Grieving the loss of my relationship

I currently have my laptop on my right and The Right to Write by Julia Cameron, on my left. I also have my phone playing Tim Wheater’s flute music which the book suggests. I know two things for sure in this moment: number one, I feel called to write and number two, I’m stuck on what to write about. There are a few significant topics in my life right now and I’m scared to write about them. The biggest topic that keeps coming up and brings tears to my eyes in this moment, is my recent breakup.

It jolts me when I think too long and hard about it. The loss of a wonderful man in my life. The loss of our dreams together. The pain and ache in my heart that hits when I think about the memories we shared. The gut-wrenching feeling before I open my eyes in the morning, knowing he’s not there.

The grief is raw and the tears come in waves.

For the first time in my life, when someone says. “How are you doing?”, I don’t answer “Fine” or “Good.”  Instead, tears start to leak before words come out. My body won’t let me hide the truth.

I can’t deny how I feel and my vulnerability defenses are down.

My mantra fluctuates multiple times a day between “You’re going be ok” to “God, please help me.” I have wailed into Blue’s mane. I have screamed in my car. I have beaten and sobbed into pillows.

It feels messy and cleansing at the same time…allowing my heart to ache and express itself. I’m not shoving down the feelings I don’t want to face like I have in the past.

What I am learning is to let grief move through me. To not resist it or put an expiration date on sadness.

I’m not in the place of “getting over it”, nor is it time to move on. It is time to honor and mourn the heart-opening love I experienced. Grief is teaching me to listen to my heart and what it needs. I know “Strong Devon” and in recent years I’ve gotten to know “Soft Devon” but “Openly Sad and Hurting Devon” is a new one for me. Allowing my sadness to be heard, seen, and acknowledged is what my heart needs to heal.

By writing about it, I no longer feel stuck. I feel open and connected.

light through

“Grief is a matter of the heart and soul. Grieve your loss, allow it in, and spend time with it. Suffering is the optional part. Love never dies and spirit knows no loss. Keep in mind that a broken heart is an open heart.” – Lousie Hay

Allowing it in,


Sisterhood Spotlight with Unbridled Alum, Sarah

This month’s Sisterhood Spotlight is Sarah from New Hampshire. Sarah, who has been to four Unbridled Retreats, is 70 years old but says she doesn’t feel that way.  A retired nurse turned baker (her dream job), Sarah is living proof that when you are Unbridled, life just keeps getting better.

When did you go on your first retreat? And what made you decide to go?

I had gone on a women’s cowgirl trip at the White Stallion Ranch in Tucson, as well as a retreat in Montana a couple of years before. So, in 2020 I was looking to do something again, preferably in the desert because I love it so much. I got on the White Stallion Ranch Facebook page and found Devon’s Unbridled Retreats. I was enchanted by the description, so I signed up!
In truth, I was pretty nervous about my first time, but I think everybody at my first retreat was a first timer. Maybe one or two people were there for a second time. So, we were all a little nervous but totally accepting of each other. It felt very safe. Devon lays the foundation that respect and confidentiality are important within the group. It’s a common bond we all feel once we meet. It just becomes a sisterhood almost immediately. It’s amazing.

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Are you still friends with any of the women you met at the retreats?

I met my soul sister at an Unbridled Retreat in 2021. We just sat down to breakfast together one morning, and the connection was immediate. We were immediate friends. It was just amazing to meet somebody that’s on your same vibe. I do stay in contact with women from other retreats. There’s this bond because we’ve all been through some turmoil that’s common to all of us, even though it may seem different. Some past or present trauma is shared and understood by everyone, because we’ve all been through or are going through something.

When you did your first retreat, it was partly because of your love of the desert and being drawn to the horses. Was there any element of self-care at that time?

No, not at that point. I had retired from nursing in 2018 and was going through quite a bit of family turmoil. I didn’t even consider it as self-care because I didn’t know what that was. I thought all those years dealing with my family that I was really taking adequate care of myself. But once I went to my first retreat I realized, oh, this is what self-care is.

