Photo:  Devon Combs of Unbridled Retreats


Hey there, Wild One! 

(Yes, YOU.)

Let’s try an experiment. 

Find a quiet place, take a slow, deep breath, and create a picture in your mind of the person you wish you could be, and the life you wish you could live.  What would be different?  And, just as importantly, what’s stopping you?

Over the course of my life, I’ve had the courage to set goals, take risks, adapt, and embrace change.  I’ve fallen madly in love, moved abroad, learned a foreign language, started a business, took up creative writing and pursued my passions…  I was deliriously happy.  Then all hell broke loose.  And there wasn’t a damned thing I could do about it.  I know.  I tried.  With every breath, every thought, and every waking moment, I tried.  Years passed before I finally faced reality and moved on with the business of doing what needed to be done. 

But I had changed.  Risks seemed too risky.  Creative pursuits seemed indulgent.  I questioned my own judgement.  I questioned my abilities. I questioned myself.  I held back and played it safe.  My new life was good, but lacked true passion, adventure, and that inner fire that burned bright back when I knew, deep in my soul, that I was giving the very best of myself to the world.


Authentic Living

Our authentic selves are terrible flirts, aren’t they?  Like a lovesick fool, mine would show up at unexpected moments:  Shimmering behind sunset clouds over the Grand Canyon, dancing rhythmically in the patterns of a Navajo blanket, wafting rich and fragrant after desert rains.  My authentic self was seductive.  And relentless.  I finally had to give in and say, “Fine!  ONE DATE!”

I began Wilder Southwest to share the beauty of my world with you, but also to share myself.  It’s been brilliant.  And pure anguish.  The multitude of skills it takes to blog and do social media seem overwhelming.  I’ve questioned my talents and abilities at every turn.  I’ve been tortured daily by my inner critic.  But just when I considered giving up, I received an invitation.


Devon Combs’ Unbridled Retreats

Certified Equine Gestalt Coach Devon Combs asked me to attend one of her Unbridled Retreats and to write an unbiased blog post about my experience.  I’d never heard of equine gestalt coaching so, as any good librarian/blogger would, I put on my cat eye glasses and got down to research. 

I learned that various forms of equine therapy and coaching are a relatively new but increasingly popular method that’s been used with children, teens and combat veterans.   The equine gestalt coach certification requires a two year course of study.  Using this particular approach, Devon partners with horses to help women reconnect with their intuition, courage and authentic selves.

What impressed me most were the rave reviews Unbridled Retreats receives from attendees!  Unbridled Retreats has also been profiled on Good Morning America and in Cowgirl Magazine.  

Satisfied that I wasn’t joining some new horse cult, I agreed to attend the retreat – mostly for the promise of a fun weekend outdoors with six other ladies at Tucson’s spectacular White Stallion Ranch


Devon Combs Coaching at an Unbridled Retreat

Devon Combs Coaching at an Unbridled Retreat


Though I still felt a bit skeptical about equine gestalt coaching, I was willing to keep an open mind. 

Shortly after my arrival, I met the other women attending the retreat and we all went out for our first horseback ride in the Sonoran Desert.  (Note that no riding experience is required for these retreats.  The ranch horses were all gentle creatures and very well-trained.) 


Unbridled Retreat Horseback Ride

Unbridled Retreat Horseback Ride


Later that evening, after a delicious barbecue dinner, Devon gathered our group to share, as much as our egos and fears would allow, some of what brought us to the retreat.  I’m an introvert by nature; the thought of discussing my personal challenges in front of strangers is beyond uncomfortable.  Luckily, Devon’s warmth and genuine caring created an environment in which we all felt safe and accepted. 

The next day, bright and early, we began our first coaching sessions with Devon and the horses.

So, why horses?  Devon explained that as prey animals, “Horses are highly intuitive and are masters at reading human body language.  They sense your energy and see you for how you are, not for who you pretend to be.  Horses reflect your true feelings back to you, which will help you reclaim your authentic self, and change the way you see yourself forever.” 

