Setting Boundaries: What Horses Can Teach Us

TRIGGER WARNING: This post discusses issues of bodily autonomy, and may be triggering for those who have experienced sexual trauma.

“I’m not comfortable with you standing so close and touching me. Please stop.”

At least three times, I had asked a drunk male acquaintance at a party I recently attended to back off. Each time I asked a bit more firmly. I repeatedly walked away from him to interact with others and escape his inappropriate advances. When he approached me again and interrupted a conversation I was having with a friend by touching my thigh, I again told him firmly to stop touching me. When it didn’t work, I raised my voice and gave him the equivalent of a horse kick. No, I didn’t literally kick him or physically assault him in any way. I do not advocate physical violence in any situation. But I did verbally stand my ground. I told him it was unacceptable no matter how drunk he was to continue harassing me or any woman after she had repeatedly asked and told him to leave her alone. And what was his reaction to my standing up for myself so strongly? He called me mean. Because in our society, when a woman demands what should be a given—bodily autonomy—she’s considered a bitch.

This is only one of many, many times a male—ranging from acquaintance to stranger—has touched my body without permission, and it could have been worse. Other women have experienced much worse. But the cause is the same—the patriarchal notion that women don’t have bodily autonomy. We treat animals in much the same way. I’ve seen countless horsemen (and women) touch, groom, saddle, and ride a horse when the horse was clearly uncomfortable. How many times have you entered a horse’s, dog’s, or other animal’s space when it was giving you signs it didn’t want you to come so close? The importance of respecting bodily autonomy for women, horses, and all animals cannot be emphasized enough. 


We must build relationships with our horses and earn their trust. We must view other humans and animals as equals who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. We must not enter another’s personal space without permission. How often do we objectify horses in much the same way women are objectified, determining their worth based solely on conformation/looks? How many times do we enter a horse’s or other animal’s space and begin petting them without heeding warning signs they’re giving that we’re moving too quickly? We must awaken to the fact that horses are sentient creatures. They feel fear, love, affection, grief, and joy. We must realize that all humans and animals deserve to have bodily autonomy.

Horses excel at setting boundaries. They give nonverbal warning signs when their space is invaded, pinning their ears, baring their teeth, and sometimes partially lifting a hind foot in warning. If the invading horse or predator chooses to ignore these signals, the horse will deliver a painful, sometimes fatal kick or strike. Humans can learn a lot from the way horses set boundaries: give warning signs; give the intruder the opportunity to walk away; gradually escalate the intensity of the warning; and, if necessary, deliver the kick or strike (again, not actual physical violence—rather standing up for yourself in a highly assertive manner and/or getting help, including the authorities, if necessary).

Sure, the intruder may call you names, but so be it. His or her opinion of you matters not. What matters is protecting yourself and setting boundaries you’re comfortable with. I believe we can all do better. Bodily autonomy is certainly a feminist issue, but for feminism to be successful, it must be inclusive. Women are not the only ones suffering from violations of bodily autonomy. The journey is far from over, but one step at a time, we can make this world a better, safer place for women, the LGBTQ community, people of color, young girls and boys, horses, and all other animals.

Thank You


As I make the final preparations to leave for my next adventure, I am filled with gratitude as deep as the sea. I am so thankful for the support and generosity of friends, family, and strangers.

I am deeply touched to have such amazing people in my life. This is the last week to donate to and/or share my GoFundMe campaign. Next week I leave for Barking Horse Farm in Costa Rica with much growth and learning ahead. Thank you for your well wishes, sweet messages, and support.

I feel a deep knowing that this next step in my journey will lead to amazing things—healing, new connections, open doors—things I can’t yet see, but that will enable me to do work I’m passionate about. Using yoga and horses to facilitate healing and growth is what drives me, what gives me the courage to follow my heart instead of the safe, predictable path. I hope you’ll join me and follow along as we change the world, opening hearts and minds along the way.

Why I Practice Yoga on Horseback

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“Love is the bridge between you and everything.” ~Rumi

“Do what is healing to your spirit, and without effort you will bring the world healing in return.” ~Alan Cohen

Pain is part of life. Pain enables us to heal and grow. My journey of healing began with horses and continues with my yoga practice, both on the mat and with Snowy. I began practicing yoga on horseback out of curiosity. My passion for yoga and horses fueled a quiet, but nagging thought in my mind—what would happen if I combined the two?

