30 states, 2 oceans, 14,000 miles, 8 months
Welcome to our year of living compactly. My dog, Mister, and I took to the road pulling our A-frame trailer, the Rollin’ Rancho. I’m a traveling horse trainer/clinician, who became a non-essential worker during the COVID-19 lockdown. Then in 2022, we bounced back. We were nomads looking for horse training adventure and liver treats. Work paid for the trip; it was part clinic tour, part travelogue, part squirrel hunt. But mostly an unapologetic celebration of sunsets, horses, RV parks, roadkill, diverse landscapes, and undomesticated women.
It’s a book made of made of adjectives and nouns, blue skies and tornado watches, resorts and reservations, open roads to the horizon and one-lane dead-ends. We emerge from the truck in a cloud of dog hair and sunflower shells, like disoriented and scruffy rock stars in a GPS haze, not entirely lost or found.
This book isn’t about training, although there are horses in it. It’s a follow-up of Stable Relation, my first book, but my life changed in ways I would never have guessed, so don’t expect the usual sequel. Undomesticated Women is a travel memoir, a peek behind the curtains of what my job is like. I wanted to see this beautiful country, do some time travel, and talk about thoughts and memories that are not related to horses.
Mister would tell you it’s his memoir about being tasked with the unreasonable job of guarding me against a wild range of dangers. Like eating dinner late. He’s a dog unimpressed with my tiny fame.
During the lockdown, I started an online school. Taming technology took more courage than working with horses, but who knew horses would do so well working from home? Now that hibernation was over, I wanted to go scratch those horses and celebrate their success in a victory lap. I wrote about some brave and fine women who represent aspects of the horse world I wanted to touch on. I wrote about challenging parts of the horse industry, things I usually keep to myself. Most of all, I pondered the question of domestication in horses and women. Of course, I wrote about my dog. Mister’s view of the world is at least as interesting as mine.
Why women, you ask? Shouldn’t I use a gender-neutral term? That’s something I’ve wrestled with over the years. Statistically, women own 92% of the horses in the country. Here’s another fun fact. My social media followers are 97% women. Initially, I thought there was a smart area to extend my business and I went to work to engage more men with my blog and in my clinics. I failed profoundly. A few came and stayed, but most ignored me. Eventually, I gave in; I couldn’t stand around holding the door for men indefinitely.
Then I switched to she/her pronouns in my writing. I did it way before it was a thing; it just made writing easier. I focused on the women I worked with who were doing exceptional things and living extraordinary lives. Many like me had stopped listening to the false science about herd dynamics and outdated fear-based training methods. We saw intimidating horses into submission as a failure. In other words, I worked with the people who are changing the world, and it’s inspiring. I introduce you to twelve of my heroes in this book. I am wildly lucky to know them.
May I share something? Ironically, whatever notoriety I have comes from sitting alone in my room writing. Introvert alert! I never expected that it would turn into a reality show that I’d take on the road. Or that I’d be invited to travel the world. Meanwhile, I work longer hours than ever, judging arena footing by how much my feet ache, while delivering messages people might not want to hear but are dying to know. Whew! People pay me to tell them what’s wrong, so I’d better find an affirmative way to be critical. I play the part of a clinician who’s more charming than me. I pretend to love being in public. Then I crawl back to Mister and recuperate in the Rancho. In the morning, we tuck ourselves between semi-trucks, letting them pull us along across mountains and plains, RV park to truck stop, from sea to shining sea. It’s a crazy world out there and I love this tightrope life.
And now can I share something else? I probably share way too much in this book. I worked with three professional editors, and each of them told me it was a very personal book. The word personal hung in the air until it smelled a bit fishy. I wonder if I went too far. Subtlety frequently evades me and I’ve always had lousy boundaries.
It was time to update my bio for this book. Have you done that lately? At what point do we get a break from proving ourselves? When are we done being shy? My new bio is a blunt thirty-seven words long, including these: “I’m sixty-nine years old. I’ve done everything and done it damn well. No longer auditioning.”
Everyone has a story to tell, and every story has as many perspectives as there are people involved. This is my story. Mister would tell you it’s his.
Undomesticated Women will be available in early November at all online booksellers, with signed copies on my website. I’ll keep you posted.
Anna Blake, Relaxed & Forward
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Anna teaches ongoing courses like Calming Signals and Affirmative Training at The Barn School, along with virtual clinics and our infamous Happy Hour. Everyone’s welcome.
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