If you’re lucky, you get a few people who help guide you through the ups and downs of your life. Those people can be parents, teachers, friends, counselors, coaches, friends, mentors, family members or any combination thereof. I’ve been thinking a lot about the people—mostly women—who’ve been major influences in my life. I’ve been thinking about the women who truly SAW me when I needed it the most—when I was going through difficult times in my life, making big transitions, struggling with the big questions.

March is Women’s History Month so it’s tempting to focus on the cultural icons who’ve made a positive impact on the lives of all women. But I want to talk about the women who have been “boots on the ground.” The unsung heroines of our lives.

As for me, I’ve been very lucky to have so many incredible guides to support me in my journey. There was my 7th grade English teacher (whose name I cannot recall) who was so incredibly kind to me when I was struggling with crippling anxiety at school. My riding coach and friend, Jamie, who demanded I be brave and not give into my fear while riding my young and spirited mare, Lovey. My high school biology teacher—Sister Jean—who I regularly ate lunch with, talking about everything from the anatomy of a frog to social justice issues. Our family friend, Melanie, who always saw me without judgment. She gave me the space I needed to navigate my life as I finished high school and started out on my young adult life.

These women probably have no idea how important they are to me. They literally changed my life. Because of them, I had support on my journey, the space to discover myself, and the encouragement to go for the things in life that truly light me up – no small thing! When I can’t sleep, I often find myself thinking about the essential roles they played in my life and every time this happens, I tell myself I’m going to send each of them a thank you note.

And then I wake up and tend to the 476 things that need to be done right this second and another chance passes.

Now here’s the thing…you, my dear reader, are very likely this person to someone in your life. Someone, somewhere is grateful to you and you probably have no idea how incredibly important you’ve been in their journey. Consider this your reminder to never, ever underestimate how your openness to another human being can change the course of that person’s life. Sharing yourself and simply being present, can soothe another person’s soul. It may even heal them, allowing them to see the beauty and perfection of who they are.

So this is a tribute to those women who have changed our lives. As I write this, I’m getting my thank you cards lined up to send…and I hope you are inspired to do the same.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the world. I’ve been reflecting on how we live, what it’s like for kids coming of age now, and how things have changed for better and for worse since I was a kid. Mostly, I think it’s just gotten tougher. There are so many things competing for our attention and time. So much content to sift through on a daily basis. So many conflicting messages. And so. much. judgment.  It almost feels like “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” has become the unofficial slogan of our society.

As we head into Pride month, I’ve also been thinking about the trans community.

One of my favorite shows is RuPaul’s Drag Race. Not only because the outfits and the makeup and the wigs are truly next level. But also because of the stories. The stories hook me every time. 

Many of these artists come from backgrounds where they were rejected outright simply because of who they are. Some of these folks were just kids when their families rejected them. They were left to figure out life entirely on their own. 

If this is not your lived experience, it can be confusing to understand. Maybe even a little scary. Many people felt that way 30+ years ago when the gay and lesbian community started demanding more visibility; more human rights. For many people, the “gay lifestyle” was a foreign concept they couldn’t (or didn’t want to) understand. There are still people who don’t understand it today. 

And then there’s this: 

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” -Marie Curie

At the end of the day, I think a lot of the division we see today comes down to fear. When we’re afraid, we become less curious. Then we try to distance ourselves from things that make us fearful. Just like how our horses might spook when they see a dumpster at the end of the arena, we want to bolt when confronted with things we can’t understand. When we’re triggered, the things we can’t relate to become weird/other/different. 

But I’d like to challenge the notion that we have to personally experience something to understand and accept it. Because the reality is that our human experiences are not all that different. We’ve all felt different from others at some point or another. We’ve pretended to be something that we’re not in order to fit in. 

We’re simply not as different from each other as we think we are. 

I’m not really one to assign homework, so let’s call this a challenge: I challenge you to notice when you feel yourself creating division from someone or something you don’t understand. You don’t have to do anything; just notice.

It takes bravery. And bravery is something my community has in abundance! 

But we’re so much more alike than we are different. Everyone has felt rejected at one point or another. Most everyone has also felt loved and included at some point. All of our best and worst experiences may appear different on the surface. But they’re not so different in their actual emotional content. They’re not different in the way they made us feel. And despite our best efforts as humans to claim our cognition and consciousness as greater than our feelings, we are actually beings who are motivated and activated by our emotions. 

