By Jenna Knudsen
My name is Jenna Knudsen, and I am the founder of “The Smart Equestrian” a personal empowerment community exclusively for equestrian women. Our community includes riders of every discipline and from all over the world. The Smart Equestrian has been helping equestrians “live lives they love” for the past 5 years. This tribe of amazing women is joined together as a “Cyber Barn” on Facebook. Here, we have daily coaching, inspiration, and a safe place to share all of life’s triumphs, challenges, and riding stories. Riders who belong to our community are engaged in personal goal setting, whether it be riding, health, business, financial, personal, or spiritual. “The Smart Equestrian Planner”, which is a daily life planner designed exclusively for equestrians, is the glue that holds us all together!
As a Life Coach, one of my missions is to help women achieve all types of goals, both small and large. The large goals are often the ones found on our “Bucket List” (included in the planner). What is usually at the top of the Bucket List probably will not surprise you. Equestrian travel! With so many obligations at home and on our farms, it can be hard to break away, so “planning” ahead and making travel possible is a high priority coaching topic.
The best way to inspire is to lead by example, so three years ago I began leading a riding retreat to Ireland. What could be better than traveling with like-minded women who are super excited to have the time of their life on an extraordinary week-long adventure!
Here’s the fun story and how it all began…
I put it out into the Universe (aka my vision board/vision pages in my planner) that I wanted to start taking equestrian vacations. That next weekend, as fate would have it, I was sharing a booth at the Equine Affaire in Massachusetts with an incredible woman named Cait. Cait was over from Ireland promoting her farm and riding holidays. Her company is called Connemara Equestrian Escapes. She was the guest of Stacey Adams, also a “Smartie” in our community, who has the amazing career of owning and operating Active Riding Trips – equestrian adventure riding trips all over the world. These two amazing equestrians changed everything!
Stacey opened my eyes to the many amazing places there are worldwide to take riding adventures! I now feel devoted to living (and riding) until I’m 100 because there are just so many dang riding trips to go on!
Cait was so charming and so in love with her native homeland of Ireland that it seemed like the ideal place to start! And so, we planned. And we made it happen. Our first trip to Ireland was surreal. The horses are breathtaking, regal and well-mannered. We traveled along the coast listening to the crashing waves of the Atlantic, rode the countryside passing mythical castles, explored the magic of their enchanted forests, (surely a unicorn is hiding behind a tree) and surrendered to the Irish pubs to experience the wonderful community of people…Ireland delivers.
The landscape of Ireland is mesmerizing. Fields and stone walls are seemingly endless. Farms resemble a Van Gogh painting. My magical memory is galloping up a grassy hill with the wind in my face, looking back I saw my 16-year-old daughter, Katie, galloping on her horse, the biggest smile I’d ever seen on her, and in front of me was a castle with a rainbow over the top. When I think of equestrian travel, this treasured moment fills my heart and is a memory for the rest of my life.
There is no better joy than to take my “Smarties” to Ireland. I see the joy in planning, and the excitement of making it happen once a, “Yes, I am going!” is declared. Travel allows each of us a chance to “let go” of everyday stresses and grants us time to focus on our dreams and the wonders of the world outside our doors. Yes, your riding will improve by leaps and bounds…there is amazing instruction available. You will also just ride for pure joy. Riding filled with sharing of stories & laughter. Riding where you stop and picnic alongside the ocean, enjoy little sandwiches and cheeses topped with a glass of Prosecco as your horse happily munches on grass. It’s a dream come true. It’s worth planning for!
Riding is what we go for, but bunking, eating, and hanging together for a week is where the fun bursts open! We call this “Pony Camp” and it’s the best! We embrace our 12-year-old selves and stay late around the fire, drink wine, and talk ponies until our eyes are too heavy to stay open. It’s captivating to be around people who WANT to hear every tiny detail of your riding lesson, or your horse’s colic episode, or your newest remedy for detangling tails! Pony Camp rocks!
This year is our third trip to Ireland with Connemara Equestrian Escapes, and it got so popular that we expanded to two weeks and each week is filled! This is now an annual “Smart Equestrian” retreat, and I am so excited to go this June for two magical weeks!
I love equestrian travel so much that in 2021 I’ll be adding a Smart Equestrian retreat to Costa Rica and then journeying to South Africa to celebrate my best friend’s 50th birthday on horseback! This is such a MAJOR bucket list adventure coming true that I get giddy just telling you about it!
Riding is what we do. It fills our soul and brings us joy. May I recommend you consider an equestrian trip? Experiencing the wonderful world through the ears of a horse is the adventure of a lifetime and will fill you with magical memories. Plan on it!