What Do Horses and Parenting Have in Common?

Modern parenting isn’t for the faint of heart. Parents are flooded with choices, with advice and with judgment. This can lead to overwhelm and exhaustion. While trying to raise independent children, it’s easy for moms and dads to lose their own senses of self. It’s easy to lose a sense of connection – to your own body, to your own relationships and even to your children.

This program will provide participants an opportunity to explore their parenting practices through mind-body-spirit and natural world connection with horses as guides. Being with and working with horses requires many of the same skills as parenting, it just looks a little different!

Facilitators Ashley Smith and Allyson Hocker are convicted about the need to create and hold space for parents in this unique and transformative work.


Thoughts from Ashley:

Modern parenting. I hear about the struggle to keep up with a deluge of time and attention demands, multiplied by the persistent reach of technology. I hear about the frazzled feeling of not having enough time for one’s self, to try to maintain even a semblance of balanced well-being. I hear about the challenge of setting boundaries; not only with children themselves, but with people in general, whose not-necessarily-solicited advice and whose judgments only compound the frustration of parents wondering if they are “doing things right.”

I don’t have children. But I have horses. And what I’ve learned is that building healthy relationships with them meant I needed to learn how to:

– Slow down and be present.

– See things from their perspective.

– Set boundaries.

– Truly connect in order to communicate or make a request.

This last point, the ability to connect, and then disconnect and reconnect, is one of the most underestimated skills we can develop. Our connection with self, with others and with the world around us defines our experience to a large degree. The irony of modern technology offering us the ability to “be connected” or “stay connected” vs. causing overwhelm and stress because we can’t keep up with all the demands it seems to bring is exactly why disconnection and reconnection are so important. We CAN operate from a place of choice. We CAN be good role models by pausing to respond and not react. We CAN tend to ourselves and the ones we love.

Thoughts from Allyson: 

My oldest child (I have three boys) will turn 11 this fall. In the last 11 years of parenting, I have had some extraordinary moments. I have also had some dead-hard ones. Some of those moments have been predictably hard: medical diagnoses, school angst, heartbreak over seeing my children struggle and more. Somehow, though the unpredictably hard ones have often been the most surprising: the fear that I’m not getting it right, the shame at the end of the day over yelling (again), the guilt over saying no too often, the exhaustion over saying yes to too many things.

At their core, these hard moments have something in common. They come from a place of feeling like not-enough, of feeling like I don’t have the answers. THIS is the place that needs tending. This place and these feelings are valid but not defining.

In our culture we live – and parent – at a frenetic pace. We assume that constant stress is a necessary part of the equation. And then, by default, we teach that pace and that stress to our children.

I am constantly learning to reconnect, to simplify, to know when to step back and to know when to step forward. I am constantly learning to trust myself.


Next dates TBD

On an idyllic farm in Sparks, MD

Address and directions provided at registration.




The day will move between inside and outside spaces, working with the weather, and inner and outer personal work will include:

  • Equine Guided work at liberty with horses to learn about the impact of our emotions and energetic communication.
  • Customized ground work exercises to identify individual styles and approaches as well as to begin shifting to new practices.
  • Discussion about the whole-person aspects of parenting and tools that can help address those.
  • Coffee, tea and snacks upon arrival and a light lunch.


This is not a riding, horsemanship or horse training clinic. This is about working side by side with horses to tap into intuition, clarity of choice and purpose and the effectiveness of our communication and commitment.

About the facilitators:

Ashley Smith left a corporate job in HR to pursue a career in which she could work with horses to improve people’s lives, and in which she could help increase appreciation for horses and the natural world. As an Equine Guided Coach, she trains self-awareness, communication, professional and personal development through horse-human interaction. She holds an advanced certification in Equine Guided Education, a somatic based method of coaching with horses, which emphasizes sensate, experiential learning that encompasses body, mind and spirit. Ashley has worked in California, Washington, Maryland, Italy and Jordan, and has facilitated experiences for individuals, groups and teams which foster understanding of self and other as well as connect people with their sense of purpose in life, the land, the sky and everything in between.

Allyson Hocker spent years working in skilled nursing facilities and hospitals as a licensed Nursing Home Administrator caring for some of our nation’s most chronically ill patients. Motherhood and health issues of her own caused her to begin to research and embrace a more holistic approach to being and staying healthy. She continues to learn and share about root health issues and holistic approaches to health and is committed to changing the conversation about how to feel well and live well. She parents her three boys using a combination of methods and philosophies, including Montessori, Waldorf and Hand in Hand Parenting. Her boys live and play outside as much as possible which leads to a lot of laundry but almost no screen time. Her parenting mantra is: “There is no way to be a perfect mother, but there are a million ways to be a great mother.”