Good horsemen and women learn a lesson at some point in their equestrian careers: horses are much more than recreational vehicles—they are sentient beings who deserve to be treated with kindness, respect, and dignity. This lesson punched me in the gut when I was eight years old. The equestrian center my mom managed at the time housed an athletic little Appaloosa pony named Trixie. She and I would explore trails for hours. She was every little girl’s dream come true—pretty, reliable, and fast. One day Trixie and I returned to the barn and my mom noticed with horror that Trixie was huffing and puffing and lathered in sweat. My mom pulled me aside and explained to me in a stern voice that I couldn’t just go out and run Trixie as much as I wanted to. She said to me, “Horses aren’t machines. They have feelings. You have to be considerate of them. You should never cause them suffering.” My heart ached for the way I had treated Trixie. Until that day, I didn’t realize that horses had a limit, that they shouldn’t be run all the way back to the barn even if they seemed willing. I felt horrible that I had caused a sentient being suffering. As I walked Trixie out that day, allowing her to cool down, I vowed to never cause such suffering again.

“Under no circumstance should your hand disturb the horse’s mouth. You must learn to stay calm in all situations and control your emotions. There is no room for anger.” ~Xenophon

That day proved to be a turning point in my horsemanship. From then on, I dedicated myself to learning all I could about horses and how to have harmonious, mutually respectful relationships with them. I participated in Dressage, Centered Riding, and Natural Horsemanship clinics. I read all the literature I could get my hands on. And, most importantly, I learned to listen to the horse. My horsemanship and training methods are based on a deep love for and ever-increasing knowledge of the horse as a sentient being. Do I still make mistakes? Of course, but I learn from them. I do not force my will upon any horse. I do not cause any horse pain or suffering. During my yoga practices with Snowy, I pay close attention to him to see if anything I’m doing is causing him even a hint of discomfort, and if so, I immediately stop doing that pose.

“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness of other people.” ~Carl Jung

When I embarked on my yoga journey, I couldn’t have fathomed where it would eventually lead. I first tried Hatha yoga at Smith College during my first year there. I was bored and could not for the life of me understand the point of savasana. During my senior year, a friend dragged me to a Baptiste Yoga Studio in town, Shiva Shakti Power Vinyasa Yoga. I walked out of that first class feeling like I was floating on air. I had officially experienced my first yoga high. Classes with Brandon and Naima transcended a physical workout and showed me how to use yoga to look within and grow spiritually. I attended classes there daily until I moved away after graduating from Smith.

I continued to practice vinyasa yoga at Awakening Yoga Studio near Savannah, GA, where I lived for two years after graduating from college. Classes with Lisa, the owner, enabled me to continue to grow my practice. I achieved headstand under her knowledgeable instruction. When I moved to Virginia in 2013, I discovered Yoga Time Studio and went there to sweat away all my stresses and uncertainties. Mindy, the owner and fabulous teacher, had a way of helping me focus on the present moment intensely while having a great time doing so. She told me about a teacher training that was being held at her studio, and that’s when I met Denise Moore. Denise created and led the first Open Dimension Yoga Teacher Training, which I graduated from in May of this year. I have never met anyone as knowledgeable and passionate about yoga as Denise. Through her training, I gained thorough knowledge of how to teach Hatha yoga to beginners and advanced beginners, and also learned about anatomy, pranayama, meditation, the yoga sutras, and more. You can learn more about Denise and her yoga classes here.

I came full circle, beginning with Hatha and ending with Hatha, although my yoga journey has really only just begun. I’ve been teaching Hatha yoga classes at Native Barre and Barre Buddhi and hope to return to teaching when I get back from Costa Rica. What I love about Hatha yoga is that it builds a strong foundation that yogis can practice on for the rest of their lives. If and when a yogi decides to try other types of yoga, Hatha teaches him/her how to stay safe and prevent injury through being mindful of proper alignment and breathing. The more I practice and teach Hatha yoga, the more I love it.

“Truth is a matter of perception. People only see what they’re prepared to confront.” ~Unknown

One sure thing I’ve learned about horses and yoga is that there is always more to learn, there is always room to grow. Admitting I don’t know it all enables me to keep learning, and I will keep learning, but I will never know all there is to know, and that’s okay. I will learn all I can and pass on all the knowledge I can, and that will be enough.