One by one, each of us took a chance and gave ourselves over to the process.  What an experience!   Devon is a highly empathetic and gifted coach.  There was nothing threatening or unnerving in the process. 


Unbridled Retreat Coaching at White Stallion Ranch

Unbridled Retreat Coaching at White Stallion Ranch


When it was my turn, Devon and I simply sat face to face next to a round pen that held a beautiful horse named Rawhide.  As Devon began to ask gentle, probing questions about my life and work, I opened up.  And as I spoke, Rawhide walked to the edge of the pen, drew closer, and nuzzled me.  At one point, Devon invited me into the pen with Rawhide.  And this is the part I can’t explain…

Rawhide drew close to me, took in my scent, and then began to move his head in a way that reminded me of the time I experienced reiki, a widely–practiced Japanese technique for stress reduction and healing based on the principal that the practitioner can channel and unblock energy in the patient’s body to engage the natural healing process.  But is this what was actually happening?  I don’t know.  I’ve since learned that, like humans, horses are thought to have chakras, body points that function as an interface for the flow of life energy.  Keeping my mind and heart open, I found this unexpected interaction with a horse fascinating.  At a minimum, I had an overwhelming sense that Rawhide was somehow connecting with me.  My sense of tenderness and gratitude for him was profound.


Sandra with Rawhide

Sandra with Rawhide


Devon then invited me walk around the perimeter of the pen while sharing with the group my thoughts and intentions about my work and creative vision.  I felt a bit silly, but I did as she asked.  Around and around the pen I went, eyes focused on the ground, trying to share my vision with the ladies sitting outside.  But soon the waves of self-doubt crashed through my thoughts.  I choked, my mind went blank, and I stopped in my tracks.  Suddenly, I felt a gentle nudge at my back.  It was then I realized that behind me, keeping pace, step by step, was Rawhide.  Was he really urging me forward?  As an experiment to see what he would do, I continued on.  Sure enough, Rawhide fell back into step with me.  And I began to laugh.  Apparently Rawhide would have none of my fears and self-doubt when there was work to be done.

Then it hit me.  Was this really it?  Was this what I was here for?  To learn that I simply need to laugh at my self-doubt and keep moving forward, step by step, with my focus on the creative vision that gives me joy?

Well, why not?  What’s life worth anyhow if I don’t live with passion and follow my vision?  

Is this what it means to become unbridled?


Sandra at Unbridled Retreat

Sandra at Unbridled Retreat



Why Join an Unbridled Retreat?

Devon describes her equine retreat as an experience that will “give you the clarity, confidence and courage to move you from the path you should be on, to the one your heart craves.”  The evening’s group session gave us each the opportunity to create our own plans for progress.  I created my plan, and my new unbridled gal pals are going to hold me accountable!

Unbridled Retreats are scheduled at spectacular ranch locations around the world. 

The Unbridled Retreat® is for women who want to…

* Create a clear vision and plan for what’s next in life
* Experience the intuitive power of horses
* Receive support, clarity, and affirmation to move forward
* Build confidence doing things outside the comfort zone
* Make new friends and have fun
* Have more PEACE and JOY and live in the present

In the week since my return from the retreat, I’ve felt a heightened sense of courage and peace that’s already bringing positive benefits to my life.  In practical terms, I’ve accomplished at least one thing every day to move one step closer to my vision.  How and why is this possible?  My scholarly mind demands empirical research and data.  My heart knows I’ve changed.

I am deeply grateful to the owner of Unbridled Retreats Devon Combs, Rawhide, our generous hosts at the White Stallion Ranch, and the courageous, raw, authentic, hilarious ladies who joined me on my Unbridled Retreat. 


Devon Combs of Unbridled Retreats

Devon Combs of Unbridled Retreats


This is a five+ star life experience – and it’s FUN! 

So, how about you?  Are you ready to meet some new friends and start giving the very best of yourself to the world?

Take the first step!

Unbridled Retreats / Devon Combs

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