Posts tagged horse women

The Horses Are Calling: Time to Step Up Our Game

Male-Female Drama: On a cool and gray mid-September day, I arrived at Medicine Horse Ranch to begin making plans for the book that equine guided education facilitator Alyssa Aubrey and I are writing about women and horses. I was consumed with a familiar heartache—an old painful pattern my lover and I had enacted many times before—and that had previously split us up. Instead of my usual “healthy” green tea, I happily drank sweetened Dunkin Doughnuts coffee laced with thick heavy cream from nearby Strauss Creamery. I poured out my relationship drama to Alyssa before we talked about beginning our horse book. She shared some of her own relationship challenges. Conflict, retreat, respect, boundaries and unmet needs were all part of our coffee conversation.

Equine Equinox: Once we started talking about the book, several themes emerged—the historical subjugation and mistreatment of horses, women, and the earth, the emasculation of stallions, generational war trauma, and loss of wilderness. We also spoke of women inextricably drawn to be with horses and how the horses were calling us to be in right relationship.

I read to Alyssa from a written dialogue process I had done with the Horse Ancestors years earlier where they had asked me to bring people together to pray for the horses at the 2004 spring equinox. The Horse Ancestors had told me that focused prayer could right the ancient and current wrongs and trauma suffered by the horses, because prayer can move between the worlds, crossing time and space. Equinox celebrations in spring and fall traditionally celebrate and restore balance. Maybe it was time to do it again. Alyssa and I quickly formulated a plan to do a simple private autumnal equinox ceremony the following week, and gather a larger spring gathering with and for the horses.

Another Male-Female Drama: As we walked down to the barn, the skies had cleared and dog Lila ran ahead joyfully. We were quickly greeted by the curious interaction of two of the ranch’s retirement horses in the paddock. Navarro, a 17-hand Hanoverian was pestering the diminutive Arab filly Sueva by nipping her and backing her into the fence. Meanwhile Sage, the ranch’s lead mare had her ears back as she watched them. Tizzy, the sentinel and protector of the herd was the only other horse in evidence.  

Neck on the Line: After a few minutes we passed through the gate into the front pasture where Sage greeted us and faced due north, toward the road. In the medicine wheel, north is the place of wisdom, winter, the ancestors and Buffalo Calf Woman. As our attention turned back to Sueva and Navarro, a shift had taken place. Even after Navarro had stopped bullying her and left her alone, Sueva continued to push up against the fence, dangerously risking injury.

I realized that the exaggerated drama between Sueva and Navarro was keeping us both from paying attention to Sage. As we focused back on Sage still planted at her post facing north, Alyssa noticed that her neck was hovering dangerously close to the barbed wire.

She later wrote, “She stood stoic, her neck on the barbed wire fence, skin touching the wire just between the sharp barbs, near enough that it caught my whole attention and took my breath away. I could feel her insistence, her requirement to offer nothing less than everything—she had her neck on the line; she was telling us in no uncertain terms that she meant business and we were called here to step up our game.”

Sage’s Response to Our Plan: Alyssa asked Sage whether we should do horse equinox ceremony and embark on our planned work together. In that moment, everything changed. Sage came directly to me, then Alyssa, and then walked directly in between us, standing with us. In the west, all of the program horses—previously out of sight down the hill—were suddenly present and ready, summoned by their lead mare. Even more surprisingly, to the east, Sueva and Navarro calmly grazed together. The beauty and the blessing of that moment were staggering. With her eyes brimming with tears of gratitude, Alyssa told me, “I have never seen Sage stand for so long in the north.” Alyssa recognized Sage’s actions and this moment as an unequivocal affirmation of the importance of our new work together. Then, just as quickly, Sage and most of the program horses dispersed. Rosie came up to get some scratches, and then we had another visitor.

Notice Me! Billy Brown, a tall, young black BLM gelding came up to us. Alyssa explained that he would test boundaries, and to hold firm as he advanced. I admired her horsemanship as Alyssa protected herself and me from him, but Billy still persisted even as she shooed him away using an energy technique. Finally, intuition prompted Alyssa to hold his big head in her hands and rock it gently and slowly from side to side. He then stood with us and I sensed his respect and support.

Honoring Without Emasculating: “I was thinking about how to claim my power without emasculating him as I rocked his head,” Alyssa later said. She also explained that between Sueva and Navarro, the petite mare had more rank and could have made Navarro back down at any time. As we discussed our learnings and what we witnessed, first one, two, and then three red-tailed hawks circled directly overhead as Rosie and Billy Brown peacefully groomed each other.

