The Oldman and the Dog, some Horses ...and a Lesson from Lori

(Editor's note: this story is part fiction and part truth. I'l leave it up to you to decide which is which. As far as Lori and Serentity Equestrian is concerned ... well, check it out for yourself! She's our newest OWC sponsor and we are so happy to welcome her to the OWC family!)

The Oldman had an intuition to call 'somebody about horses' as an idea for a prize for the upcoming AGM on June 25th. Not knowing who to call (not Ghostbusters!), we googled it. Several names came up, but no one picked up the phone – and as my request was vague, I left no message. Lori at Serenity Equestrian was available and picked up.

Being blunt, the Oldman told her in about three sentences what was up: "I had to come up with an idea for the AGM and something said 'horses'. Would you be willing to contribute something to our annual meeting?". There was a slight pause and Lori said: "That's funny. Just recently someone was here who is affiliated with the Council. She was talking about the watershed and was really passionate about it." Another pause. "That's no coincidence. Yes, I think I can do that. Come on out and see me."

The Oldman calls it 'serendipitous' – a synonym for 'damn good fortune'.

Forgetting the Timmie's double-double he promised to bring, but remembering muck boots and a windbreaker, he turns into a farm just 1km north of Lethbridge on Highway 25.

I was greeted by a huge old, rough old, hairy old, bear of a dog. A 'nice old' grandpa, like me, I thought - until he gave this weirdo grimace that looked more human than canine – and more frightening than any old smile. My heart went into my mouth. "You've got to be the boss of the dog", says Lori sternly. What?! How did she know Old Grizz had freaked me out?! "You've got to deal with that. You can't just let people walk all over you." She looks at me sideways. "That's what I teach out here". She plunges right into it. "Confidence." I launch into an explanation of how I was attacked by dogs as a child – a pack of 13 wild ones who lunged straight at my face and were called off at the very last minute. "That doesn't matter", she says gently. "You have to deal with this now, and every day. You have to know how to get people to respect your boundaries without having to be aggressive". My heart beats in my mouth. I thought I was over all that. She explains how to communicate clearly with the dog without being afraid and without being mean. "Sit!" I command hopefully. Old Grizz sits, but eyeballs me to make sure I mean it. "Oh ya. He'll test you. You have to mean it. Then when he understands that, he'll leave you alone".

A whinny from the corral shifts our attention. We move over to the fence where 27 beautiful horses are breakfasting. Makes me remember the forgotten Timmie's. Again. And the ponies – such fantasy creatures! From tiny miniatures who pull the carts in the children's programs to large Belgians. When people come to Serenity, they form strong bonds with their horses.  Students learn how to choose their own horses by becoming aware of how the horses think and feel. Sometimes the horse will choose the person. Just like we feel good around some people and are nervous around others, horses show us who we are without words."  

She shows me how she can ask the horse to move forward or backward just with her own body language.  I find out that equine therapy has been around for a long time, but Lori first got started by fulfilling a life-long dream to have a horse after she had raised her family. "I had anxiety issues. That's how all this started. I ran a modelling agency and was on the Board of  directors for the World Modelling Association in New York." Lori spent those 22 years working to build self-confidence in people. "Now, through the horses, there's a whole extra dimension to understanding both yourself and how you communicate with others".  

Following the Parelli Method, the approach promotes physical, occupational, and emotional growth in persons suffering from a variety of traumatic brain injuries, behavioral issues, abuse issues, and many other mental health problems. But the Parelli Method goes a long way to helping anyone build confidence, self- efficiency, communication, trust, perspective, social skills, impulse control, and learn boundaries. The Parelli Method emphasizes having fun while developing emotional intelligence. Since the horses have similar behaviors with humans, such as social and responsive behaviors, it is easy for people to create a connection with the horse. There has been great success around the world with everything from corporate team building to teaching novice riders.

Lori explains that whoever wins her prize can either claim it themselves or pass it along to someone else – "…a grandchild, a spouse … whoever would enjoy the experience", she says, flashing me her generous smile. She has given us a whole week of summer camp, a couple hours each morning, with on-the-ground skills as well as a riding component with your own horse partner. "This is your farm. Whoever comes out here is part of this farm. We are about community building and this donation to the Oldman is about extending that circle." She gestures back to the fragrant hay stacks. "Last year there was so much rain, we couldn't get the hay off. Everything you see here … the garden for the herbs to grow poultices for the horses, the water for the farm, the hay … everything is because of the Oldman river. Of course we're part of the watershed!"

Lori hands me the prize package and I am inspired. What a great place for people to come and experience! I look around the beautifully kept yard and my eyes drift across it's quaint garden furniture, the little cabin  … and land on Old Grizz. I gaze at him imperiously. He rests his shaggy head between his paws and goes to sleep.

Even the Oldman learns something new every day.

If you would like a chance to win Serentity Equestrian's prize package
Hear more about the Oldman Watershed Council and how YOU can make a difference  
Please attend our AGM in Lethbridge this coming Wednesday. 
Registration is at 8:30 the Enmax Centre. 
Everyone is welcome.

Thank you from the Oldman to: Lori Chell,

Serenity Equestrian,
Lethbridge, Alberta
(403) 381-1739 home
Lori with her horses

Our facilities are located 1km north of the intersection on hwy 3(to Calgary) and hwy 25(to PictureButte) on the East side of the road.