That’s an amazing realization. How did you come to that?

We were in our morning coaching session, and Devon asked who wanted to get on Clyde bareback, and I volunteered. I didn’t realize that I’d have to sit in front of the group and talk. It was hard for me because I’m not good at sharing in groups. But somehow, I found myself sobbing and crying and getting everything out. And then she said, “Let’s get up on Clyde.” She led me through the exercise, and then she said, “After all you have been through, you’re still standing.” And I said, “Yes.” And then Clyde took a step forward, and she said, “That’s amazing that he’s stepping forward with you and telling you it’s okay to keep going.” At that moment, I felt like I exploded inside. I knew it was all going to be okay, and it was okay to take care of myself.

That’s why I keep going back to Devon’s retreats. Every time I go, I release more and more. This last retreat I even got a massage. It’s just little steps that I take. At White Stallion Ranch, they have a heated swimming pool, so I would go first thing in the morning. When I told Devon about my swimming she said to the group, “This is how Sarah does self-care.” I had never thought of it that way. I just thought I was going for a swim. I understood then that it’s okay to take care of myself and to admit that I can. Admit to myself that I deserve it. And it can look different for different people. Returning again and again to retreats is a way I practice self-care.

How else do you incorporate self-care into your life now that you’ve realized the value of it?

I’ve always kept a journal off and on, especially between 2016 and 2020. During that time, because of what was happening in my family, I put a lot of anger, frustration, and sadness into my journals. And then I just kind of petered off for a while until I realized what a huge release it was for me. So, I started again. I usually sit down, and I just write what’s going on in my head, and at the very end of every day I write what I’m grateful for, and that has helped me stay focused on taking care of me. The more I’m thankful for, the better the person I am.
As a retired nurse, I took care of lots of people over the years, and I felt that I was serving a purpose. When I retired, I felt like I had no purpose other than to worry down the rabbit hole into this deep, dark vortex trying to take care of my family. The retreat just totally blew that out of the atmosphere for me. I realized it wasn’t necessary to go down that rabbit hole anymore. In fact, it’s hardly even a little ditch now. It’s not very deep at all anymore.

Every time I come home from a retreat, I wonder how long the amazing feeling will last. Because it is quite euphoric when you’re there. You have all that support, and you’re with the horses, and you’re outside in the desert. Now, instead of letting the good feeling end when I come home, I remind myself it doesn’t have to go away. Good feelings about myself last longer and longer. I go deeper and deeper into my kindness and my self-love.

That’s beautiful. And it’s especially significant because you were a lifelong caregiver as a profession, and then it sounds like you had to do some caregiving in your family as well. You have this identity as a caregiver. That’s a big shift for you.

Yes. And now the family turmoil has resolved quite a bit, so suddenly, I’m an empty nester which feels like another hurdle. Because if I don’t have to worry about my family anymore, what am I? What do I do?

I just got a dream job at a bakery, and when I interviewed, she asked me what my goals were. I said, “Well, I’ve served all my life. I know it’s kind of corny, but I feel like that’s what my purpose is: to serve people, whether it’s with a blood pressure cuff and medicine or a croissant.” The minute I said it out loud I knew that’s what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to keep serving people, but to reinvent myself to serve in a different way now.

What is it that you feel when you are around the horses? What do they bring to your life?

It’s almost an indescribable lightness. I feel like I’m all right when I’m with the horse, whether I’m on the back of the horse or talking to one. They see you. They’re very intuitive, and there’s not a lot of that in human communication. It’s just so pure with the horse. I think that’s what it gives, that pure recognition of my feelings and without me having to say anything. It’s just a lightness inside of me.

What would you tell a woman who might be considering going to a retreat?

