Dear Friends of Epona,
As summer moves toward the cooler temperatures and promise of fall, I hope this long overdue update finds you enjoying life and work. For two months, I’ve wanted to send you a report on the unfolding of events at our international study center at Apache Springs Ranch, but until mid-August I didn’t have enough concrete information to make any official announcements. Multiple possibilities were, and in many cases still are, brewing.
A Fond Farewell to Apache Springs
With significant interest and enthusiasm from several individuals and organizations intent on saving the Epona Center at Apache Springs, we held out as long as we could to keep the staff employed at the ranch. However, such ambitious reorganization efforts quite naturally take time, and when the details did not fully manifest by mid-July, we were forced to move operations off site as the ranch was put up for sale. Laying off the staff was the most painful aspect of this transition. It was so painful in fact that I think it was no coincidence that Rasa, my soul mate in equine form, colicked that very same day, though I’m happy to report she didn’t need surgery and is now enjoying life ruling my new backyard, banging on the kitchen door for carrots as I write this (she can actually open the door if I don’t keep it locked).
No matter where I go in the future, I will always marvel at the Apache Springs experience. Over the last four years, it was no small feat to develop a team capable of working together with as much harmony, enthusiasm, authenticity, adaptability, emotional agility, and expertise as the staff eventually developed. We all had to face, with incredible diligence and courage, personal and professional challenges to success. Even so, workshops held at the center were the most impressive I’ve experienced as the people, the horses, the retreat center facilities and the power of the land came together in a way that was unmatched by any previous manifestation of Epona I’ve been involved with in the 12 years I’ve been doing this work. I would like to thank and recognize the amazing on-site staff members who took this work to a new level in 2009: Shelley Rosenberg, Sue Smades, Victoria Bol, Mary-Louise Gould, Elizabeth Loper, Holly Richardson, Art Donatelli, Edith Mills, Jenna Stephenson, and Trish Kahla. Several members have already found promising new jobs or transition positions. Others are taking some much needed time off as we reorganize Epona for the next phase of growth. Sue Smades, one of our talented horse care specialists and approved instructors, is currently seeking a similar position. I cannot recommend her highly enough for her dedicated, knowledgeable, steady way with horses and people. If you know of any positions available, please contact her at email@example.com or 520-205-1107.
It’s also important to acknowledge the many employees, interns, Epona Approved Instructors, and guest clinicians who served in a variety of capacities over the years to help the Epona International Study Center reach the level of service we were, through much experimentation and hard work, able to finally achieve. Through thick and thin, they made the Epona Center at Apache Springs Ranch an amazing dream come true, as well as the ultimate four-year education in leadership and authentic community building. I cannot name everyone here, but I would like to offer a special thanks to Peter Paul, Carol Roush, Bob Wall, Cathy Huddleston, Kathleen Ingram, Missy McKinney, Rachel Wright, Kim McElroy, Ann Baldwin, Paula Bixby, Jeri Kremer, Denise Moody, Rebecca Paradies, Mimi Meriwhether, Eva Reifler, Nancy Coyne, Terry Murray, Sun Tui, Babs Murray, Stacey Kollman, and Sharon Swafford.
And special thanks to all of our participants: Every single client who came to a workshop or private session at Apache Springs Ranch helped to support the ambitious goal of creating a retreat center where people could immerse themselves in horse time and learn valuable, arguably transformational skills from these magnificent beings. The considerable overhead at Apache Springs was the challenge, and in a better economic climate would not have been insurmountable. Creating such a center again in the future is still a possibility. Had we been able to partner with another presenting organization rather than depend solely on the Epona work to fund such an operation, we would have easily supported the center, even at the height of the economic crisis. But these kinds of relationships take time to build and negotiate, time we ultimately didn’t have. However, the quality of the work that took place there, and our ability to serve a variety of new audiences that we otherwise would not have approached, are benefits that we will take with us wherever we go. In the meantime, I hope that this historic property goes to a buyer who will care for it and appreciate its unique beauty and history. If you know of anyone interested in purchasing one of the last scenic, pristine, quiet guest ranches in all of Southern Arizona, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com (520-394-2777). Apache Springs is literally an oasis in the desert, a powerful, inspiring place to live and work.
