Alberta Bound

…and then I realized adventures are the best way to learn.

Mark Twain

This summer I embarked upon the trip of a life time (well, my lifetime)! It began 4 years ago when in a meditation the word “Alberta” and an image of a white horse appeared. For the past three years I have been following that white horse imagery, beginning, as you will ready in my chapter in Riding Through It: Equestrian Women Tested and Transformed – with attending a Wisdom Circle at Liberty Lane Retreats and meeting Mia the grey Arabian mare.

I put Alberta on the back burner – it was there, in my mind, but not something I thought about too much. Then, one day as I was doing some research into courses to deepen my theory and further develop my practical skills in Equine Facilitated Learning, I came across a program at Healing Hooves that combined my two loves – Developmental Psychology, and in particular the paradigm of Dr. Gordon Neufeld, and, Equine Facilitated Learning and Wellness. Low and behold, the program was in Alberta!

At first, I decided that this was just not going to work, with the pandemic and all, and the need to potentially travel to Alberta multiple times for a weekend in order to complete the in-person sessions of the course. Then, I did something that I have spent the last four years coaching others to do: set aside all of the “how am I going to make this work” chatter in my brain, and just committed to the course, allowing the “how” to take form once the stake was in the ground.

So, with that – and the support of my partner Aaron, who thankfully has also coached and who does not hesitate to stand for my goals even when I allow my doom and gloom and “impossible” kinds of thoughts to come in – I registered for the Healing Hooves course in Alberta, and made a commitment to make it work.

I reached out to Sue, the course facilitator, and told her about my situation – being in Ontario, while the course is in Alberta, and travel being unpredictable at best. She shared that she had another student who was interested, and out of the country, and so, for the two of us, she would work to make it possible to complete the in person component in a week over the month of July! With this, I knew that my commitment had not failed me, and the universe does indeed have my back (as Gabby Bernstein would say).

With the dates in July confirmed, I decided (now February) to book an Air BNB, and the incredible Moose Bottom Cottage was both within proximity of the course and available. The decision to drive came as a result of unpredictable air travel, and with some encouragement to take some time off work, my partner decided to come along for the ride. He’s driven across Canada our west a few times, and this would be my first time seeing Northern Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

There was a lot of back and forth in the next few months about who would be coming along for the ride – all four of our teenagers, or a combination. In the end, my partner’s daughter wanted to do the full drive, there and back, and my two joined us by flying into Alberta for a few days, while my partner’s other daughter was committed to her first job and stayed home. Being parents to teens means that while you may have plans, they have their own, and first jobs, the last summer before your friends move off to university, and the like are major life moments too. While the Alberta trip was a turning point in mine, and I would have loved them all to join, their own plans and experiences are just as valuable for them, and I wanted to support them too.

We set off on July 14, just the three of us, for a five day/four night drive our west. We made the drive more enjoyable by stopping from time to time and exploring the sights (including the various extra large monuments along the way like the Big Nickel in Sudbury, ON; the Giant Goose in Wawa, ON; Huskie the Muskie in Kenora, ON; and one of many giant Moose – the one pictured in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. While the first few days of the trip we had perfect sunny summer days, the evening before arriving in Alberta we began to have Tornado warnings, and that is how we arrived.

I am not the best with weather (perhaps and understatement) something about the loud noises of thunder, and the seemingly random yet destructively powerful lightning bolts send tingles through my body. Thankfully, an experience in the course in which I was partnered with a pony who also didn’t love thunderstorms – led to some incredible shifts for both of us with the help of the Tellington T-Touch lessons by guest teacher Sue Falkner March of Connected Riding – more about that later as it deserves a post of its own.

While in Alberta we did our best to see the sights, and doing a little shopping! We found out that we were only about 30 minutes from the “Largest Western Store in Canada” Irvine’s, and had to spend some time there, and…invest in some new practical farm footwear in the form of Canada West Boots made in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Seriously – I still can’t get over how large this store is, I’ve truly never seen anything like it.

After 5 full days of training hands on at the farm, we made a trip to the beautiful small town of High River, where we were just 1 day too early to see the cast of one of our favourite TV shows, Heartland, filming at Maggie’s Diner! We still had a nice visit, it was awesome seeing the little cafe that serves as a set on the show in real life, visit the Museum of Highwood where they have memorabilia from both the show, have the most incredible pie I have ever tasted at a little art gallery called “Art and Soul.”

The next morning, we were back on our way and while the weather was not so great this time – my approach to driving in bad weather had shifted, just enough to make it bearable (for everyone!). We had planned to stop at Aaron’s cousin’s horse farm, Twin Valley Ranch, in Manitoba on the way home, just for lunch and a short visit with their horses. I had no idea that that visit, that brief stop of only a few hours, would be one of the most memorable moments of this entire adventure. We were taken out to see one of the herds, led by Stallion Mosaic – and as we got out of the truck, in the 160+ acre pasture, with trees, tons of grass and a natural watering hole, the entire herd (18 mares, Mosaic and their foals) came running from the water hole to greet us! If you have Instagram you can see if for yourself here! This was the first time I had been with a herd in such a natural setting. I have been with herd of mares and geldings of course, in smaller paddocks, with barns, or in stalls. I had never met a stallion or a foal before, and could not have wished for a more magical experience in doing so.

After the farm, we continued on our way, making the most of the 8 hours per day of. driving – stopping where we could for little side trips, like to the Panorama Amethyst Mines in Thunder Bay. Before we knew it, the end of the trip had arrived, and we had a delicious fish and chips lunch by the water on Manitoulin Island, then boarded the Chi-Cheemon for a special voyage and one last experience to cap this leg of the journey.

That’s all for today! Stayed tuned for a separate post about my experience and learning during the Foundations and Focus onsite for Healing Hooves EFW program!

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