Friday, August 18, 2017

Live with the Animals

"I think I could turn and live with the animals, they are so placid and self contained;
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition;
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins;
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God;
Not one is dissatisfied-not one is demented with the mania of owning things;
Not one kneels to another, nor his kind that lived thousands of years ago;
Not one is responsible or industrious over the whole earth." 

             ~ Walt Whitman

With all the tumult within the United States and throughout the World,  from acts of terrorism and threats of war to the more mundane common incivility within society, many look forward to retreating and spending time with their favorite animal.  Whether that be a dog, cat, fish, or horse, the simple act of being with an entity who doesn't judge us and accepts us as we are (more so if we have treats!) is a welcome respite. 

I know just sitting with River and listening to her placidly chew her hay is tremendously relaxing.  And River's simple act of "just being" is a reminder to me to focus on the present.  River doesn't worry about mistakes made in her past or what the other horses think about her, or get frustrated about the world outside of what she can control.  To River, it is what it is.  River knows her "sphere of influence" and works within it.  She does not hold grudges, knows how to say "no" to the other horses, does not suffer material envy if her pasture mate gets a new blingy halter, nor does she suffer from insomnia stressing about events that may never come to pass.

So as you start to ruminate about the past, worry about the future, or stress about events beyond your control, look to your favorite pet as a guide -- Live in the present. Don't stress about the future. Know your sphere of influence.  Don't hold grudges.  Learn how to say no.  And watch your perspective on the world change.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Through the Eyes of a Horse

Horses carry the wisdom of healing in their hearts and offer it to any humans who possess the Humility to listen.   ~Unknown

River is boarded at a facility which also provides therapeutic riding for people with special needs.  I have been privileged to volunteer during some of the riding sessions and personally witness the truly transformative experiences that these therapy horses provide to their riders.  It is truly the stuff of which miracles are made.  

The organization's founder, the instructors, and the volunteers who care for these amazing animals and also support the therapy sessions perform this work with love -- both a deep love for the horses but also a love for each rider and their families.

The facility is an island of love, hope, and miracles in a world which seems to be full of anger, hate, and despair.  At the center of it all, are the horses  -- who through their innate wisdom and untainted view of the world, provide healing of the body and of the soul.

Yesterday, the facility had a Holiday open house, where the public had the opportunity to meet the therapy horses.  Young and old came through the barn.  Watching the joy, awe, and wonder on each person's face as they walked through the barn and greeted each horse reenforced the healing power that these horses innately provide  -- even through just a brief contact.

The Holiday Season is a time for hope, healing and miracles -- something our equine friends provide all through the year -- if you open your heart to it.

River and I send out wishes for all the blessings of the Season to you and yours.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

What Would River Do?

I don't use this blog to discuss politics, but have to at least touch on it to address how River and her horse compatriots are teaching me how to cope after this very tumultuous election season here in the United States.  It is Day 2 after Election Day.  Emotions continue to run high on both sides. Regardless of which side one is on, both sides want what is best for the Country -- just differing in what that actually entails.  And there is a lot of healing that needs to be done in order for both sides to start moving in a direction of actually having civil discourse and working together.  It won't happen overnight, but it needs to happen.

Of course, River is blissfully unaware of all this folderol, but being the wise old mare that she is, she has some lessons for us humans up her sleeve.  And here are the best practices (in no particular order) from the equine community that she shared with me to move past the election season and move forward:

1.  Acknowledge Your Emotions

River's Advice:  Squeal and pin your ears with your pasture mates.

Human Application of River's Advice:   Use your support system of friends and family to talk through your feelings.  Feelings are valid and they need to be processed.

2.  Get Physical

River's Advice:  Run and buck and throw your head around.

Human Application of River's Advice  Get out all that pent up emotion and stress released through exercise -- whatever kind of exercise floats your boat.

3.  Be Good to Yourself

River's Advice:  Roll in the dirt, scratch yourself on the nearest tree, or have that extra bucket of soaked alfalfa cubes.

Human Application of River's Advice:  Practice self-care.  Soak in the tub, get a massage, meditate, do yoga, eat your favorite ice cream...whatever works for you.  (River really extols the virtues of rolling in the dirt though -- it's a massage and pseudo-bath all in one!)

4.  Let it Go

River's Advice:  I pinned my ears and showed my teeth and and now I'm moving on to that nice patch of grass over there.

Human Application of River's Advice:  Decompress, regroup, and move forward.

And who said horses weren't smart?  Try these steps and call River in the morning.  The Doctor is in.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Stability in the Midst of Change

People are looking for stability in a shaky world. They want something they can get hold of that's firm and sure and an anchor in the midst of all of this instability in which they're living.
~ Gordon B. Hinkley

The world is vastly different from the world I grew up in as a child.  While I know this, innately, it was driven home in full force this past week as my son started high school -- an experience much changed since my high school days eons ago.  A big adjustment for both of us -- one that leaves me longing for what was (to me) simpler times.