“The willingness to face life’s challenges before you have the skills in place—without shrinking from the fear and pain involved—is courage personified.” ~The Power of the Herd by Linda Kohanov

I’m making up this whole horse yoga thing as I go, guided by my heart and Snowy’s responses. I practice yoga on horseback for no other reason than I love it. Practicing with Snowy enables me to deepen my yoga and horsemanship skills. It has also cultivated even more trust between me and Snowy. There are no tricks in my photos. No one’s standing just outside the frame in case Snowy decides to move. Sometimes Snowy does fidget, and that’s when I pay extra close attention to see if something I’m doing is uncomfortable for him. Most of the time, though, Snowy stands quietly, breathing deeply, steadily, and slowly, enjoying the yoga high as much as I do. The deep peace I experience during savasana with Snowy is extraordinary.

“Don’t start chasing applause and acclaim. That way lies madness.” Ron Swanson

“Don’t start chasing applause and acclaim. That way lies madness.” ~Ron Swanson

Some critics have said I’m doing this for attention. Others have said it’s cruel to the horse. Allow me to address both of those concerns. I am not doing yoga on horseback for attention. I share my journey on social media in hopes that it can inspire others, and I share it to make others aware that horses are beings with emotions and depth, and that they deserve to be treated with kindness, respect, and dignity. And to those who think practicing yoga on horseback is cruel, I’ll tell you what’s cruel. Competing a horse in a sport it doesn’t enjoy because it feeds your ego is cruel. Confining a horse to a stall with hardly any time to just go out in the field and be a horse is cruel. Using any bit with a harsh hand is cruel. Using ill-fitting tack is cruel. Using spurs, whips, and harsher bits because you lack the skills necessary to have a mutually respectful relationship with your horse is cruel. Blaming the horse for your mistakes is cruel. Viewing the horse as anything other than a sentient being is cruel.

Yoga on horseback can be cruel. If I ignored Snowy during our sessions and tried to force him to stand still when he’s clearly trying to tell me he’s uncomfortable, that would be cruel. Any equestrian sport has the potential for cruelty. What matters is whether or not the horseman or woman understands the horse as a sentient being and respects its desires and emotions. I do. I always put the horse first. If you don’t believe me, I invite you to come watch, or even participate in, a yoga practice with me and Snowy.

“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.” ~Marianne Williamson

“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.” ~Marianne Williamson

I know that no matter what I say or do, there will be critics, but I’m not here to make everyone happy, and for every critic there are countless others who are inspired and supportive. I’m here to follow my heart and stay true to myself. I dare you to do the same.

“Worry is a misuse of imagination.” ~Dan Zadra


  
  
  
  

Yoga Retreat at Kuntz Nokota Horse Preservation Ranch

“I was born upon the prairie, where the wind blew free, and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures and where everything drew free breath.” Ten Bears

Wide open spaces, constant wind and rugged terrain were the first characteristics I noticed about North Dakota as I made my way to the Kuntz Nokota Horse Ranch in Linton. Owned by Leo Kuntz, a knowledgable horseman with an eye for good conformation and a sense for good minds (in horses and people), the Nokota Horse Ranch is truly preserving living history.

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The lovely, yet tough ranch hand, Holly, took me on a sunset ride on the evening of my arrival. As the setting sun warmed us with its golden rays and the sunflowers danced gently in the breeze, I thought to myself, “This just might be heaven.”

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The next day’s weather proved to be just as pleasant, making the first day of our yoga retreat a real dream come true. As I led savasana, “the boys,” as Leo and Holly refer to the herd of geldings, ventured down to us, approaching us with curious faces. The horses at the ranch are pretty much wild, although some do get gentled. Being surrounded by the herd during such a profound moment in our practice was a magical experience I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.

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After our yoga class, Holly drove us around to see some of the stud/mare bands. She also showed us tipi circles, or stones arranged in large circles by the Native American tribes that used to call that land home. There was an energetic vibration to the land that I’ve experienced nowhere else. It’s like the history is almost so palpable you could touch it.

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Holly also took us to the Offering Stone, where the tribe’s medicine man would perform rituals and where, today, you can leave a token, such as a coin, as an offering and ask for blessings from the spirits in return. That space somehow commanded silence, and we all stood there taking in the view and the energy for a few long moments. Time seemed to cease to exist.

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That evening around sunset we strolled to a special place on the ranch where the mares and foals happened to be grazing.

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Seeing them live so free and natural filled my spirit with joy and sorrow all at once, for while I gazed upon that wild herd, I also thought of all the horses whose lives are spent boxed up in stalls.

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Later that night, I went out to look at the stars and my jaw literally dropped when I looked up. The Milky Way had never looked so magnificent and the sky had never seemed so big.