A lot of people are afraid of change. They are not comfortable where they’re at in life, but they don’t want to delve into anything that might change their outlook. Life is changing. You change. That’s what life is. You just change as life goes on. The horses can help. They open that gate for you. They let you know it’s okay to feel what you feel. And it’s okay to move on from that. Before we start the coaching sessions, you go brush the horses and talk to them and just move around them, and that’s when I feel the gate just open. They’re listening. Something just opens in me from that horse, no matter which horse I am working with. Horses are totally intuitive about how you’re feeling, and they’ll react to what your emotions are at that moment. You can change their reaction by changing what’s coming from your heart.

You have so much experience in your life, so much depth and wisdom. You are very resilient. What have you learned through it all?

Let go or be dragged. That’s pretty much my mantra. You can’t hold onto things that are already done. You have to move on. You have to be present and look forward.

So, is that what being Unbridled means to you?

Yes. Being Unbridled is like being untethered from the feelings I used to have of being so inadequate because I was always looking in the past. Becoming Unbridled encouraged me to look forward, step forward, and open the gate and run free. Just be whoever I want to be.


Self Care 101—Make Your Bed and Lift Your Mood

The Best Way to Start Your Day

The #1 habit I began to change my disorganized mess into tidy success was making my bed every day. Now, it’s a non-negotiable for me that starts every morning off right. It’s amazing how a daily 60-second act has changed my self-perception. Achieving this simple task each day gives me an instant feeling of accomplishment and organization which impacts my mental health and state of well-being.

Making my bed is an act of self-care that has positively affected my other habits. Succeeding in this daily task has improved my attitude along with my general outlook on life.

Better Productivity 

Charles Duhigg writes in his book, The Power of Habit, “Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget.” Making your bed is what he calls a “keystone habit,” something that kick starts a pattern of other good behavior. And since it happens at the very beginning of the day, you’re apt to make better decisions for the remainder of the day thanks to your bed-making routine.

My newfound daily bed-making routine has turned into other productive habits in my home. I now put my laundry away instead of letting it sit in the dryer or hamper, and I rarely leave dishes in the sink overnight. I also started mucking the horse pen in the morning so it’s checked off my to-do list early in the day, freeing up more time in the afternoon.

I found completing this daily task turned into completing more and more tasks. By making my bed, I began to perceive myself as a more productive and present person. My habits started to become more organized. Making your bed can stimulate a chain of positive action steps in other areas of your life. 

Increases Happiness and Lifts your Mood

“When I was researching my book on happiness, making your bed was the number one most impactful change that people brought up over and over,” says author Gretchen Rubin. Turns out, people are happier when everyday tasks in their lives are completed!

Making your bed is also a simple act of self-care. How you live in your home matters to your well-being. Creating for yourself a feeling of being cared for helps lift your mood and lighten your emotional burdens.

I also became aware of a growing sense of worthiness. I asked myself don’t I deserve to have a clean space that I feel happy being in? Yes. Before I took on this new habit, I would have brushed off that question, feeling silly for asking it. Self-care is an act of valuing ourselves and putting ourselves first so we can thrive and have the strength and sense of self-worth that allows us to be there for others.

In times of uncertainty and stress, it’s the small, actionable steps which matter more than ever. Making your bed can have a significant impact on your sense of accomplishment and can be the start of an empowering self-care routine. 

It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect!

I don’t fold my bed into neat little military corners. However, I do pull on the comforter and make it smooth and clean. I plump up the pillows so they look pretty and I fold the cozy grey blanket (my cat Charley’s favorite place to lay) so it sits at the bottom of the bed. Now, when I walk into my bedroom I feel energized and organized. My neatly-made bed acts as the foundation for my confidence and empowers me to feel I can take on any task that comes my way that day. 

Do you make your bed every day? I’d love to hear from you! Share your bed-making habits in the comments below.


Interview With Unbridled Alum Jen O’Hare

Interview with Unbridled Alum Jen O’Hare

What was your vision going into your first retreat? Afterwards, how did that change? And how do you stay anchored to it?

