The journey to building my business hasn't been easy. Especially when it comes to the horses.
I've been thinking of writing this post for months, but have been really hesitant because of a variety of factors, namely fear of criticism, fear of speaking up, and also having to face some of my role in my own self-sabotage. But here it goes.
In 2020, I sold my house in California about three days into the beginning of COVID. While people panic bought in stores, I had a breakdown, and realized I couldn't stay in the life I'd built for myself. I had to get out, and I used the pandemic to do that.
That journey led me back to Seattle, which was the only place I felt like I'd had a chance of a life outside of working in the last decade. In June of 2020, I met a woman in Carnation, Washington who offered me the use of their pasture for the summer, as well as farmland to grow some of my own food (I will still be deep into agriculture at that time).
My spirit was delighted and said:
"You have a farm, and pasture! Buy horses!"
I figured I had nothing to lose, and I had nowhere to go. Yes, I still had massive anxiety related to previous riding accidents, but what a perfect opportunity to get over that. I had the time, and the place, so I bought Mia and Cadie.
Yes, this is where all you horse people can laugh, cringe and shake your head, because you know what this means!
Just Starting Out
The girls and I started our journey in summer 2020. It was this summer that I began to explore the equine-assisted learning world, and see what kind of career I might be able to make out of it. At the same time, I was still actively working (and still do) as a consultant for certain companies.
But I made the commitment to the girls, and to myself, to go back to school (again), and see if there was another career that could speak to my heart, as I couldn't see a life without them.
While our place in Carnation wasn't fancy, it was ours. Over the next few months, I learned to observe the girls, seeing what they were reflecting in me. I signed up for my first equine-assisted learning coaching certification, while also looking into other subjects that may compliment it.
Moving Into The Work
As I spent the summer learning, I began to rehabilitate Cadie, and retrain Mia. I knew a ton about rehab since I'd helped a group in LA rescue and rehabilitate horses.
As some of you knew me when I began, Cadie was dangerous. The level of abuse she'd suffered had taken its toll on her mentally. I had to get help, since I knew absolutely nothing about training horses.
Winter Was Coming, Time to Move
In August of 2020, I moved the girls to the trainer I'd been working with in Snohomish. Being in Washington, it rains about seven months a year. We needed a covered arena to continue our work. I wasn't riding at this point, but I was learning, and falling in love with natural horsemanship and groundwork.
A New Home in Snohomish
When we moved, I never realized we'd be there so long. I was a very different person when the girls and I first arrived there, than the woman writing this post now. But what I can say is that the barn was an easy barn, the owner carefully curated her community to fit her life. It was an multidiscipline barn with no drama. It wasn't very busy, and the people who boarded there were lovely.
In my time there, I really developed myself, continuing my education (while simultaneously navigating three dark nights of the soul). 2020 and 2021 weren't easy with the horses, but I would not give up. I think I learned and unlearned over and over, and made every mistake I could have, even though I'd built a successful business before this one.
I Found My Purpose in 2022 and Started to Build a Community
In 2022, all the mistakes, the learnings, and the new education set in for me. At the beginning of the year, I secretly retired, and simply started doing work with the horses with young girls, teens, and older women to simply find a flow, and to be around people after so many years of being alone.
In the spring, I started a group called HHPF (Horses for Holistic Practitioners and Facilitators), it was a group of women over 35 who worked as psychotherapists, coaches, intuitives, naturopaths, and herbalists.
We spent the spring and summer in the lower pastures talking about everything from what a soul was to how we could support the world with our healing work. We were a small, woke community of women who wanted to leave this world (and the people in it) in a better state that we'd found it.
I also started doing mother-daughter days where mothers could bring their kids to paint the horses and ride bareback. Simply as a way to bond and adhere to COVID protocols. I was beginning to find my way and start my new journey.
We Lost Our Home, People Like Us Didn't Fit
The barn had been up for sale several times over the last few years, but it hadn't sold. But this summer, an offer came in and it went through. The new owner had said we could all stay, and that the changes would be minor. I was excited, because this place was our home, and the people in it, our family.
But that was short lived, a few weeks later, in tears, the new owner said I had to leave. She had changed her mind because she didn't feel that "people like us" fit her vision.
And that meant, someone who worked in a therapeutic capacity versus a competitive equestrian one.
The written notice included pretty hostile language, and even the reasoning that FBI background checks were required for anyone on premise.
It was jarring to me to see the list that came with the notice, it caused me to physically shake and break down in tears. It was full of hostility, and her judgement of my work was evident.
Why? Because my dream, which I'd just started to realized and articulate, slowly, appeared to be dying. And of course, my ego was spinning out on the money I'd spent on the horses and invested in the property.
The statement of "people like you" was the final application of salt in a wound that was aw from living through two years of first-hand racial tension due to COVID, and gender bias as a woman, who worked in agriculture.
I spent a week processing the words in the letter, as well as that statement. So what did "people like you" mean? It wasn't based on skin color or beliefs, it was about income.
The new owner had a vision of building an affluent barn. So people like us, who didn't fit the affluent world she wanted, needed to leave.
In the end, I let them know I understood the decision, and yes, it was only business, but I did say:
"If we had all talked first hand, I think we could have found a shared vision. And I'm sad you never allowed me to advocate for myself."
This brought tears to the former owner's eyes, and she said, "Do you want me to see if she'll talk to you? And advocate for yourself?"
I said no, because the decision was clear. But I thanked her for all she'd allowed me to do in the time there
You Have No Horse-Human Connection
I decided it was time to take a pause on working with the horses and people, even though we had just started. I had to figure out what we could do, and how. I found a small, private barn in Redmond that I thought would work to board the three of them at as I worked this out.
It started out well enough, but I quickly learned the owner had very specific views on how she thought horses should live (which she hadn't articulated even though I'd asked before we moved in).
One day, out of the blue, she said to me, "You have no horse-human connection."
Again, I felt like I'd been blindsided. I asked her, "What do you believe horse-human connection looks like?"
She went on to tell me that horse-human connection involved a person lunging and riding their horse daily, and that horses only needed 20 minutes a day in turnout, where they should not need to run around at all because the exercise in the arena was their cardio.
She came down hard on me, and my horses, because I didn't ride everyday, and I asked my horse to be out daily for long periods of time. While I tried my best to make it work, we moved again.
I ended up hanging out for a few months at a ranch of a cowgirl who didn't care what I did with my horses. I went into analysis mode on what the hell I was doing with the horses, and how, and if, I should try and make them a part of my work.
Once You Hit Bottom, There Only Way to Go is Up
I'm still continuing to process what has happened in the last few months. I know that the ideas of the women that owned the previous barns had nothing to do with me, it was about them.
The new owner of what was once our Snohomish barn had her own perceptions. The woman in Redmond was a little different, and I believe that I was a light in darkness she was experiencing.
And that light made her uncomfortable because she wasn't ready to face her own challenges.
I still view myself as connected to them, and I'm sorry that conversations that needed to happen weren't spoken. All parties involved could do what they could at the time.
What I will not excuse is the use of privilege and prejudice towards class that was present in these two situations.
Luckily, this story is back on track. I've found a wonderful barn to keep the horses at, and I'm slowly getting back into a flow.
For 2023, I'm planning workshops at ranches owned by farmers I know, who want us there, and will haul the horses in for those activities. I'm also exploring how to continue my equine-led mindfulness experiences.
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and I'm coming in fierce and focused in 2023.