Gaining Human Insight from the Horses: The horses had spoken. We mused about how the horses had mirrored our own issues. In a short time, they had shown us conflict between the sexes, bullying, self-harming behavior, affirmation, distraction from purpose, mutual nurturing and much more. As I drove back home through the hills and craggy rock outcroppings, I mused at the parallels between my relationship issues and the behavior of the horses. In my desire to merge with my lover, I had overextended myself and not set boundaries. I was not taking care of my needs and staying true to my purpose. I am left with the following questions:

  • Where am I on the fence?
  • Where do I need to step up my game?
  • What is at stake and where am I putting my neck on the line?
  • How am I instigating and perpetuating my relationship drama with the man in my life?
  • What is distracting me from my highest purpose?

Clearly, following the call of and the wisdom of the horses is the way through, there is no time to lose and it’s time to step up.


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Dream Horse Women Interview: Kansas Carradine on Trick Riding, Cavalia, and What’s Next

Riding on U-Tube

After attending the 2008 Equine Guided Education Association’s Big Sky Horse conference in Valley Ford, California, I received a mesmerizing U-tube posting (see below) from conference participant Kansas Carradine. The video begins with the athletic and graceful Kansas doing expert lasso-work which is deeply sensual. The video then moves into awe-inspiring trick riding for Cavalia, including “Roman” riding—where Kansas stands atop two horses at once, with one leg on each horse. The footage where she is wearing red and blue shot outside in Australia contrasts with the dreamy sequences onstage in Cavalia.

Lifelong Love Affair with Horses

In a phone interview from her home near Lake Tahoe in early February 2008, the young mother told me, “I can not remember a time before horses.” By age 4 she was riding and from 5-7 she did gymkhana and trail riding. From ages 7 to 11 she was jumping horses and riding English-style. She has been performing with horses since she was eleven.

Going off to Summer Camp—for 7 Years

When Kansas was 11 years old, she left her Hollywood home for the Riata two-week trick riding camp in Exeter, California. The first thing they did was ride horses in the river. When she returned home, she announced to her startled father that she was moving there permanently. Within a few weeks, Kansas was living and working at Riata’s boarding school, as one of the performing “Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls.” Riata’s owners became her surrogate parents in what was then the only trick riding school in the U.S. Kansas thrived on the stability that the boarding school offered. Kansas recalls the responsibility instilled through working hard taking care of the horses, practicing, and performing. Kansas and her parents credit Riata and the horses for helping her navigate successfully through difficult adolescent passages such as her parents’ divorce and substance abuse.




From 2005-2007, Kansas performed in Cavalia, the dream-like theater and multi-media sensation that evokes the mystical, magical, and transformational relationship between human and horse. Kansas describes Cavalia, “I had always dreamed of it, but it didn’t exist yet. I had tears in my eyes the first time I saw Cavalia—being in Cavalia was a dream come true. Cavalia touches everyone. It transports people to another time. It is timeless, wrapped up in fantasy, mythology, and the collective unconscious. Knights, Celtic mythology, bareback riding, little girls—it is all there.” The performance schedule could be grueling with 7 shows a week and 250 shows annually in different cities and countries.




Kansas sees the hand of destiny in her work with Cavalia. While performing with Cavalia, Kansas met her future husband, artistic director Alain Gauthier. She credits fate for bringing her to Cavalia and to her new life as wife and mother. Kansas actually performed on horseback until she was four months pregnant. She and Alain left the tour from Brussels, Belgium when daughter Phoenix Rose (now two) was sixteen months old.

What’s Next

Now in her late twenties, Kansas shows the same courage and clarity about following her passion and taking the road less-traveled as an adult that she did as a pre-teen girl. She loves living in the beautiful Lake Tahoe area, and is a devoted mom to her daughter. There are, of course, horses in her life, including some Friesians (those magnificent horses that medieval knights rode), and she is learning dressage. A lasso act in Reno beckons, and she and her husband Alain are busy creating inspirational equine theater.

Kansas credits horses with lifelong learning. She recently began training with Ariana Strozzi, one of the founders of the Equine Guided Education Association, and is planning to get certificated in the program. Kansas credits the work with bringing her into even deeper relationship with the horses in her life. Kansas is also looking into working with horses and at-risk teens at a program near her home. For now, though, it is a deep pleasure to share horses with her two-year old and set down some roots. It is a safe bet that the coming years will include horses, learning, family, and of course following her passions.


U-Tube Performance: 

Los Angeles Times article about Kansas: 


Equine Guided Education Association: 

Ariana Strozzi:



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