Second Chances by Dianne Chapman McCleery

 

The summer I was 52, I spent being 12 again.
It’s sweet when life gives you second chances. And when that chance has to do with horses, well, that’s twice as sweet.
I was a horse-crazy little girl. Unfortunately, I was born into a military family, and numerous moves made riding difficult at times. However, on one of those moves we lived in Fairfax, Virginia. I took lessons at a riding stable deep in Virginia horse country, an hour away from our home, and progressed as steadily as one could while riding one day a week.
Once when I was at those stables, I saw a girl my age, around twelve, cleaning out a stall. She held a pitchfork, and a wheelbarrow was stationed across the stall door. Dickie, my favorite mount, was tied outside. I wanted to be that girl; I wanted to be holding that pitchfork, be a part of that stable, making life pleasant for horses, not just showing up once a week to ride.
Several decades later, I lived on the opposite side of the country in the California Sierra Nevada foothills. One day I signed up my kids to take riding lessons at a local equestrian center. I watched two of those lessons, then approached the owner. “Anne,” I said, “would it be okay, I mean, can I take lessons with my kids?” I tried desperately (and probably unsuccessfully) to keep the pleading tone out of my voice.
The answer was an enthusiastic, “Of course.”
Although I’d had horses several times in my life, I hadn’t owned a horse in over fifteen years. I wasn’t even sure I could get up on one. That worry ended when my mount for my first lesson was Rosie, who was 13.2 hands tall, a pony, very easy to swing up on. Months passed, and the kids and I improved our riding skills, became more educated about horses, and enjoyed being at the stables.
About a year later, a note appeared on the bulletin board – the Saturday stall cleaner needed someone to take over her duties for a couple of months while she recovered from surgery. Hmm, I wondered if I could do that. I could offset some of the money we spent on lessons. And I thought back to that day when I was twelve and longed to be the one cleaning stalls. Did I really want to clean stalls now? At my age?
I read that note for a couple of weeks before I brought the subject up to Anne. “Do you think I could cover stall cleaning duties on Saturdays?” I asked. Again, an enthusiastic, “Of course.”
So here I was, on the plus side of 50, with a job cleaning stalls, shoveling, well, you-know-what. Although there were other adults who did this, I would by far be the oldest. Also, my normal work takes place in front of a computer; I’d never before had a job where I was a laborer. And the pay, although generous by industry standards, was at a rate I’d hadn’t seen in decades. My husband thought I was going off my rocker. Maybe I was.
I showed up the first day in worn jeans, an old t-shirt, and work gloves. I found that shoveling manure and shavings into a cart was not difficult. However, getting it out was.
In the first pen, I loaded the wheelbarrow to the brim with wet shavings and manure. Then I had to muscle the full cart out of the pen, not an easy task. There was a slope up to the top of the manure pile. I got stuck half way up and had to retreat. I made a run at that pile and barely got the cart to the top. Then I tried to upend it to dump it; it wouldn’t budge. I had to turn around, squat, grab the lower edge of the cart, and, straining away, shove upwards with my legs. The cart tipped over, and finally it was empty. One stall down. After that, I learned to take half-loads.
Although I never learned to love cleaning stalls, there were parts of my job that were pure joy: hearing horses nicker in the cool of the morning when I showed up to feed, visiting with others who loved horses, learning how to wrap legs and evaluate horses’ health and wellness. And it was definitely a physical job; some days I was so tired by the end of my chores, I could barely hold it together to drive home.
But, I was spending full days at the barn, which I would have loved to have done when I was twelve and was pretty darn great at 52. I could visit with others who loved horses; I built new muscles; I watched Anne work magic with green horses; I would listen as Anne taught others, something I found particularly valuable for my own riding for the repetition of the basics. The payback for cleaning stalls was all I’d hoped for.
I can’t say I was sorry when the regular stall cleaner came back to work since my back was beginning to complain. But I felt I was able to have an experience that I had desperately wanted when I was twelve. What a sweet second chance!

Dianne Chapman McCleery lives in the Sierra Nevada Foothills. She loves all things horses and particularly enjoys learning body work techniques to help improve horses’ lives.

