Recovery and Sleepless Nights

photo Recovery is something I have been attempting to do more actively as an adult, but is also a theme that has haunted my life.  I say haunted because it stalks me even when I do not want it to. Sometimes I don’t want to be involved in recovery processes, my own or anyone else’s.   It is a healing process, but broadly insinuates that some kind of trauma has occurred in order to jump the process of recovery into action.  It also is a ton of work, and especially draining for someone with empathetic tendencies as I have.

Recovery for me is mentally fighting an eating disorder every day.  Recovery for me is finally talking about that struggle when it was not a public part of my persona for so long.  It is also accepting my body, creating a healthier relationship with food, learning to practice intuitive eating and doing yoga in my back yard.  Recovery for me is doing deep breathing when I am confronted with chaos.  It is eating that extra bowl of spaghetti and not sucking in my stomach, or covering myself with a pillow when I sit on the couch afterwards.  It is letting my husband put his hand on my stomach with out me flinching and internally cringing.  And being able to feel worthy to be in this world.

Recovery for me is laying in my hammock and letting my Dog lick my face.  Letting her warm large body press down on me, making me feel loved and safe.

The recovery that surrounds me is watching my stepson recover from drug addiction.  Or sometimes not recover.  Recovery that surrounds me is marrying into a broken family and trying to help piece it back together, at the risk of my own sanity and my relationship with my husband.  Recovery that surrounds me is still worrying about my father’s drinking, and praying that my parents marriage will last through chaos. It is talking to my sister about our shared experiences in this life, forgiving myself for past mistakes and following steps that help me to make every day tolerable, if not lovely.

A significant recovery that I assisted with his that of my horse Chief.  He is also the reason anxiety crept up on me this afternoon, which I originally thought was out of no where. Those who meet or know Chief now, know him as the loving/steady Labrador retriever of a horse that he is. He is a curious and gentle boy.   He always was that horse underneath and I like to think I brought some of that back to the surface.

But when Chief was left to me, what many people do not know is that he was really tough.  And he was not just tough for me.  He was tough for the 5 owners prior to me that I could trace back and question about his history.  These people were all better riders than me, and aside from one cowboy, all had the same story… Big Bucker.

.   And when  Chief got healthy, he became really rough to ride and handle, which really impacted my confidence, in life and in my horse journey.

The first day I groomed Chief he tried to bite me every time I turned my head away from him.  He also tried to rip a barn door off its hinges, and didn’t have respectful boundaries resulting in a couple menacing groundwork sessions…well maybe a lot of menacing groundwork sessions.  That is, until we got to know one another.

I was relentless in his training… on the ground.  I worked with him every day, and I now have the result of that.  Chief would follow me anywhere, and I promised him I would never lead him into harm’s way.

Prior to owning Chief I was taking riding lessons with an instructor (who later became my friend) and I always felt like she respected my “level” of riding knowledge.  She had nice horses, would not lesson any of them more than once a day and had a select number of students whom she taught.  I always felt pretty confident, and would really get on anyone’s horse without a fear.  I even remember feeling so much pride when she would compliment me (compliments were rare) on my performance.

When I was young (15 years ago) I loved to jump.  I had been riding since I was a small child and had no fear.  I have videos of myself riding and I had a nice little seat and a natural understanding of moving with the horse.  And I realize, that until I quit… it was the only sport I did where I felt like I was good enough.  And then I went to a competitive barn, was not encouraged to improve, and quit.  I was bigger than the other girls, and no one really spoke to me.  I was different.

Fast forward to now.  Now Chief and I only do basic things together, and sometimes we do them really well, and some days not so well. But I could have 10 great sessions in a row, and one off day makes me sick to my stomach.  I feel like I am disappointing myself, hurting Chief, and making myself look like an asshole. I always tell myself that I just want to enjoy my horse and ride him for pleasure.  But I also remember arena work and truly enjoy it when I have a plan and can keep it interesting.

Today Chief did not want to move.  At first I thought he may have been lame in his front left leg, but alas he just wanted to go out the gate, out of the footing he does not prefer to wander the farm.

I found myself being really unbalanced, really hard with my ques and really aggressive with my leg, all to a very limited, very short response.  I thought about it, Re framed my brain and began asking for little things at the walk.  Leg yields, turn on the forehands and back ups, rewarding him for the good tries and he came back a little bit.  But when I finished I still felt I had let him down.