And in less than two months, I am retiring after many (gulp) years in the aerospace industry.  It seems like just yesterday that I walked into work, a "wet behind the ears" college graduate.  While I am looking forward to this change of life, it is also brings it share of change and attendant stress.

Change is all around, and, along with death and taxes, seems to be one of those immutable laws. We all are looking for something familiar in the midst of all the change, something to anchor us and give us some sense of normalcy.

My retreat into normalcy lies in my horse.  River is boarded at a stable, and while I don't get out to see River as often as I should (and that will be changing with retirement), I relish the times I do get out to see her as well as the other horses and "horse people" at the barn.  Hearing River's nicker, brushing her down -- even cleaning her stall is a welcome respite from the world spinning around me.  River is my therapist, who accept payment in the form of care and attention -- and the occasional treat. 

So, bring on the changes!  When the going gets tough, this lady is going to go smell the hay, shovel (real) horse manure, and plant a big hug on her favorite equine -- and all will be well with the world.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Finding Our Humanity Through Animals

“How it is that animals understand things I do not know, but it is certain that they do understand. Perhaps there is a language which is not made of words and everything in the world understands it. Perhaps there is a soul hidden in everything and it can always speak, without even making a sound, to another soul.” ― Frances Hodgson Burnett

As I spent the morning getting River situated as she was just moved to new digs, I became aware of  the evolving and tragic news about the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub -- the worst mass shooting in United States' history.  Over the ensuing days after this horrific event, I have seen displays of the best of humanity and the worst of humanity.  One of the examples of the best of humanity involves man's best friend -- dogs.  Comfort Dogs, a Lutheran Charity, has deployed dogs to Orlando from multiple locations in the United States.  Dogs, who exhibit unconditional love, provide a wonderful outlet to start the healing process for those impacted by devastating events such as this -- from the victims and their families to first responders.

Animals open the door to physical and mental healing.  Therapy animals, from dogs to miniature horses, provide invaluable support in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities.   Horses are used for therapy to those with special needs as well as those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.  River has had the privilege of carrying several very special young people and I have witnessed her demeanor change.  River knew -- she adjusted her stride, her eyes grew softer -- it was truly amazing to watch how River related to the person she carried.  In turn, I saw the change in that person.  It was truly amazing to watch.

I am convinced that some of the greatest examples of humanity can be found in our animal friends.  May we open our eyes and learn from them.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Chasing the Wind

I grew up loving reading a good book.  There was nothing like taking a mini-vacation to another place or another world, the words on the book's page and your imagination carrying you away.  While I don't get to read as much  as I used to, I still enjoy the chance to unwind and live vicariously through the pages of a good book.

I just finished Hannah Hooton's latest book, Chasing the Wind.  Part of the Aspen Valley Series, it is set against the background of British Horseracing.  The book combines drama, suspense, and mystery, with plot twists and turns that keep you turning the page.

For horse lovers, horses and the daily lives of a racing stable and the British Racing culture are vividly rendered, making reading this book double the fun.

A good book not only transports you fully into the world of the characters,  but it also leaves you a little sad at the end.  Such was the case with Chasing the Wind.  As I finished the last page of the book, I felt happily satisfied at the ending (I don't want to give away the plot), but was a little wistful that my time in Aspen Valley had come to an end.

If you'd like to read this book, or others in the Aspen Valley Series, check out these sites:

Thursday, February 25, 2016

It's All in the Approach...

It's been a while since I have had a chance to post.  Family and work commitments have taken priority.  And the world seems to be getting more hectic.  As the days whiz by, I keep thinking -- tomorrow.  Tomorrow, I will eat better.  Tomorrow, I will exercise more.  Tomorrow, I will get River and I on a new training program.  Tomorrow comes and goes and I haven't started eating better, or exercising more, or starting River and I on that new training program.

I was talking to a co-worker about the need to change their approach to a problem.  Their response was that they had no time to change their approach as they were up to the eyeballs in work.  I responded that if they didn't change their approach, they would always be overwhelmed.

And then it dawned on me -- I need to apply what I said to me and my life.  If I don't change my approach then my life will not change.  Tomorrow will be just like today if I don't change how I am approaching my life  -- so that I can  eat better, exercise more, try a new training program with my horse.

Einstein beat me to the concept.  It's time to change my approach to see those different results.

River and I have gotten to spend more quality time together this week, doing some round penning.  I have been attending a great clinic over several Saturdays to help my confidence around horses.  It's baby steps, but I am on my way to make some of those changes that I promised myself I would do -- tomorrow.