Voices from The Tribe of Horse

Find us and other Voices at Feedspots Top 100 Equestrian Blogs, which you can access via https://blog.feedspot.com/equestrian_blogs/

It is such an honor to have virtually met some awesome members of The Tribe of Horse through From The Heart of a Horsewoman blog.  Now, with the bigger audience that comes with being in Feedspots Top 100 Equestrian Blogs we have an even larger audience.  Awesome!!!  In my last blog entry I shared an article by Sara B. Willerson, LCSW entitled Even the Horses are Speaking – Are You Listening.  I know some of us are listening Sara!

This posting is highlighting the contemplative blog of DawnSeeker/DawnHoof.  I have been following her inspiring reads for a year.  I will let her speak of herself.

 

 

The Life of My Dreams . . . I Believe in Magic :))

SoulHorseRide

Ah, the frailties of our human Lives . . .

How do we know if our Life will work out?

How do we cope with the hand Life seems to deal us?

What do we do about uncertainties???

“Do you believe in Magic? (Like the Lovin’ Spoonful song from my 60s childhood.)

I have to say, I do!”  DawnHoof

Rainbow StatueReflections . . .

Twenty eight years ago, something wonderful happened — Starboy, my Horse-of-a-Lifetime, was born, in my arms, outside my dome house, up a canyon, in Malibu.

Yet that same night, twenty eight years ago, something awful happened — my (then) marriage fell apart.

chicks preening

So much uncertainty. So many questions.

How were my two young daughters and I to make it? How would I feed and care for all the horses? How would our lives work out???

Mentor LookingFlash forward . . .

To tonight — Starboy’s twenty eighth birthday…

View original post 502 more words

Renewed – Reenergized – Gifted

I was recently perusing Google for  horse related blogs and came across The Top 100 Equestrian Blogs set up by Feedspot.  The blogs covered everything from A for Apparel to Z for Zebra.   It is an incredibly wide variety of equine perspectives in one site. Feedspot is awesome.  For $24.00 a year my blog is now one of the Top 100, #83.  I am so excited.

The same week a friend messaged me an article from The Shift Network witten by Sara B. Willerson, LCSW.  She speaks eloquently to both the experiential and spiritual horse/human relationship.  I emailed her and asked if I could share her story on my blog.  She said yes.  What a Gift.

Even the Horses Are Speaking… Are you Listening?

By Sara B. Willerson, LCSW

Horses have been part of my life since childhood, and for the last 15 years, co-facilitators in my psychotherapy practice. My equine-guided lesson in listening began when my horse Pooh came into my life at age 14. This horse and I had a deeply connected relationship for over 20 years and he completely shifted my world. Without saying a word, Pooh soothed my unspoken wounds, connected me with my courageous self, and challenged me in ways I had never been able to before on my own.

Nature and horses were my sacred space and where I felt in tune and at peace with myself. Even at such a young age, I had a deep knowing that Pooh was re-connecting me with my heart and soul. He is the reason I partner with horses in a therapeutic practice today.

In 2013, I self-published a book, Journey To The Heart Through The Way Of The Horse, composed of horse wisdom I had been gathering for about six years. This book originated from a shamanic journey I experienced in 2006. I can’t remember the original question I asked of my guides at the time, but clearly they had a different agenda with me that day. Instead, I found myself surrounded by horses, as far as I could see. They had come to me because they wanted me to write their story — to tell the human race why they are here on this earth, and why they have always been with us.

To say this was scary, was a complete understatement. If I remember correctly, I’m pretty sure I came up with all sorts of excuses — both during that journey and afterward — of why there was NO WAY I could ever write what they were wanting. These Spirit Horses were relentless in their request. They came into my dreams on a regular basis with their persistent appeal. As I continued to ignore my dreams, the horses in my daily life joined in the campaign, so I was getting it from both sides of the veil. This dual-sided approach went on for quite a while. For the record, it is not always fun to have a herd of massive beings following you around and in your face with the reminder of such a sacred invitation! Eventually I said yes and began writing their words of wisdom.