I felt like a sloppy rider in a sloppy body who always makes mistakes.  But right now I feel like… Fuck that.  Chief is so wonderful now because of the countless hours I have dedicated to letting him know he is safe and loved and listened to.  Not one person I know now would have volunteered to ride Chief, even as recently as last summer because of his unpredictability.  And guess what.  Sometimes we have days where we look really good together. Today was just not one of them.  And we never have bucking issues anymore and he rarely spooks.  So I would say that is a pretty fucking good outcome for this old rodeo horse.  And today I was a sloppy rider, but most days I am not.  So I need to get mentally out of my own way.

Chief knows I mean him only the best.  Today was an off day.  And it can only get better from here.

So as I try to forgive myself for giving Chief a really shitty ride today,  I am trying to look forward to the next try being gentler and more conducive to our communication.

Recovery is different for everyone, man or animal.  And you know what?  There are days where I don’t really feel like moving forward either, So, Chief, If horses ever take over the world and you read this, I love you buddy.

When God Shows Up

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I’ve been listening to a new podcast and it is helping me have a bit of bounce in my step after a few rough months.  Sometimes I have a really difficult time connecting to the Bible and this, new to me, podcast has really been giving me a beautiful new perspective.  I have been going through life this week a little lighter, a little happier and a little kinder, at least I thought.

So today I get a text from a friend that basically was telling me how badly her life is going right now.  And it does seem like this friend keeps getting hit with punch after punch of life’s troubles.  Not just small punches either, but death, hospitalization, car accidents along with some other things. She is a lovely, loving human and sometimes seems to get handed a raw deal.

So here I am, the classic co dependent Ms. Fix it… I send her text messages, ask what I can do, can I help with anything.

At the same time in my head I am judging.  Because that is what we do to one another right?

My thoughts:

  • “Sometimes God strips you down to make you better.  I bet that is what’s happening”
  • “She really needs to re-evaluate her perspective of life.”
  • “She needs to focus on her interior self and then things will begin to heal for her exterior life.”

And maybe as non harmful as those statements may seem, they come with an air of judgement, like  “maybe I am doing this life thing better than others.”  Or, “I could fix her if she would listen.”

Both things, which, are entirely untrue, unwarranted and incorrect. I am no one to have these thoughts. But it is this game we play in this life, like thought bubble, “maybe my life reflects better in light of someone else’s suffering.”  This transactionalism we play with God…  “Clearly I am earning his favor because, right now, I am feeling pretty good.”  When it says all throughout the bible that, that idea is invalid.  God’s love is automatic.  There is no measure of earning more of it.

So meanwhile, my business is in Trenton, and we have tons of bike traffic on my street. I am sitting in my car reading these text messages, offering my advice, and I am startled because this man pulls up next to my car on a bike.

I crack my window and he says, “You got 50 cents I can have.”

I was startled, and without thinking shook my head no.

He continues, “You got 25 cents, 10 cents, 5 cents, 1 cent?  Anything?”  I still shook my head no.  As he left, I was immediately ashamed and the last part of this man’s ask shook me.  He said it as he was peddling away, “Do you have anything for me?”  He knew I was saying no, and he continued to make his asks smaller and smaller…

“DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING FOR ME?”

As I was sitting there judging someone for being too superficial, too concerned with her exterior life, I turned away a man asking for anything, a single cent.  A man Jesus would have taken in and befriended and spoken with.  I could not even take the time to think about a response before I turned him away.

When God shows up…

 

Riding in Circles

IMG_5995(1)Chief is getting more spoiled by the minute at his new farm.  The barn owner and the other ladies really love him, and his adorable sweet nature is really shining through.  I saw him put his head in one of the little girls hands the other day and I melted a little.I also think he has probably eaten more treats at his new farm then he has ever had in his life!

I am also loving having a large outdoor riding arena.  Going from having an extended round pen, to having quadruple the amount of space has been such a Godsend. I am beginning to remember how much I love doing figure 8s and having the room to change direction while planning your next move that will not take place until you are at the other end of the arena.  Having the time to plan that out is truly lovely and I feel spoiled.

Although he has been, for the most part, fabulous and adjusting very well; we did have a few moments yesterday where he felt the need to throw some minor fits during a really easy ground work warm up.  But, I am happy to document that he just needed one firm reminder of his job at that moment and some calm but firm reassurance to get him back on track.

