Interview with a Horsewoman

Welcome to interview #2 on Cowgirl Yoga! This round is with Janice Cartwright of Montana Horse Sense, who is our head wrangler for the Cowgirl Yoga retreats (first summer ’09 trip coming up fast, ask about out last-minute specials! And flights to MT are the cheapest we’ve ever seen them). Janice is an amazing horsewoman and teacher, and knows how to have fun. So I am thrilled for you to get to know her better here, even if you can’t come out and join us.

What got you hooked on horses for life?

When I was 5 years old, I attended 8 weeks of summer camp. I was instantly drawn to the horses, and the attraction has continued to grow over the years. My parents purchased a summer camp a few years later and, thanks to me, we ended up with 25 horses by the time we sold it [interviewer’s note: wow I wish I had had that kind of influence on my parents…]. Pursuing a degree in Health, Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Pittsburgh complimented my love of horses, helping others, and the great outdoors. I did attend Indiana U. for my freshman year and took horseback riding as a P.E. class. After one lesson, they asked me to teach the class. That was cool! I’ve been teaching horseback riding, in one sense or another, for over 40 years. After leaving the tri-state area, I continued to have the opportunity to teach in Atlanta. It started with my 3 daughters’ babysitters and then progressed over the years to my girls helping me with the lessons, birthday parties, camps, Girl Scout Badge work and trail rides. Upon arriving in Montana in 2004, with 3 horses in tow, I joined the Back Country Horsemen and began all over again. What a wonderful thing it is to be able to do something I am so passionate about for my profession. Everyone should be so blessed. 
p.s. – I just remembered Bill the Pony. He resided at my grandparents’ farm and it was hard to keep me away from him. I was 3 at the time…and so it began.
Cowgirl Yoga targets the horse-human connection as well as the horse-yoga connection. What’s your take on the attraction between women and horses?
Women and horses – I get it. I feel it. What is it? There is definitely a connection, an undercurrent of emotion, an understanding and women seem to feel it most (however, my man is starting to get it too…guys are not exempt). Horses excite me. Horses calm me down. Horses smell and feel good. After meeting Margaret and trying to communicate with her about her riding presence, I started thinking in yoga terms to convey what I wanted her to do. In doing so, I realized that I had been doing a lot of this already over the years, just stating it in different terms. All of the releases and stretches and thoughts that come with the practice of yoga translate to better communication with the horse, involving the mind, body, and yes, the spirit.
While in Atlanta, I had a group of women that regularly rode with me. When the weather was really yucky (they weren’t lightweights – rain, sleet, snow, cold…we rode through most of it) and I tried to cancel, they wouldn’t hear of it. These women were happy to show up and just brush the horses, feel them, smell them or feed them some carrots. One mom summed it up with, “Janice, do you realize how many thousands of dollars you’re saving us with your ‘horse therapy’ (instead of couch therapy)”? Yep, they got it. 
After spending most of your life out East, what drew you to Montana?
My husband needed a vacation and he wanted it to be away from people. He chose Montana and off we went (Atlanta had over 9 million people in the metro area, and Montana has less than a million in the entire state). We both fell in love with this place for similar reasons and some very different ones. I always felt like I was born to be in boots and jeans, and Montana felt right. We came back frequently over the next few years in all seasons, visiting all over the state, to be sure. Once our youngest daughter graduated from high school, we made the move (boots and jeans: picture me coming straight from the horses and teaching riding all day to the suburbs of Atlanta for a PTA meeting. I definitely was not wearing a tennis bracelet).
What are your top 3 reasons why you love horses?
They are beautiful to see. They feel good to touch, both with my hands and my heart. They smell so darn good.
How do you think the horses benefit from a rider that practices yoga?
Anything that helps a rider release tension transfers through to a more relaxed horse. Horses are natural athletes. When they accept us atop their backs, we owe it to them to do everything we can to help them maintain their natural balance and ease of movement. Any interference on our part causes them to work harder by bracing or counterbalancing to compensate. Yoga helps us to release the tension and stress in our bodies, our lives. The blending of the two is beneficial to both horse and rider. SAFE and HAPPY trails to all, no matter what path you choose to take.
Yeehaw & Namaste.