When Everything Goes Wrong, Just Graze

The golden rule of good horsemanship is to never be in a hurry. Rushing makes room for errors, and errors make room for injury. Even if you are in a hurry, you have to pretend you aren’t. Horses experience energy and emotions more intensely than any human can imagine.

Creekside Fence

I was in a hurry this day, but I took several deep breaths to relax and keep from dumping my anxious energy onto the horses, who were tied to a stranger’s trailer while I swiftly groomed and tacked them. We were going on a group trail ride and waiting for one more person to arrive. Our hauler had a two-horse trailer and we had three horses to haul, so the back and forth added time we didn’t have to our day. The group left as the trailer pulled in with the third horse. While I stressed about the group’s departure without us, our two horses waited patiently by the trailer while the third horse was unloaded.

Creekside Trail

Having left only minutes behind the group, we caught up with them and enjoyed a lovely ride through bucolic countryside. My horse, Snowy, reveled in the creek crossings and wide-open meadows. His carefree happiness finally saturated my psyche enough that my stress from rushing was gone.

Snowy by Foxcroft Rd

Some not-so-great things that happened before the ride:

-the third horse broke his bridle upon unloading from the trailer

-the third horse, upon breaking his bridle, was then loose

-my friend’s horse’s breastplate broke right as he mounted up

Some not-so-great things that happened after the ride:

-our hauler’s trailer was hit by another trailer driven by a woman who had been drinking–yes, she was drunk-driving WITH her horses in the trailer (our horses were not in our trailer THANK GOD)

-drunk woman then tried to blame the accident on us

The trail ride was great. The before and after not so much. But I learned a lot from Snowy and the other horses that day. Really there’s no point in getting stressed out. NONE. Herd leaves without you? All your friends leave you behind? Don’t worry, just enjoy the scenery while catching up. Bridle breaks? Don’t worry, just start eating grass. A drunk person hits your trailer with hers? It’s fine. Be thankful the accident harmed only the trailers and no horses or humans.

Creekside Sunset

Horses are, indeed, sensitive to humans’ emotions and energy, but we’re also receptive to theirs whether we realize it or not. Snowy stayed calm amidst my own personal bubble of chaos that day, and you know what? Everything really was okay. Things really could have been much worse. Every moment I’m with Snowy, we’re having a conversation and exchange of energy. The exchange goes both ways. Horses may not speak to us in words, but they have endless silent ways of getting through to our hearts.

A Little Girl’s Love Story

This is a love story. Like any good love story, it has a tragic ending. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Sugar & Me
“Sugar, Sugar” began to blare through the speakers and my breath stuck in my throat. It was our song. It always will be. This is the end though, and I need to start from the beginning.
Cute Sugar
His blond, tousled mane waved in the wind so beautifully, Fabio would’ve been envious. His caramel coat was shiny and soft. But those features aren’t what made me fall in love with him. There was something special in his eyes—isn’t there always in love stories? This pony stallion was only three years old, but his eyes belonged to an old soul. They held ancient secrets and wisdom a little girl could only dream of. I was eight years old when we met.
Western Sugar

My mom bought this wild pony for just $300. He caught her eye every day on her way to work, so she inquired about him. The owner raised horses for meat and this pony was going to the sale in two weeks. The first time I saw him, I climbed the fence into his field, and he was the only horse in the entire herd to raise his head and acknowledge my presence. He kept his gaze locked on me and came cantering down towards me. I looked back at my mom and asked her what I should do. She said, “Stay put!” Feeling sure I was about to be trampled, I decided it was too late to run. He stopped just out of reach, his ears perked and his head held high. I offered him an apple and he slowly stepped forward, taking it from my hand. It was the first human touch he’d ever had.

Sugar in Roundpen 2

Sugar and one of the many members of his fan club

My mom assisted me with his training when she could, but she was busy running a Five-Star Equestrian Center, so Sugar and I were mostly on our own. I named him Sugar Maple after the Maple tree because his coat was the color of maple syrup. I trained Sugar using Natural Horsemanship methods, but mostly he taught me. I learned patience, perseverance and compassion. He gave me companionship when I could find it nowhere else. I endured emotional and verbal abuse from a man who lived with us for a few years, and I wouldn’t have survived those years without Sugar. He reminded me that not all the world is cruel and gave me a safe place to pour my tears.

Naptime at the Show Sugar at Mt Top

Sugar and I won Champion or Reserve at every show, whether we competed in Hunt Seat, the pony division, or Western Pleasure. Sugar could do it all and he did it well. That 13.2 hand pony would jump anything for me, including a four-foot oxer. My favorite ride was one where Sugar gave me a glimpse into his world. He lived on a 100-acre farm at the time, and I went into the field and hopped on him bareback with just a rope halter. I whispered in his ear, “Show me your world,” and he took off trotting up the hillside. We went into the woods and he took me onto little deer paths I didn’t even know were there. He broke into a gallop and we raced into the wide-open field.

