THEY require being approached, can wordlessly teach us the mysteries of these primeval times which they knew.  They can teach us that, perhaps, in all our dealings with others, both human and animal, we can set aside our habitual behaviors.  We can act with sensitivity to the being with whom we’re interacting.

We can certainly be much less annoying :)!

I am still “in recovery”.  I stumble….a lot.  I am humbled….a lot.  But recently, the highest compliment ever paid me, which I shall cherish always, came from Trainer Marianne…

…  “Christine, you are finally becoming a horse.”

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