After that we happily went about our business doing some lovely trot sets, turn on the forehands, teardrop turns… really basic stuff.  I found myself really wanting to canter him, but want to work on his upwards on the ground first.  But I really felt his willingness to go where I put him; we focused on moving straight and accurately.  I felt his calm, soft upwards as well as downwards and finally his ability to look toward me for comfort. IMG_6027(1)

That last part, I have to say I believe I felt twice here since I have been riding Chief.  And I do believe it has been because I have not pushed him while he has been given time to adjust to his new surroundings, but as of yesterday I felt the need to tell him, “it is time to work.”  But he gave a small spook yesterday at something in the distance, calmed at my voice and trotted out nicely.  Also we rode around the farm last weekend together with another horse.  He spooked once but not badly, calming at my touch and my voice.  But he really did so well.  There were so many things that  could have really scared him and he was so brave and inquisitive.

So happy with this report.  Sad to report I sprained my other ankle, but I am trying to just pretend like it does not hurt.

 

Chief’s new Digs!

I’m on vacation in Florida with my mom for a quiet few days away from real life. The last month has taken me through the full circle of emotions and back again. But I am happy to say we are on the other side of it.

Chief and I are well, better than well actually. At the end of last month I broke the news to my friend that I was moving Chief to a new farm.  She was so gracious about the news, just totally understanding. I made myself sick over the decision for a week before I broke the news and couldn’t have been happier with how it was received.

We moved in order to be around more people, more horses, as well as to have larger facilities. My new farm is beautiful and the owners are lovely. It has been two weeks since I moved Chief and most of the time has been spent letting Chief settle in to new surroundings. The weather has not been great in Jersey and as of last week Chief was still a little on edge/excited and very concerned with his new friends. We are going to take things day by day and I am really going to let Chief tell me when he is ready to give me the attention I need to ride him. I found myself in a small battle with him last week when he was getting excitable on the cross ties in front of some of the other boarders. And I had to remind myself how new his surroundings are to him currently . And that I wasn’t there to impress anyone… not that I could do that if I tried.

I am reading Mark Rashid’s book “The Heart of Passive Leadership” and I think it has come at the perfect time for me. I am learning a totally different outlook and it also makes me feel secure in the non confrontational way that I like to work Chief. I am also learning that there is not a “right way” to develop a relationship with your horse. I have to learn to trust myself and my very smart pony and work off his “tries” which he gives me all the time.

Let it Snow…

img_33171It is snowing here today in delightful New Jersey.  As I was dashing out my door at 6am, arms full of work binders, lunch and my morning tea, I realized there was a giant ice patch on my driveway.  I discovered this after my things were flung everywhere and I was sitting on my butt, water seeping onto my pants, knowing how my day was going to go from there.

Luckily it has gone relatively well since then… And then the snow happened.

I hate Snow.

My friends seem to think we are all supposed to think snow is beautiful and majestic.  I know, that as a female, I am supposed to want to curl up on my couch and drink hot chocolate, sitting in front of the fire acting romantic and loving.  But honestly, all I can think about is that I hate how snow makes me feel cold and wet at the same time, which is the worst combination. I mean, unless you are on fire. I am sure being on fire and smoke inhalation is the worst combination ever.

But realistically these individual snow flakes are tiny, frozen acid rain drops destroying my day and probably my hair.

There is no way that snow is pure delicious frozen H2O. And it definitely should not be landing on anyones tongues.

Knowing absolutely nothing about meteorology, I can only imagine that with all of the chemicals that shoot up into our atmosphere, tiny half chemical half frozen water-hate balls manifest themselves in the form of snow.  If I am wrong, I don’t care.  I still despise snow.

That being said I am on barn duty tonight, on the first night it really feels like winter to me.  Although there is something I love about sliding my hands under Chief’s blanket and feeling how nice and warm he is underneath, and how his breath always feels nice and warm on my hands.  I also love his fuzzy bunny coat he grows before he starts to shed out.  And riding bareback when it is cold, and letting your horse’s warm body keep your legs warm, ambling around in the quiet is pretty fun too.