I sat with my herd, friends’ horses, historical horses, horses in art exhibits, horse ancestors, horses at sporting events, and even the evolutional line of horses, each time vigorously writing down the words of their flowing, deeply moving language. I came to understand their deep wisdom and ancient lineage. That horse is here to assist not only in our healing, but also in our growth toward expanded connection and higher conscious awareness. In my time with them, it has become very clear they are here on this earth for a specific mission.
The Horse Consciousness

It was long ago when we came.
We came to remind you of who you are.
We are part of you and we hold the key to you remembering all of Who You Are.
You are Love. You are Freedom. You are Joy.
You are expansiveness beyond limitation.

We as Horse, embody all of these characteristics
And yet you possess them as well.
And yet you seem to forget.
We have been here all along to remind you of your True Way.
Your True Nature.

In our interactions with you,
We show and share with you this True Essence of Being.
There are no limitations. There is no end to it. It just IS.
We carry these qualities throughout your entire being.

When you sit with us, you are connected to this essence.
But at times, you still seem to forget that we are simply showing you,
Reminding you, of what you already possess.
There is no cost for it.
It is simply who you are.

And so we, collectively Horse, wish to remind you
Of the expansive love that IS the human race.
Come back and remember this for yourselves.
Allow the memory and the knowing to course through your very being
And let it expand throughout the land and the world.
Connect with us all and live in this state of bliss and knowledge.
Be the Essence of Who You Are.
I love this passage recorded from the Collective Horse Consciousness. To me, it is a principal base of horse medicine. As I partner with these amazing, gentle, and wise beings, I see first-hand their gifts to us in this realm. They support us in creating a grounded connection with the earth and all of nature. They inherently model how to walk from a place of balance and harmony with our selves and the world around us. The wisdom of their herd-based certainty that all interactions are able to come from a source of compassion, partnership and right use of power.

This morning as I was sitting with the herd (and gathering my courage to write this article), they shared a present-day message on their role and the ways they are walking with us:

“We are here to pattern the Earth’s energy into a harmony of flow. Our hoofbeats flow with the heartbeat of the earth. When humans walk with us, they calibrate themselves to this flow. This is the original vibration. It is why we are here. Attuning with self. Being in flow with all around. Entrainment with the earth.”

This special herd of horses is calling us to listen, connect, and flow with Mother Earth’s vibration. I see them inviting each one of us to step outside into nature. feel your feet planted and in communion with the earth. Hear the hoofbeats of her vibrational pulse and attune to this internal heart. Take a deep breath. Allow yourself to step into this beautiful, harmonious field. Stand with your horse guide who shows up to walk with you on the original vibration path.

Even the horses are speaking…Are you listening?


Sara B. Willerson, LCSW, and Horses, Heart & Soul® provide equine-facilitated psychotherapy, learning, and nature-inspired creativity services for children and adults in the North Texas area. Sara and her herd live and work on 19 peaceful acres just north of Dallas. She completed an Equine Experiential Learning Apprenticeship with Eponaquest in 2003 and is an Advanced Approved Instructor. She is tri-certified with and a board member of Equine Facilitated Wellness Canada. She is trained in Shamanic Practice and Healing Touch For Animals®. Sara’s professional experience has focused on working with clients through issues of trauma, anxiety, depression, grief, and life transitions. Together with her equine partners, Sara invites everyone to experience the transformational healing power of the horse outside of the traditional office environment. Click here for more information.

The Catalyst is produced by The Shift Network to feature inspiring stories and provide information to help shift consciousness and take practical action. To receive The Catalyst twice a month, sign up here.

This article appears in:
2018 Catalyst, Issue 17: Your Most Radiant Self

Break Out Moment

Two complete shoulder replacements and a hip replacement later the thought of riding tickled at my heart.  My horse is almost twenty-six years old.  Would she be okay with it?  I’m in my seventy-second year and haven’t been astride in two years.  Was I kidding myself?

I

“Break out Moment,” a prompt used in our writer’s group – Women Writers at The Well.  The prompt came as an entrance into exactly what I want to share in the moment.

The last time I got on a horse I literally crawled and was pushed, gently and tactfully, but pushed nonetheless, on board.  I had no strength in my arms, no support in my legs.  I knew I would never ride again.

I mourned the loss of that life, a passionate life-time horsewoman, but in time became reconciled to the loss.  I sold my truck and horse trailer and rehomed the younger of my two horses.  I cried in deep grief listening to Dave Stamey sing “Come Ride With Me.”