The weather turned colder and more blustery on Saturday. The strong wind held off until after our yoga class, but the rest of the day was mostly spent indoors. Sunday arrived carrying even colder temperatures and stronger winds, so instead of asanas, I led us in pranayama and meditation indoors. The wind began to subside later that afternoon, so I hung out with “the boys” for a bit, trying to coax Mr. Grey, my favorite, into taking a peppermint from my hand. He did place his muzzle in my hand, but he wasn’t so interested in the peppermint.

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Leo cooked buffalo burgers and summer veggies for dinner, regaling us with tales from his life as we enjoyed the hardy, home-cooked meal. The next day I had to say goodbye. Mr. Grey seemed not to mind my presence and allowed me to hang out near him while he grazed. One of my favorite things about Leo is his willingness to allow visitors to hang out with the herd. Simply being in the horses’ presence can be a transcendental, yet grounding experience from which there is much to learn. I look forward to returning to the ranch next summer to lead another retreat and to spend more time with these majestic, wise creatures.

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You may view a video I put together of the weekend here.

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Are You Busy? Read This.

I’m so tired of being busy. “Busy” is the trendy answer we give when people ask us how we’re doing. If we’re busy, that means we must be contributing to society in some way, working hard, earning what we get. But the truth is, being busy can keep us from following our true calling. When we’re busy, we don’t take time to stop and listen to what our hearts have to say. Being busy has become an excuse for not properly caring for ourselves, for not living healthier lifestyles, and for not following our dreams.

natarajasana in shenandoah

I don’t want to be busy anymore. When someone asks me how I’m doing, I want to say, “I’m doing great! I’m working on my book, spending time with my horse, going into nature, and practicing and teaching yoga.” Okay, maybe I’d still be busy, but I’d be busy fulfilling what my heart’s calling me to do.

upward dog on horseback hearts

I currently try to combat my busy-ness by making moments of stillness, meditating, practicing yoga and spending time with my horse. We all have to make a living, but doing so shouldn’t prevent us from following our hearts and making time for ourselves, and no one can make that time for yourself but YOU.

So make time for you today—no guilt allowed. Have a leisurely lunch, go for a walk, meditate, do yoga or do whatever makes you happy, even if just for a half hour. Remember, as Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

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The Dark Side of Yoga & Horses

There are a lot of opinions in the two main communities I’m involved in—horse and yoga. The horse community has as many opinions as there are blades of grass—to shoe or not to shoe, how much grain to feed, what kind of grain to feed, whether to feed any grain, to use a flash noseband or not, to turn out at night or during the day or all the time, to lead and mount and dismount from the left side or both sides (like there’s a wrong side of the horse, I mean, c’mon), the list goes on.

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The yoga community has more opinions than all those “Namastes” will lead you to believe. That Hatha or Kundalini or Bikram or Baptiste or Vinyasa or Yin or Jivamukti or Restorative is the best kind of yoga. That this type of mat is better than another. That your hips should point totally forward in Warrior I or that they should be slightly turned. That Sanskrit should be used. That it shouldn’t be used. That yoga classes with music aren’t real yoga. That real yogis are vegan. That true yogis look a certain way, act a certain way, sound a certain way. That headstand should never be done, or that it should always be practiced. This list goes on, too.

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What’s most important in these two communities isn’t anyone’s opinion (unless it’s Shiva Rea’s or George Morris’—kidding, sort of), but respecting each other and extending kindness and acceptance. Becoming a teacher has shown me that while most people are supportive, some in the community are not, whether that lack of support comes from a place of insecurity, misunderstanding, or something else. And that’s okay. I don’t expect everyone to like me and what I’m doing. Yoga on horseback is new and different, so of course some people are critical. Some horsepeople have told me it’s cruel to the horse. Those people haven’t taken the time to get to know me and my horse, but if they did, they’d see that Snowy enjoys our yoga sessions just as much the human on his back enjoys them. They’d realize that I’m a knowledgeable horsewoman who has both the yoga and horse skills to make sure we’re not doing any poses that would put Snowy in discomfort or pain. They’d see that his well-being is my priority.

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I encourage all of us in the yoga and horse communities to respect each other and to be open to others’ opinions. Just because you’ve been told that a certain way is the RIGHT way, that doesn’t mean it’s the only way. What’s right for you may not work for someone else. So remain open. Try being curious instead of critical, open-minded instead of judgmental. That’s how we continue to learn. With yoga and horses, there is always more to learn. Thinking you’re right about everything only closes you off to further learning. Starting today, love more. Offer more kindness. Be more accepting of those who are different from you. I guarantee the world will respond with more love in return.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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“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.
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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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?

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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.