Georgia Trail Sugar Jumping Log

Sugar and I grew up together. When I outgrew him, other little girls and boys took lessons on Sugar, explored the woods on his wide back, and competed in horse shows, earning not just ribbons, but life lessons.

Sugar Hoof Picking

I remained petite enough to continue riding Sugar non-competitively. We’d go out on trails for hours, just the two of us, no words spoken between us, but so much said in our silent togetherness in nature. Sugar taught me how to find peace in stillness and how to hear the words of my heart. He taught me how to navigate the delicate balance between audacity and reason. Almost the only time we did speak on trail is when I would sing “Sugar, Sugar” to him, but my lyrics were a bit different: “Sugar, Sugar…Oh, Honey, Honey…You are my super pony, and you make me so happy.”

Yoga with Sugar

Sugar’s the first horse I practiced yoga with, and he graciously humored me.

I had to say goodbye to Sugar in March of 2014. He was only twenty years old, but he had colic one time too many and I had to make the difficult decision to lay him to rest. Not a day has passed without me thinking of him and my heart remains heavy. Our song came on over the speakers at a horse event I was attending, and I had to push down the surge of emotion welling up in my throat and eyes. I had to stifle my expression of grief. A couple of nights later, I couldn’t sleep, the wounds of my loss freshly opened. Outside my bedroom window, I noticed flashing lights. The lightening bugs were performing their nightly ritual. Every night they’d light up the trees behind my room like a festival light show, but I was rarely awake to enjoy the magical sight. Lying there watching a wonder of nature, I realized Sugar’s still here. He’s in every happy moment I have, every moment of awe and wonder, every moment of love and magic. Love is the greatest gift he gave me and love doesn’t just die. His body is gone, but his soul lives on. I hear him in birdsongs, I feel him in the breeze and sunshine, and I know that wherever he is, he is young again and he is happy.

“Beyond ideas of right and wrong, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” ~Rumi

5 Bloggers You Need to Know

I read A LOT of blogs before deciding to start my own. It’s scary to start your own blog. What if no one likes it? What if you run out of things to write about? And the scariest question of all: What if no one reads it?

gravel road in VA

You can’t always see what’s ahead. Sometimes you have to go on anyway, blind and hopeful.

I still struggle with those fears, but I have a new mantra: If you write it, they will come. I truly believe like attracts like, and I know my words will reach those whose hearts they’re meant to touch. The scariest acts in life are often the most rewarding. I once jumped off a 30′ cliff into water. By far one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, but also one of the most exhilarating and memorable. I jumped a total of three times, and every single time was scary. So I’m not going to tell you it gets easier, pouring your heart onto a page and trusting the world not to completely mutilate it. What I will tell you is that it’s worth it. So meditate today and find the things hiding in your soul that scare you. Pull them out into the light. Hit the gas and don’t look back. The only things worth doing in life are the things that make your soul sing.

I hope if nothing else, I inspire you to make time for the things that make this life worth living to you—writing, dancing, riding, traveling, decorating, painting, surfing, whatever it is that fulfills you.

Need some inspiration to follow your dreams? Here are the bloggers who inspired me to follow mine:

1. Yoga Girl

Handstanding like a boss

Handstanding like a boss

Rachel Brathen is Instafamous and is quickly becoming actually famous. I first found her on Instagram, but now I stalk her on Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat. I’m obsessed, I know. Rachel writes about her life in picturesque Aruba, traveling the world to teach yoga, rescuing dogs, and yummy recipes for smoothies and vegan and vegetarian dishes. She and her husband, Dennis, also have an adorable blog together.

I just found out Rachel’s going to be at Burning Man this year and so am I! I’m so looking forward to meeting a fellow yogi who has been such an inspiration to me. Rachel is one of the most authentic people on social media. You won’t regret following her.

2. Global Frolic

Surfing like a boss

Surfing like a boss

I’m stoked to say I know Emma Doyle personally. We met when we were both studying abroad in Córdoba, Spain, and I was instantly attracted to her positive vibes. Now she has this super-inspirational blog that will make you pack your bags and book a one-way plane ticket faster than you can say “baby turtles.” You can stalk her here and here. And no one will blame you if you develop a girl crush.

3. World of Wanderlust

Touristing like a boss

Touristing like a boss

Warning: Brooke Saward’s blog will give you hardcore travel envy. She’s a super-talented photographer and blogger and manages to stay at some uber fancy places when she travels. She has truly turned her love of travel into a full time career. No matter where she is in the world, you can find her here, here and here.

4. This American Girl

Mermaiding like a boss

Mermaiding like a boss

I love Camille Willemain because she’s the perfect blend of inspirational and real. Breathtaking beach photos and amazing travel stories make up her blog just as much as real talk about getting sick, money struggles, and other challenges that come with a life of travel. One of my favorite times is when she got real about travel and white privilege. Find Camille here, here and here.