Two complete shoulder replacements and a hip replacement later the thought of riding tickled at my heart.  My horse is almost twenty-six years old.  Would she be okay with it?  I’m in my seventy-second year and haven’t been astride in two years.  Was I kidding myself?

I contacted my adopted granddaughter, Kaylee, and we agreed on a time.  She would be there for moral, emotional and physical support.

Sparkle Plenty stood to be saddled as though no time had passed.  She swished her tail as she always has, flicked her ear and stood.  Two tries accomplished getting the saddle in place.  A little ground warm-up helped to loosen the old mares joints.  I led her to the mounting block, positioning her so that the stirrup was in easy reach.  With hesitancy and held breath I put my left foot in the stirrup, took hold of her mane and the off side of the saddle and lifted myself, my right leg not quite getting high enough to clear the cantle and her rump.  Kaylee helped my leg find its way and my right foot found the stirrup.  I started to breathe.

I’m not going to say that first ride was perfection, but it was.  My right leg was stiff, heel not wanting to reach down.  My hips were tight, looking for the flexing comfort and flow that was their experience.  Scar tissue in my back from a ten year old surgery restricted the fluidity of rhythm.  Sparkle and I were together in the new dynamic.  Her hoof steps slow and careful, my body seeking the remembered harmony of joined movement.  It was perfect.

The following day I was able to lift my leg over, not with the smooth grace of yesteryear, but accomplishing the goal just the same.  My leg lengthened, hips softened, back loosened.  And as we (Sparkle and I) were returning from a short walk around the pasture Sparkle’s shoulders and hips also loosened and she reached into her “happy” walk, sending a thrill of joy through my entire being.  We are not done.  We are beginning – again.

I originally started this blog to share my point of view of the horse/human/spirit relationship.  My plan was and is to write a book.  I was hoping for more discussion regarding other people’s point of view and experience in relationship to the topics I brought to the blog.  Obviously I was not clear in this intention.  It is now time for me to turn my attention to the book.  I very much hope to hear what readers have to say regarding the horse/human relationship in all its forms.  Thank you for sharing in my journey.

Lynnea

SPARKLE PLENTY

My horse is the concrete connection
To the abstract of my soul.
Like Pegasus flying Icarus to the sun
She carries me to the outreaches of my world
Dropping piles of care and concern along the way.
She is Sparkle Plenty, namesake to the beautiful
Bad girl in the Dick Tracey comic strip.
Even as a newborn foal life pored from her like sunrays.
The genetics of grey and age bring the glitter
Of diamond dust to her shiny coat.
Her ears stand sentinel straight when she hears my call
And she answers with a whooping welcome whinny.
Like me she has some arthritis, some wisdom and some silliness.

me and Spark 002

 

 

 

A Student First, Second, Always

Long before I was a teacher I was a student. From the first breath shared with a horse, I was enraptured. It became my mission, in whatever level of maturity I lived, to learn all my limited mind and bottomless heart could encompass about the horse. My early teachers, guides and horse friends were books. Margaret Henry, Walter Farley, C.W. Anderson, Margaret Cabell Self, Mary O’Hara, Will James, Dan Muller; famous and obscure, factual and fictional, I read everything related to horse.
My first riding teachers included Del Gonzales, Andy Ruiz, Dr. McCormick and Western Horseman.

Obie (short for Obnoxious) was a donkey, my first equine.  He gave me his full friendship.  I was young ( 11 years old) and inexperienced enough to laugh when Obie chased my little brother out of his personal space.  We wandered the dirt roads around our home, jumping little branches in the road.  He was everything I needed and wanted.  I could easily hop onto his back.  I think that is what gave me the confidence to vault onto a horse and ride a bare back.  Our honeymoon was short lived.  The family returned one night, actually one early morning, to Obie’s bellowing welcome.  I think my parents envisioned lights coming on in every house bordering our short dirt road.  They rehomed him within week.