I also must offer special thanks to my husband Steve Roach who proved to be an incredible partner at every stage of this venture, from acting as construction supervisor and volunteer property manager during the two years we were renovating the ranch, to providing musical expertise in numerous workshops we co-facilitated, to literally selling valuable musical equipment to finance our final move from Apache Springs when it was clear that we wouldn’t recoup our investment in this amazing four-year adventure. Few husbands are more generous and dedicated, and fewer still are willing to go to such lengths to support their wife’s vision and calling, regardless of the outcome. I’m in awe of his energy, ideas and stamina, and thrilled that he, like me, is able to “go back to grazing” so quickly, as we are really enjoying time to care for and just play with our horses at our new place.
The Epona horses have moved to various locations, some to my new place, some to Shelley Rosenberg’s house. Max has received a much-deserved retirement at the home of former Epona Cantina hostess Edith Mills, while Tigger and Amigo are now working at a therapeutic riding center where they are doted on daily by horse-crazy teenage girls. And Kairos has moved to California to enjoy life with one of our loyal clients.
A Look at the New Book
Creating a business based on the innovative and untried concept of authentic interspecies community, during a major worldwide financial crisis no less, was a research project extraordinaire, and I have much to share in this regard that you’ll likely be reading about this time next year when my fourth book is scheduled to be published.
Tentatively titled, The Horse in My Cathedral: Lessons in Visionary Leadership, Non-Predatory Wisdom and Authentic Power, this volume combines “cathedral thinking” (a mindset concerned with long-term, socially-significant ideas) with the wisdom of the horse, an animal that, while powerful, approaches the world from a non-predatory perspective capable of nourishing individual and group needs simultaneously. Not only will this book address how our concept of leadership needs to change in order for the human race to evolve, it will offer solutions taken from Epona’s own highly experiential research into emotional and social intelligence, intuition, assertiveness, nonverbal communication, and authentic community building. Over the four years we spent running an international study center at Apache Springs Ranch, a number of adventurous, highly individualistic people put Epona’s most ambitious theories to the test. The daily challenges were significant. We became a living laboratory, complicated all the more by the fact that several of us stayed on site with clients coming and going seven days a week. Many times, I felt more like a giant lab rat than a researcher or teacher, but the power of what we preached was enhanced through the act of living it, being humbled by it, and continually working out the kinks along the way.
In past books, I’ve emphasized that horses represent the wisdom of the body, the emotions, the instincts, and intuition. These elements have all too often been expelled from our businesses, our schools and our religions. Yet increasingly, researchers in leadership and emotional/social intelligence are realizing we need to develop these long-neglected qualities to create effective relationships in all aspects of life and work—especially now that we are moving out of the slavery stage of human development.
A major premise of the book is that we need to incorporate horse wisdom into our most ambitious long-term visions. There’s currently way too much predatory behavior in our “cathedrals” to make lasting change possible as we continue to devour the earth and traumatize each other in the process. Horses model non-predatory power, fierce sensitivity, and authenticity in relationship, qualities capable of breaking our most destructive habits.
Future Plans and Fall Workshops
As I delve into another book, I’m inspired daily by the many people and horses I’ve been privileged to work with since Epona was founded in 1997. Though I’m thoroughly enjoying the writing process, I can’t wait to share these new stories and insights with you all!
Part of the joy involved stems from the private and highly inspiring writer’s retreat my horses and I now find ourselves inhabiting. When my editor Jason Gardener called to check in on how my latest book was progressing, I told him I was intrigued, and a bit spooked, at how the universe tends to create a highly immersive, experiential learning program for each topic I come up with. The lessons I learned at Apache Springs were significant, richly nuanced—and exhausting. When Jason asked me about future project ideas, I joked that my fifth book, merely for personal survival purposes, would need to be titled something like Back to Grazing: Peace, Harmony and Renewal through the Way of the Horse.
