Washington DC is a metropolitan area has a population of nearly six million people. Obviously not all of them ride horses. Or do yoga! So when I spent this past weekend at a yoga retreat with only 50 women, I figured I was bound to be engaged in challenging yoga classes, intensive meditations, and wonderful conversations . Imagine my astonishment when — intending to take a break from all things horse-related — the universe conspired against me.
To begin with, as I’m driving the hour north to get to the retreat, the last mile or so of road is lined with pastures, and run-in sheds, and water troughs. No horses, just empty pastures. Pretty apt for this point in my horse hunt. OK, I’m leaving this behind for a few days. How appropriate that I leave it at the front door of the retreat, both literally and symbolically. “Thank you, universe. Message received and understood.” Or so I thought…
When I got to my room, I went to unpack my bags and prepare for the first yoga class. Yoga pants, shirts, Dressage Today magazine… What?! How did that get in there? I deliberately left my horse magazines on my nightstand at home. Then I check my phone. My daughter texted to say that she had included some reading materials in my bag since there are no TVs in the rooms, and I would need something to do in the evening before bed. Not only that, she included copies of Horse and Rider, Equus, and the book titled A Woman’s Guide to the Mid-Life Horse.
Then, my friend Teri arrived. She asked how the horse hunt is going, and I made a face. “Meh. Nothing yet.” We discussed her latest show at Saugerties in the adult amateur jumper classes, and her horse, Cash, a beautiful 17 hand warmblood. And her face lit up. “Let me e-mail my daughter, Emily [who runs an equestrian clothing line, rides, trains, and has a radio show] to see if she knows anyone who could help you with the search,” Teri says. A couple of hours later, Teri reports that Emily recommends contacting Bonnie. So I message Bonnie, and a couple of hours later, she and I are engaged in a full blown electronic conversation about what kind of horse we’re looking for.
Then the first yoga class. As is tradition, we go around the room and introduce ourselves. Afterward, a woman I had never met approached, and asked, “Do you know Craig and Laureen and Lindsay? I noticed your shirt has a logo on it for a horse barn, and you said you were from DC, so I was just wondering…” “OMG, yes!” I reply. Craig is in my Tuesday night class and runs our pony ride program. Laureen works in the office. And Lindsay is our barn manager. It turns out, her house and theirs back to each other. What are the odds?!
So I’m a little overwhelmed with all the unintentional horse things that have come up. But it’s time to go to our rooms, and get some sleep to prepare for one meditation class and three yoga classes the following day. I check my phone. It’s my trainer telling me that I have a test ride on Monday, and asking what time I can be in Middleburg VA.
So much for a break. But this is just day one. There are three more days. I fell asleep to a chorus of bullfrogs, and the bubbling of the fountain in the koi pond outside my window. And I dreamed of horses.
Day two, as I sat down to lunch, I deliberately chose a table with people who were new to me. As I approached, one woman with her back to me exclaimed, “Oh, please sit down. I was going to find you today to ask about the horse search because I have friends who may be able to help you.” It turns out, they are professional eventers in Pennsylvania and New York. Perfect! We quickly exchanged contact information.
Days three and four were no less horsey. People came to me to talk about horses, what riding has brought to my life, and the life lessons you can only really learn at the barn — hard work, preparation, responsibility, patience, persistence, observation. We talked about how I got into horses in the first place, how I came to choose the multi-discipline of eventing, how my daughter shares a passion for horses, but has found a way to carve her own path by focusing on dressage. Horse conversations abounded — from the casual to the competitive, from the silly to the serious. Even my walks led me to look to the sky, where invariably I saw horses in the clouds.
Sunday came, and as I left the retreat, I discovered that what I had really needed was to let go of the outcome of all the work of searching for a horse. We have been looking for a horse for a year now, and I let that frustrate me. But I came to realize that we could have “A” horse by now. What we’re looking for is “OUR” horse.
As Lau-tzu says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” And so, tomorrow, I take up the journey again by taking another step, visiting the horse in Middleburg. And I go from a place of gratitude and joy — refreshed, renewed, and accepting it for what it is. And I open my mind and my heart to the experience in a new way.