My greatest teacher was Champagne Lady. She taught me to be light, sensitive and honest. To this day I am in awe of the quality of horse who was my first. Her training was far beyond my experience, but she taught me with the help of human guides. She was my ground and the expression of my spirit from age 14 through 18.  I did not own a saddle until I was twenty-five years old.  Everywhere we went we were bareback.  We galloped along the surf of Topanga Beach, traversed the PCH to George’s Market, tracked Topanga Creek and even once ventured up Topanga Cyn Blvd. to The Center, my friend riding her horse and my brother riding double with me.  My friend now says “What were we thinking?”  Right?  Sometimes you just have to find out it’s not the smart thing to do by doing it.  I wish I had photos of those years.

For five years I was side tracked by motherhood and marriage. When I came back to horses it was as a teacher as well as a student.  Many years, many changes, and I am still learning.  I learn from friends with whom I share the horse experience, I learn from former students, I learn from other’s exploration into the horse/human relationship, but mostly I learn from the horses.

What are your stories of your first explorations into the horse/human relationship?

 

Where I Am Now

Sitting at my computer thinking today is a day I would be riding my Sparkle Plenty.  The leaves are red and gold, new green is spreading across earth dampened from autumn rain, air crisp, invigorating… a deep inhale of the exuberant breath of the season.  I am not riding.  I am at the computer.  I haven’t ridden for a year.  Due to the physical changes of lives long and well lived Sparkle Plenty and I are retired.  The fluidity of body is crystallizing.  She is twenty-five years old and I am seventy-one in just over a month.  Even as our bodies stiffen our spirits expand.  I go out to the pasture and she greets me with ears erect, eyes alive with expectation of goodies and grooming, head held high in anticipation and then she canters, a bit stiff legged, up to my heart.  I love this horse, I have loved her from her birth.  I and my beloved recently returned from a first time trip to the Hawaiian Island of Kauai and I did not feel grounded until I hugged my Sparkle Plenty and I rested my head on her rump listening to the rhythmic sound of her chewing the grass hay I brought her.

Tom Dorrance writes in True Unity, “Often when working with riders and their horses, I will mention the need for self-preservation; this to me includes the physical and the mental – and a third factor.  I’ve been trying for some time to think of words to get this third factor to where it comes to light; to show how it blends in with the other two – physical and the mental.  It is the least mentioned, but I am beginning to believe it is the most important factor to recognize: the rider needs to recognize the horse’s need for self-preservation in Mind, Body and the third factor, Spirit.  He needs to realize what that means to the horse so he can benefit from what it is in the horse, what it means to the horse.  He needs to realize how the person’s approach can assure the horse that he can have his self preservation and still respond to what the person is asking him to do.  This is going to be a useful thing to both the person and the horse.”

Spirit – is it not spirit and freedom in spirit manifested in horse that first brought us front and center into the world of horses?  Are stories still written as they were when I became enamored of horse spirit?  The Stories of indomitable spirit and heart when horse and human were brought together in immense challenge and  companionship?  Marguerite Henry, Sam Savitt, Walter Farley, Will James, C.W. Anderson and of course the all time classic Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.  Spirit comes first.  We just forget in the process of learning the mechanics of tools and integrating tools with living beings.  We are the tool maker, we harness power with tools.  And so we learn about harnessing the power of horse with the implementation of halters, ropes, bits and bridles, saddles and cinches.  Which bit to use when, what saddle works best for the job at hand, how should weight be distributed? And the horse is to stand still while we work out the correct type and use of the tools we have created until the horse itself becomes a tool to be manipulated.  “Just livestock,” as one person said to me.

We are living, thankfully, in a time when horse spirit is being validated.  Explorers of this new relationship include: the McCormick Family, authors of Horse Sense and the Human Heart and Horses and the Mystical Path;  Linda Kohanov, author of The Tao of Equus and Riding Between the Worlds; Mark Rashid, author of A Horse Never Lies and Considering the Horse.   At the leading edge of research into the horse human relationship are the Therapeutic Equine Programs, especially EGALA, Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association  with many certified Equine Assisted Psychotherapy programs across the US.

My passion for horses is still there but showing up at a new level of relationship and spirit.  I peruse the old books and stories and explore new stories and horse-human dynamics.  I find connection in all of it and the connection is SPIRIT.  Sparkle’s spirit and my spirit have danced and embraced over time, place, and life changes.  When I lean into her warmth, her energy, her soul, I wonder afterwards how I will ever live without her.

Sparkle Plenty