5. Meg At… 

Horsing around like a boss

Horsing around like a boss

Last, but most definitely not least, there’s Meg Banks. She’s the go-to blogger if you’re into horse shows. Whether you’re a competitor, horse show mom or dad, or even a horseperson who isn’t on the show circuit, you’ll enjoy her candid photos and clever commentary. She captures moments and scenes that may otherwise go unnoticed, but it’s those little details she sees that make the shows special. Meg came to my neck of the woods to attend the Upperville Colt & Horse Show, but I was traveling in Europe, so we sadly didn’t get to meet in person. It’s okay though, we’re totally social media besties. You can be her best friend, too, here, here and here.

Each of these bloggers inspires me because they had the courage to follow their hearts and write about something they love. Pouring yourself onto a page is one of the most vulnerable acts you can perform. Following your heart is one of the scariest choices you can make in life. I say go for it. Will your heart break? Many times. Will you heal and be stronger for it? Absolutely. So whatever it is you’re dreaming of doing, whether it’s starting a blog, buying a one-way plane ticket to a place you’ve never been, quitting your job to create art full time, or anything else you dream of, do it. The universe will be there to catch you and, who knows, you may even grow wings.

Horsing Around at the Land Rover Great Meadow International

If you’ve never been to Great Meadow in the heart of horse country, Virginia, schedule your trip now. I’m lucky enough to call this area home and have attended many wonderful events at Great Meadow, including Twilight Polo, the Virginia Gold Cup and, most recently, the Land Rover Great Meadow International CIC3*. Top event riders including Phillip Dutton, Boyd Martin, Buck Davidson and Marilyn Little competed last weekend in this prep event for the Pan American Games.

Not into horses? No problem! This area is also becoming known for its wine. Virginia boasts over 250 wineries. Some of my favorites are Greenhill, Chrysalis, Cana, Quattro Goomba’s and Stone Tower. Virginia is great for outdoorsy adventurers, too, with lots of hiking and biking trails all around the state. Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway and hike in Shenandoah National Park in autumn to be awed by some of the most beautiful fall foliage you’ll ever see.

Great Meadow put on a top-notch event and I look forward to attending more in the future. Below you’ll find a recap and photos from the event.

Day 1: Dressage

Phillip Dutton totally rocked BOTH his tests (he may or may not have been spotted at the bar between tests). The Mexican team looked uber snazzy in their military uniforms. And Jennie Brannigan reminded us that riding “like a girl” means #winning.

This is not Jennie Brannigan. This is yet another female Dressage rider showing us how much riding

This is not Jennie Brannigan. This is yet another female Dressage rider showing us how much riding “like a girl” kicks ass.

Day 2: Stadium

Phillip Dutton reminded us that even the best riders bite the dust sometimes (so glad you and Fernhill Cubalawn are okay, Phillip!). Lauren Kieffer showed us, once again, that riding “like a girl” means #winning. And everyone and their mother came together to keep humans and horses safe amid an epic storm.

These jumps were nearly as tall as me.

These jumps were nearly as tall as me. Red Bull doesn’t really give you wings, but horses do.

Day 3: Cross-Country

I wasn’t able to make it out to Great Meadow for Day 3, as I was teaching a yoga class that morning and all the excitement at Great Meadow was over by the time I finished teaching. While I’m disappointed I didn’t get to watch any of the cross-country, I’m glad I taught my yoga class. One of the students in my class leads meditation workshops, so we discussed collaborating on a meditation/asana workshop–exciting stuff!

Jennie Brannigan and Tim and Nina Gardner’s Cambalda were on point in their cross-country round and won it all. So next time anyone makes fun of you for doing something “like a girl,” tell them that doing something like a girl=winning.

Trailers for days

Trailers for days

You can watch a video of Days 1 and 2 that I put together for Salamander Resort here.

Traveling This Wild, Wonderful World

I’ve had dreams of traveling since pretty much the day I was born. My father is from Bolivia, so my feet have been itching to go there all my life. Bolivia hasn’t been checked off my list yet, but lots of other places have, and I intend to continue exploring this big, fascinating world until my wanderlust is satisfied which, I suspect, may be never.

Two of my biggest passions are horses and yoga, and I often combine them. Finding unique spaces in which to practice yoga and discovering innovative equestrian programs are two things that drive me to explore. I don’t limit my destinations to those that have yoga and/or horses, though, as it’s a big world, and I intend to explore it all.

Wengen, Switzerland - land of the greenest grass you'll ever see and idyllic snow-capped mountains.

Wengen, Switzerland – land of the greenest grass you’ll ever see and idyllic snow-capped mountains.

What you can expect from this blog:

1) pretty pictures (rural, urban, horsey, yoga)

2) travel advice (where to go, where to stay, what to eat, what to do)

3) travel stories

4) horse stories

One of my favorite things about traveling is turning strangers into friends. I’ll write about the people I meet, my experiences traveling as a woman, unexpected delights, and making the best of missing a train and other travel mishaps.

Thanks for joining me on this whimsical journey. If you have any questions or feedback, leave a comment below. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter for more photos and instant updates!

Cinque Terre, Italy has the cutest train stations and they smell good. Just look at all those flowers.

Cinque Terre, Italy has the cutest train stations and they smell good. Just look at all those flowers.