Flashback: I remember the first winter I saw Chief.  The guy who owned him at the time left him in a field all winter.  I would bring him buckets of warm water when his water buckets froze and break the tiny icicles off his face.  There was another horse in the field who would stand in the shed and not let Chief inside. So he would be standing in the same spot every time I saw him, half frozen.  He was still Ornery as hell, regardless of the temperature. I would sit on the top fence post and he would put his head on my leg for a half minute and let me scratch his ears.  Sometimes I miss those days with not so much responsibility.

Oh the weather outside is frightful,

And I’m sure my horse is spiteful,

I’m late and snow makes me move slow,

To feed I go, to feed I go, to feed I go.

I think I may start to post a horsey version of a Christmas song every day until Christmas!

Sugar High

Lately Chief and I both seem to feel the same way.  Bloated and tired.  Every time I look at him I think , “If I was a horse, we would be identical twins.”   Our exercise routines have been pretty identical too.  I am sure my excuse is the abundance of sugar I have been eating.  His… I am not so sure.  Everything kind of goes something like this.

Walk a little.  Walk Slower. Turn. Walk a little faster. Maybe some trot steps. Stop.  Ahhh relief.

Lets go eat.

Except one big exception is that, after a day of “work” in the ring,  I choose to lay on my couch, with my iPhone, reading Chrono of the horse blogs and “Behind the Stall Door Segments.”  Whereas he likes to sleep with his head in a steaming pile of shit.

To each their own.

I have to imagine if Chief knew what doughnuts tasted like, he would also dream about them.  Last night I had a dream I won a horse show (I don’t know where this came from ) and that my reward was a large white box of doughnuts wrapped in a sparkling pink ribbon.  This was before my dream That a rapper named Machine Gun Kelly and I had a romantic date on a cruise ship.  But after the dream where I was being farted on by my Dog.

Moral of the story is if I did ever win a horse show, and they rewarded me with a giant box of doughnuts, I would be a happy camper, I would forgo the blue ribbon.  And I imagine Chief would feel the same way.  Because when I give him a horse cookie, he feels all of the feels.

Being that this is only one of the 8 reasons I project onto him that he is my best friend, you can see my priorities are clearly in order. Food First.  Obviously he can’t argue with me, so no one has to know the truth.  That he would rather have his head up Puck’s big warm blood butt than be hanging out with me.

But alas, here we are.  Me committed to pay to keep him with me, and he has been nothing but perfect lately.  I consider myself really blessed.  For a free horse, and two years of solid work.  We do pretty damn well together.

Last night on our little hack we saw the “Super Moon.”  Pretty awesome. img_0288

2 Houses, A Wedding and No Funerals.

My life has been a beautiful mix of chaos these last 7 months… I managed to:fullsizerender28

  • Sprained my ankle twice
  • Wear a giant air cast for 2 months
  • Bought a new house
  • Sold our old house
  • Moved!
  • Planned a wedding
  • Multiple Dress Fittings
  • Nashville for my Bach Party
  • Bridal shower
  • GOT MARRIED!!!

And got back to riding Chief this week.  Needless to say he had a 3 month break!  I just mentally could not dedicate time to my pony and the wedding and moving.  I almost think spraining my ankle so badly was an gift from God, only because it alleviated the guilt I had about not working my horse!

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Astrid tied my wedding bells to Chief’s halter to celebrate Craig and I 🙂

Now  we are back in action though we are feeling pretty good! To put a good base on Chief after being off for 3 months, I did groundwork for 5 days last week.  Prob about 1 hr to 2 hr sessions.  It was fun, and it got him back in the work mindset a little bit.  He was great with the flag, very responsive to be and really respectful.

So I scheduled 3 lessons in a row with Astrid.  I had Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night lessons.  The first night was fantastic.  I was really careful with my groundwork and really relaxed.  We ended with a great trail ride and really felt together.  Worked on Chief moving off my leg, controlling his hindquarters, turn on the forehands, nice halts and nice downward and upward transitions (walk and trot).

Same exercises over the next three rides with varying degrees of difficulty.  Thurs was a little more challenging, whereas Friday felt challenging but more like we were connecting.  No bucking, which is really nice to think about.

I rode alone yesterday, Monday 10/11, and it was a perfect ride and a perfect night.  I laugh when I say this to people but I think Chief actually really likes me now.  I never thought he particularly liked me.  I know he tolerated me, but now I feel a bond.  And that makes me happiest of all.  It makes me sad that so many of his owners chose to get rid of him, rather than to work through his issued with him, but it makes me happy that I am his partner now.  Giving that up to Jesus.