“Most of us think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, but we are actually feeling creatures that think.” –Jill Bolte Taylor

So as we kick off Pride month, let’s be brave. Let’s take this opportunity to remember that we’re a lot more alike than we are different. We all want to feel safe, to be loved, to belong and to be able to be who we are truly meant to be.  If you feel uncomfortable with someone expressing who they are, try to notice what you’re feeling. Then go a little bit deeper and imagine what they might be going through. Maybe think of a time when you might have felt the same way.  

A little empathy goes a long way and, if you ask me, we could all use a little more love and understanding in the world today. 


Actual image of me looking for where those five minutes went

The other day I watched a TikTok video of someone cleaning their toilet. (I know, but stay with me!) She was cleaning with, like, a gazillion different products. She would show a bottle of cleaner, dispense it into  the toilet, show another bottle, dispense the contents…and so on. I watched the whole 5-minute video, eagerly awaiting the big finale. What. Was. Going. To. Happen? I needed to know! Well, I’ll tell you what happened: nothing. I wasted 5 minutes of my one precious life waiting for a woman in a video to flush her clean toilet.

Wasting that kind of time made me reflect on something much more serious. Lately, I’ve had a lot of death around me. It’s partly just the season of life I’m in, but it certainly doesn’t make any of it easier. What it does is sharpen my focus on what truly matters and how fleeting our time is, here on Earth. We always think we have more time than we actually do. We always think there will be another opportunity to tell someone “I’m sorry,” “I love you,” “You mattered,” “I forgive you.

But let me share a little secret: sometimes life pulls the rug out from underneath you. And that opportunity you were waiting for? It disappears.

There is not some big grand prize waiting for you when you hold back your love. Instead of a grand finale, it’s just a flush – like the toilet in the TikTok video. In fact, holding back and missing opportunities to share your heart can end up breaking your heart.

One of the more comforting things I see around me in the midst of loss and grief is that those people and animals we have lost truly do live on in our remembrance of them. When you deeply love someone, they become part of you. As survivors of loss, we have the distinct honor of carrying the memories of our loved ones. By telling our stories, their stories. By laughing and sometimes crying at what was shared together. By not letting them vanish. It’s why stories are so important to me and such a part of what I do.

This spring’s two collections are inspired by horses who have died. I didn’t even realize that until I was getting some things ready for the launches, and it just sort of happened. (Yeah, I know…totally f*cking weird.)

I promise I’m not sharing this to get everybody super sad. That’s what the nightly news is for. I’m sharing this to remind you to cherish your time, your animals, and your people. Don’t take a second for granted. I’m serious. Whatever you’re worrying about right now, it won’t matter one day. It might not even matter tomorrow. If you are lucky enough to be alive and on earth at this very moment, go outside, make time to ride your horse (or just hang out with them and stare at them adoringly), call your best friend, eat a f*cking cookie, do all of those things at the same time.

Just don’t waste your time here. Because life is like a brand new tube of toothpaste. When you first get that tube, you SLATHER your toothbrush with paste. If it falls on the floor, who cares! But as that tube gets smaller and smaller, we start to take more care. We’re not quite as sloppy. By the time we reach the very end, we’re contorting that tube with all our might. We know we’re getting the last of it and we’re grateful we can get a drop on our toothbrush. And I’m here to tell you that, unlike toothpaste, in the tube of life, there’s no going back to the drug store to get another one.

So take this as a gentle reminder to:

  1. Live your f*cking life…fully.

  2. Love your animals and people…fully.

  3. Never cease to be in awe at how loving (or being loved by) someone or something can transform you.


“I bought a lame horse.”

The thing is, after looking at ten other horses and not finding the “one” – I knew instinctively he was the “one”.  I didn’t need to get on his back. I didn’t need to see him move.  I just needed to stand quietly with him by a rocky creek on gorgeous spring day. And somehow, I knew deeply and intuitively that he was the ONE.

He was my first horse.  I had just entered my 30’s and rediscovered my love for these amazing creatures.  It started like so many of these stories do – renting a horse, than leasing a horse and then fulfilling the ultimate dream of purchasing a horse.  And yes, he was lame.  And he was head shy.  And he didn’t like small spaces.  And he didn’t like men.  At that point in my equestrian journey, I had just enough knowledge to be dangerous.  Slowly and with much patience, Dunbar and I figured it out.  Not without error or mistake or occasional frustration.  I relied on the books of Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt, my monthly subscriptions to Western Horseman and Equus Magazine and the guidance of the most extraordinary and kind stable master and his wife.