And it seems I’m headed in that direction already through a synchronistic connection that landed me in the place my herd and I are living at now. This five-acre mini-ranch, deep in the heart of the Sonoran desert outside Tucson, is surrounded by dawn-of-time mountains on three sides with huge saguaro cactuses that light up like scarlet sentinels guarding the silence at sunrise and sunset each day. This is the same ranch where the early members of Epona held the first ceremony in honor of the emerging vision of bringing horse wisdom to humans, before The Tao of Equus was even accepted by a publisher.
As for the future of our Epona headquarters here in Southern Arizona, there are still many possibilities, some forming, some still up in the air. Several area guest ranches that have also experienced some difficulties in the economic crisis have reached out to form partnerships with Epona. We are currently investigating these possibilities for our larger residential workshops, including the Epona Apprenticeship Program, which is moving forward as planned (with only one space open for the 2009 program).
We are reorganizing our Arizona chapter of Epona as a more sophisticated version of the original Epona Equestrian Services model: that of an agency capable of working out of multiple regional horse facilities for various purposes. The outreach inspired by the newsletter I wrote asking for help in saving the ranch has generated meetings with regional charter schools and mental health agencies interested in contracting with Epona. And the Merlin’s Spirit fund for returning military personnel has received interest from some agencies and non-profit funding sources. These promising connections will take time to develop, particularly those involving government grants. I’m happy to report that our new office manager Seth Grossman is spearheading efforts to cultivate these new possibilities, as he was, in fact, responsible for making many of these connections in the first place.
Now more than ever the horses have so much to teach, and though I will be reserving large blocks of time for writing my new book, I am excited about sharing the latest insights and activities my herd has inspired over the last year during a limited number of private sessions and workshops at my new base of operations. (To inquire about private sessions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org ).
I will be leading several intimate seminars this fall. The following events, limited to 4 participants each, will take place at my new (non-residential) facility. (All of the events listed here can be used as pre-requisites for enrolling in the 2010 Epona Apprenticeship Program. For workshop descriptions, simply click on the entry of your choice.)
- October 22 to 25: Pioneering Spirit: Leadership for the 21st Century
- October 29 to November 1: The Tao of Equus: Mindfulness through the Way of the Horse
- November 14 to 18: Merlin’s Spirit: Leadership and Initiation through the Way of the Horse
- November 28 to December 1: Black Horse Wisdom
I’m also looking forward to working with several of my advanced instructor colleagues from Apache Springs Ranch. These popular programs will be offered at other area ranches:
- October 12 to 18 & February 15 to 21: EASE (Epona Advanced Study Experience)
- November 5 to 11: The Sentient Herd: the Epona Approach to Emotional Fitness, Riding, Training, and Caring for Horses
Creating an international study center at Apache Springs had a significant effect in boosting awareness of this work throughout the world. The magnitude of supporting an operation like Apache Springs made it necessary to expand the scope of the work. The result is that we are no longer “preaching to the converted,” no longer basing our business solely on people who already have an interest in horses and healing. To hear that the chief engineer of a major military contractor takes the Way of the Horse book/wisdom card kit on business trips is a significant development! While people interested in personal development and a deeper relationship with horses will always be an important part of our community, we now have corporate leaders and returning soldiers embracing this work, which means that we are capable of transforming society from the inside out as we undertake a project that my stallion Midnight Merlin foreshadowed years ago: that of bringing the non-predatory wisdom of the horse to the most predatory aspects of our culture.
While several dedicated Epona Approved Instructors in other cities were also forced to downsize their more ambitious operations during this difficult economy, the presence of our approach to equine-facilitated human development and equine-facilitated therapy continues to grow steadily throughout the world. I’ve been hearing powerful stories from people who’ve attended workshops on five continents—a credit to our Epona Approved Instructors, who are working with energy, imagination, integrity and skill worldwide. I wish all our instructors great success as this international community continues to build and word continues to spread about the amazing potential horses have to help humans evolve out of our most destructive behavior patterns and enjoy increasingly harmonious lives.
With appreciation and best wishes,