My first retreat was at White Stallion Ranch in Arizona in November 2021. It was right after I’d turned 50, and I wanted to do something special for myself to mark the occasion because it was a milestone. That first retreat was an opportunity for me to really reflect and learn and enjoy a new place and experience for myself. And giving myself the space to create meaningful connections with other people, and a more meaningful connection with myself. At that time, my vision truly was a celebration. I found myself in a new chapter, in a very different place than I had been in 5 years ago. And I was asking myself, “What is this new life?” That was the spirit behind my first retreat: be open enough to take it all in, because I had no idea. I just wanted to embrace all that was coming my way in this new chapter.

How has your vision shifted since your first retreat?

Going back to a second retreat in Colorado at Sylvan Dale Ranch in May 2022 was also very intentional. I once again fully committed to embracing the experience. And then coming back home and continuing to learn to ride, just be around the barn and the horses. It was a great way for me to create a greater sense of well-being for myself that I didn’t have previously. Horses became part of my self-care.

Did fear and discomfort come up along the way as you started to explore these new possibilities for your life?

Yes, and they still come up. Experiencing my partner’s death four years ago and feeling like this is not at all what I thought my life was going to be like. I had spent so much time in that caregiving space that I had to really reflect about where I wanted to spend my time going forward. How do I go about identifying my wants and my needs? And then how do I take some steps to execute and engage? I think the fear was a little bit around there being so many options that it all felt so new.

What does that look like when the fear comes up? How do you nudge yourself along?

One of my strengths has always been taking action. When I find myself in this place, good or bad, I feel like the clarity tends to unveil itself through my engaging in something I like to do. And I think that’s one of the reasons why I like going to the barn where I take lessons two days a week. Yesterday I went, and I was feeling anxious about work, and I could feel it inside my chest. But I knew the horses would help me process just being in their presence.

Before I walk into the barn I stop, and I do what Devon tells us to do. I feel my boots, and I dig my heels into the dirt, and I ground in. I just stand there, almost like a yoga pose. I close my eyes, breathe in a deep breath, and then I walk into the barn. I keep breathing, grooming, and touching the horses, and as always, by the time I leave, I have forgotten what I was worried about.
The fear never goes away completely, but I try my best to engage in things that allow me to put it to the side. And then relax my mind and my nervous system enough that I’m better at gaining a broader perspective.

It’s like I’m driving the bus. And all these things may be in the backseat. The grief is still there, frustrations about XYZ, the fear still there, the anxiety might still be there. But I’m doing my best to not have them move up into the driver’s seat. I am trying to stay the primary driver. So I’m doing all these things with intention so that I keep them in the backseat and attend to them, but not have them control me.

Action gets us out of our heads and into the next moment.

I’ve just learned that there are a few things that really help me. One is being around the horses. The second is I’ve taken a big step this year, and I’ve cut my schedule back to four days. It has been such a gift to my well-being. And the third thing is that I live in a space where I love to be outdoors, and so every day, I will try my very best to go for a long walk in the forest. And if I don’t do that, then I will try to start or end my day with a little bit of yoga to at least ground and reconnect with my body. Even when I’m feeling a little bit of that fear, the combination of those things will really help me.

What does being an Unbridled Woman mean to you?

When I think of Unbridled Women, I think of freedom. I think of openness of spirit. Being an Unbridled Woman is two things to me: being unapologetic, which, by the way, I’m not yet. And being comfortable or practiced at expressing her wants and needs in a way that allows her to increase the success that she is going to get what she actually wants and needs. This is the journey I am on right now.

What would you tell a woman who was trying to decide whether she wanted to do a retreat?

There’s got to be a certain level of motivation and commitment to self to sign up for a retreat. I think this idea of being open and willing is just so paramount. If they are open to being in a situation, a safe situation with other women who are likely experiencing very similar thoughts and feelings, despite the fact that their experiences, life, and situations are completely different…if they’re open to connecting with them at a level that they feel comfortable with, and knowing that they can learn from people and take it in, and perhaps even share a little bit about themselves that would provide some learning and insight for someone else…that in itself is a gift. I do feel like if someone’s wondering about a retreat, I think I’d ask them, “How open and willing are you to look at your life differently?”