Dunbar transformed my life.  My weekends in the city were quickly replaced by weekends at the barn with the best of friends and the best of adventures.  Casual Friday’s were an opportunity to wear my Dan Post boots to work making my office smell of manure and worn leather.  Baseball hats were replaced by cowboy hats.  Corporate Jena was replaced by Cowgirl Jena.  It’s not hyperbole to say that everything changed because it did.  North Wind Farm exists today because I promised Dunbar that he would have a pasture of his own to live out his days.

He was an extraordinary horse and he made me a better human in every way.  More patient. More adventurous. More courageous. More confident.  More compassionate.  More observant.  More knowledgeable. More responsible. More present. In those early days at the Bent Tree Stables, I earned the nickname Trail Boss.  Truth is, it was always him leading the way.  His steadfastness and kindness guided me through the deaths of my father, mother and nephew.  As Brene Brown says, “connection gives us purpose and meaning to our lives.”   Dunbar taught me that I was enough and that by being our authentic and imperfect selves we could create magic.

Love goes on even in sadness and grief.  Dunbar left this earth in 2017 at the age of 34 on a cold, February day.  I still feel his presence around here and swear that occasionally, I see him standing under his favorite cherry tree covered in pink petals. That chapter has ended but a new one was born.  It’s a story of a place called Paradise and a new Danish friend.  It’s a story of a big, beautiful warmblood in the United Kingdom named Dunbar.  But that is a tale for another day.

It is such an honor for this collection to be named after him and celebrate his ongoing legacy.  I was absolutely humbled when Mary approached me with this idea.  But here’s the thing.  This line celebrates the journey we all take with these four-legged wonders. So here’s to the horses that rode off with our hearts and altered the course of our lives. What’s not to love about the journey?

If you’ve been here awhile, you know I don’t shy away from talking about the struggles of owning a small business. I think it’s important to focus not just on the highlights and the wins of entrepreneurship, but to also share the real journey, the process. Because let me tell you, as with everything in life, you’ve got to learn to fall in love with the process in order to keep going. If you’re always focused on the destination, you miss out on the juicy, good stuff. You miss the falling down and getting back up again, the hard work and then the reward, the getting lost and then finding your way, and—maybe most importantly— the incredible people and animals that are alongside you while you travel.

With all that in mind, I’ve been looking back at 2022. Looking at it and thinking:

What the hell was that? 

For most of the year, my energy was all out of kilter. I was trying to push, grind and force my way forward. It was almost like I lost my connection to what got me started down this path in the first place. I finished up the year exhausted, with a hurt back and a defeated spirit.

This is not the way I want to live my life.

On a very fundamental level, I needed to change my mindset or close my business. I knew I didn’t want to close my business. So that meant I had to make some big changes. Not just in my business but in everything. My relationships, my riding, my own mental health…all of it. Because it’s all connected. There is no changing your energy and mindset without it influencing every part of your life.

So, around the end of the year, I made some big decisions about my business. I took
some of the pressure off myself to do things that were dragging me down. I decided to refocus on things that inspire me, that light me up – the stuff that really fuels this business. In other words, I took my happy ass to the spiritual chiropractor and got that shit back into alignment. 

It’s amazing how things change when we decide we’re ready.

One of the things I absolutely love about this business is when you, my customers, pop into my booth at a horse show, a tradeshow, or anywhere, and tell me that the designs make you smile. Or that you can feel the love and joy that went into creating them. That is so affirming for me because that’s how I feel about making them.

Not to get too woo-woo on you guys but that love and joy is what’s really at the heart of this business (pun intended). I truly love horses and I love creating things and sharing that love with my little piece of the world.

I love meeting other people who love horses and I love hearing how horses have transformed their lives. I believe these stories and this shared passion are what connect us to each other and give our lives meaning. I may have lost some of you by now—so if you’re still here—thanks for hanging in there with me while I woo out.

2023 is already a very different year. I feel it in my core. I’m really excited about what’s in front of me. (Spoiler alert, I have no clue exactly what it is but I’m ready for it!)

So just know this: whatever is going on in your life, you have the power to influence where you go next. 

You get to decide whether to fight the currents or go with the flow; to choose the
hard path or find a better way. Sometimes you gotta go down that hard path for a while before you realize there might be a better way—trust me! And, most importantly, there is no wrong answer. There is only experience to be had and lessons to learn and ALL of that makes you the kind of person that the world needs more of.

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

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