It is with deep gratitude that I post the words of others who have worked with us – my thanks to the horses for making it all possible.
Wow! What a beautiful, deep experience I had with Ashley and her horses. Being relatively unfamiliar with equine therapy, I was a little nervous going in and did not know what to expect. However, Ashley held space for a perfectly balanced experience—one that allowed for unique, individual exploration, but with enough structure and guidance that I felt safe and held throughout. I walked away feeling absolutely moved, as though there had been a shift in me that I have continued to process since our session.
Ashley has an innate ability to read both horses and humans, and help you to identify areas for work. For me, it was around asserting myself and upholding boundaries. This came up with her horse Zorro, who seemed to sense this about me almost immediately. He pushed me in a number of ways and I struggled to push back in a way that felt fully embodied and powerful. It felt like a dance, facing off with each other to determine who had control of the situation. Was I dictating the rules of engagement, or was he? For a while it was quite frustrating and brought up a lot of emotion. The whole time, I felt Ashley’s presence as she helped me work through what was coming up — a presence that was reassuring without being overly-intrusive into my experience. Eventually, it was as if a block within me fell away and something shifted with Zorro. I felt a new empowerment and he was more responsive to me, moving around the pen in the way I energetically asked him to. Out of this arose a new insight: I have a tendency to halfway commit to things to give myself the space to pull out if it gets too uncomfortable. It was only when I let go of my fear, threw my energy into the effort, and fully chose to engage that things changed with Zorro. Through this, I felt a power within my own body that I had not so consciously experienced before.
There is something so incredible about working with horses, and I would recommend it to just about anyone, especially individuals who have a difficult time feeling into their own body or who have patterns in their relationships that they would like to change. These massive creatures have a beautiful energy and sensitivity without any of the judgment or complication that comes with human relationships. They act as a mirror into your soul, bringing light to things that you may have sensed but never truly realized. Working with Ashley and her horses presents a unique opportunity to identify and unpack patterns of thought and behavior, all while getting into better touch with your body. We hold so much tension and emotion within our nervous system, and working with Ashley and her horses brings much of that to the surface in a safe container where you can truly witness it, work through it, and fully embody the transformation.
~Emma Peck, Masters in Counseling Student
“We live in a busy world, a world full of distractions and many of us lose ourselves in these distractions. Sometimes we feel we are not fast enough, smart enough, confident enough, successful enough. We also live in a world where we are in our heads focusing on the best we can be. In most cases, we try to enhance ourselves by seeking advice through various means and trying to solve our problems with logical actionable steps. We may get so involved in cracking the code to our challenges that we forget the other factor for success, the emotional one.
It’s not enough to learn what to do, you have to believe in it and thats the education you get with Ashley and her horses. I have done business coaching, dating coaching, therapy, listening to countless podcasts and reading books but I still had one obstacle in my way. Believing that I can embody what I was learning and just being comfortable with the now, not worrying about “what ifs” and “what could have been”.
In this photo with Daisy, you see me at my most serene. Being comfortable with being available to what may happen or what may not happen. The outcome doesn’t matter, what mattered was I was there and I made myself available. And every time we show up ready and willing to engage, good things will come. They have for me.”
-Rami Balat, Business Owner, San Francisco, CA
“When this photo was taken, I was excited that Taj let me pet her for awhile. Previously, the horses did not approach me as they had some of my classmates. Maybe they sensed my discomfort. I don’t have a lot of experience with horses and was worried they were going to be overwhelmingly big. In any case, I was excited and determined to pet the horses and was rewarded for my patience and persistence.
Later in the day, our class worked with the horses and Ashley in groups and one-on-one. Through these exercises, I learned more about how I approach leadership and work as part of a team. The exercises helped me be curious, experiment, and succeed in accomplishing challenging exercises. Ashley really ensures a supportive, safe and engaging day working with the horses. With her experience with the horses and in the business world, Ashley helped me apply learning from the ranch to the office and beyond.”
-Amy Donovan, from a Leadership Retreat Day in Petaluma, CA
“Hi Ashley, Thanks for your insight into the world of “horses for the soul” at Montebelli. Not being very horse or animal orientated I was a little sceptical as to whether i would get anything “special” from my experience. Boy, was I wrong! I was buzzing following both my sessions and I am determined to continue this when I get home. It is a great testament to the work that yourself and Tommaso are doing. Keep up the good work and Thanks!”
– Stu Greaves – Isle of Man, British Isles
“After our lessons, I was really flashed and I had sooo many ideas – THANKS FOR THAT! I’ve tried a lot of our work with my horse and it was amazing! She has understood all … Now I can understand much more than before and our connection is deeper than ever before. Only looking at her makes me feel happy and proud of what I have done :-)”
– Marielle from Germany
“My partner and I hired Ashley Smith to support the start-up phase of our EGE business and participant experience. Ashley’s depth of expertise in this field, combined with her consulting acumen and flexibility, is truly unmatched. She provided analysis and feedback on our horses’ individual capabilities, facilitation and content coaching, as well as the ongoing moral support we needed as we entered the field. Ashley has the remarkable ability to simultaneously hold the client safely and to zero in on the core learning happening in the moment. Her intuition, both with people and horses, is astounding. It is undeniable that our first workshop was a huge success because of Ashley’s guidance. Ashley teaches through example and embodies the work in both her personal and professional life. She is destined to become a recognized leader in the horse/human experience.”
Amy Buck at Wisdom Ridge Ranch
From a participant in an Equine Guided Team Building day:
Time has always been a constant source of stress in my life. Everything has a deadline. Everyone wants something sooner rather than later. Have I done enough work today that won’t delay me tomorrow?
Daisy shifted some more, and I struggled to maintain my balance. I was already anxious and nervous about riding a horse, having not done so since I was 12. And that was just once. And that was with a saddle.
She shifted beneath my turbulent weight some more, and each nudge became increasingly clearer. “Relax. RELAX; just shut up, shut up your mind, and you’ll be fine,” she told me, without using human words. I emptied my thoughts and looked forward, not looking at anything in particular, and focused on just breathing.
I could hear the air on the wind, and felt the sun on my face. I don’t know how much time had elapsed, or when my eyes had closed, or when gravity released its hold on me. There was me, Daisy, the earth at our feet, and the sky over our heads. Nothing else. We simply were. I was in balance with an animal that somehow reached into my mind and calmed the storm.
I didn’t mind about going to work Monday morning. I didn’t mind any looming deadlines in the coming days. I didn’t mind any sense of time. I had gone from stressing about not having enough time, to there being no time.
“Just be,” she told me. “And when you have to do something, simply do.”
-Andrew, Motion Design and Animation, Seattle, WA