You’re totally right, you must be ready for a shift. It doesn’t have to be a monumental shift, but you must be ready for some level of change.

At my first retreat I was like, okay, I’m going to take the chance. I’m going to take a risk, and I’m going to go into the ring, and I don’t know what to expect. But let’s just see what happens. And yet I felt safe, and I felt like in some ways, I was learning more from the lessons and the experiences of the other women in the group. Wow, this person is experiencing some hard things at home that they’re tackling. And while I’m not in her shoes, I can 100% empathize and relate to little bits and pieces of what she’s saying and how she’s responding. I can see parts of myself in her. And I see how the horse is responding, and the care and nurturing that Devon and the rest of the women are giving. That tells me that even if I’m not in a space where I might be ready to work on that piece in my own life, I’m still receiving the lessons. And that actually opens up. It broadens the story that I’m telling myself about it.

What’s the biggest gift the horses give you?

Groundedness. I can walk into the barn in a complete swirl of emotions, and feeling reactive, and the moment I get in there, give me five minutes of brushing, and then just connecting with them, and there’s not a worry in the world.


8 Reasons to Go on a Women’s Retreat

Women are choosing to attend women’s retreats more and more as a way to find inspiration, purpose and community, while engaging in fun activities and exploring new, beautiful locations.

According to Pamela Madsen, author of Shameless, “Women are on a mission to find something bigger in their own lives. And though retreats can be an investment, for many women, taking a retreat is not considered a luxury item. Instead, retreat taking has become a part of their ritual self-care; carefully scheduled into their yearly calendar.”

Here are our 8 of our top reasons to attend the Unbridled Retreat for Women:

1. Self-Care

Many women are so busy taking care of others (parents, children, partner, business, the dog and cat) that they don’t take the time to take care of themselves. Retreats are restorative — you are able to recharge and reset your internal compass to take better care of YOU, so you can be there for others without feeling drained. As Pamela Madsen suggests, planning a yearly women’s retreat is a great way to ensure you stay connected with you — mind, body and soul.


2. To Find Purpose

There are times in our lives that we feel unaligned or lost in our purpose. As life transitions take place, it is easy to lose sight of what our purpose is or how to meaningfully achieve a new purpose. You may have thought that you were fulfilling it for the past decade, but now you’re feeling an inner nudge that it’s time for a change. Equine Coaching is one of the powerful ways that Unbridled Retreats empowers women to gain clarity about purpose and provide the tools to design a positive future.

I have a hard time putting into words how profound and transformational my experience at Unbridled was. My friends describe it as Pre-Retreat Kristin and Post-Retreat Kristin. Even after almost two months, the positive shifts I experienced with Devon, the horses, and the women remain. Post-Retreat, I feel unstuck, unlocked in a way I never have. I have a new hope, courage, and vision for my life. — Kristin Cooper, Oregon

3. Time with Horses

Horses are gifted teachers and guides. These gentle beings are loving and intuitive animals who reflect back to you the truth about who you are and how you operate in the world. During each day at the retreat, you’ll bond with horses unmounted in both the private arena and in the saddle on the trails, surrounded by the beauty of wide open spaces.

I witnessed amazing transformations and awe-inspiring equine interactions. If you doubt a horse’s intuition and their ability to heal, you will come away with a new appreciation for these gentle giants. — Laura Rubin, Colorado


4. Spiritual Renewal

By deepening and exploring your relationship to yourself, horses, and your chosen spiritual source, you’ll experience much-needed inner peace. Time in nature is a powerful catalyst to reconnect with your true nature, and unplug from the distractions and stresses of daily life. As Albert Einstein once said, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”


5. Healing

Attending a retreat can support you in beginning to heal from a difficult personal experience like a death or divorce. and provide you with the opportunity to process your emotions in a safe, non-judgmental environment. The Unbridled Retreat offers a beautiful and supportive space to work through pain from the past with the healing power of horses.

As I shared my story with the women and horse surrounding me, I was offered comfort with nuzzles on my neck as I sobbed and was able to release some deep pain. The horses are so intuitive and so strong. They stand in their power and have open hearts if you open yours to them. I would recommend this experience to any woman! It truly is a beautiful, loving, safe space to unpack past hurts and begin to grow into your most authentic and brave self. — Sara Wood, Colorado

6. Female Camaraderie

Even if you regularly connect with your girlfriends, women’s retreats offer a unique opportunity to meet other growth-minded women, specifically women who are drawn to horses. For many participating in these retreats, the activities are outside the norm, which encourages faster bonding and deeper conversations. Many retreat attendees keep in touch with their “Unbridled sisters” long after the retreat ends and become lifelong friends!

The most powerful and life-changing retreat for women! It came at the perfect time in my life. To connect with other like-minded women while spending beautiful days outdoors with horses was epic. I am forever grateful to all of the women who attended this retreat. Life-long friends were made, and I’m beyond excited to attend another retreat in the future. — Courtney Blackburn, California

7. To Experience Something New

The retreat gives you the opportunity to try something different, to step outside your comfort zone and experience yourself in a new way. It’s not only a change of scenery — it’s the perfect backdrop for transformation. From yoga by the creek to cattle roundups, Unbridled Retreats are more than just equine coaching — they include workshops to dive into your heart’s desires, and happy hours with your newfound sisterhood.

8. To Connect with What You Love

Spend time in nature, expand your mindset in new and refreshing ways, and reconnect to what brings you joy. Attending a retreat can help you recommit to focusing on your own happiness and remember how to have fun!

I returned home from the Unbridled Retreat with a buoyant heart and a sense of self-respect that I hadn’t felt in years. I’d left my fear in the dust and had a ton of fun in the process! — Deborah Donohue, California


A Women’s Retreat can be the “life reset” you’ve been looking for to give you a positive boost. Sound like what you need? Join us for an upcoming Unbridled Retreat!

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Is your relationship with your body based on CONTROL?

My relationships have changed drastically in the past sixteen years.

First, is my relationship with horses. Second, is my relationship with my body.

Both of these relationships are now based on a two-way street of communication, mutual respect, trust and compassion.

I grew up in the ego-dominated world of showing horses competitively where it was strictly a one-way street of communication. The horse had to do what I demanded in order to “look good” and receive external validation from the show judges so we could beat the competition.

Even though my body was in the saddle, I was mostly “riding and living in my head”. When my horse would act up, giving me feedback that he was confused or frightened, I would grit my teeth and do what I was taught, which was to tighten the reins and get my horse under control immediately.

As the rider, I was programmed to be in control at all times and make my horse do what I wanted.

The thing is, this was the exact relationship I had with my body for many years. I controlled my body by “holding onto the reins” as tightly as I could. I accomplished this through extreme restriction and desperately trying to look perfect to receive the external validation that my ego craved.

Always in a matter of time, my body would revolt and act up out of hunger and exhausted, I’d “drop of the reins” momentarily. This allowed me to buck and kick and run wild, eating everything in sight. Then I would capture my body and beat it back into submission through purging and then depriving it of any basic needs or nourishment.

Whew, I think back on the amount of energy it took me to keep my horse AND my body under control and it was a constant struggle which turned me into a shell of a person.

Through my personal journey of healing from an eating disorder, I discovered the profound impact of listening to my body. This gift was uncovered in my treatment process, through partnering with horses in an experiential way, with no agenda.

By connecting with horses and with the help of Marla Kuhn, my equine therapist, I learned to ground myself, experience emotional clearing and healing and stay present which allowed me to tune into my body. This was not about horsemanship at all, but about listening…to what the horse was communicating and to what my body was communicating.

Today, I no longer “tighten the reins” when I get scared and desperate to control things. I tune into what my body is communicating to me through awareness and quieting my mind. Then I can decipher what it is I need in that moment; many times it has nothing to do with food!

Horses have taught me the profound impact of a two-way street in a relationship. This is the juncture in which healing occurs, in all of our relationships.

In loving partnership,