BLUE HARBOR FARM
is located 20 minutes north of Ocala, Florida, in the heart of Marion County ("Horse Capitol of the World"). Created as a safe haven for abused and abandoned horses, it is also a learning and healing center for people. A place where folks of all backgrounds (horse experience or not) can come together and explore what it means to be alive in a world of paradox - filled with uncertainty, disappointment, fear, betrayal, and also love, peace, joy and nearly unimaginable moments of deep intimacy, connection and even bliss. We come here to lay down our burdens and find safety, renewal and meaning. It is truly a "harbor" where our "ship" that carries us through this life can take refuge from the storms at sea - a time to rest, refuel, and repair our broken parts, before heading back out to the next adventure that the horizon brings.
A bit about me... I am a Level 2 Master Horse Trainer in the Irwin Insights system, a certified equine massage therapist, yoga teacher, theater and film director, and former professional dancer (salsa is my great obsession!). Horses, creativity and spiritual growth are my passion, and I love to share my love. I've led workshops, retreats and trainings at yoga & wellness centers around the country, such as Kripalu in Massachusetts, Esalen in California, and Samyasin in Puerto Rico. Living most of my adult life in Brooklyn, NY, in the midst of dual careers in film/theater and yoga/healing, my husband Paul Calderon and I raised two beautiful and inspiring sons. As our sons grew toward young adulthood, I felt the call to dig up a long buried dream - to make my love of horses a central part of my life. I began volunteering, and then joined the staff of a large therapeutic riding organization, GallopNYC (to learn about and support their mission visit gallopnyc.org). There I was introduced to Chris Irwin, trained and studied with him nonstop for years, and got the incredible opportunity of hands-on work, training over fifty horses both in the Gallop herd and with private clients. One of the most rewarding experiences was helping to develop and lead courses in horsemanship for veterans and at-risk youth. In 2019 Paul and I bought a peaceful little farm in sunny, beautiful north central Florida, and the rest as they say is history. The journey continues..
***To read a more personal, detailed account of my journey with horses scroll down.
FROM THE CANADIAN ROCKIES (for my Master Level certification 2017)
So here's a story of a girl and her dream. From as far back as I can remember I was obsessed with horses, loved them with a fierce passion from afar. Our family did not have the resources to support my crazy dream of having my own horse - or even riding someone else's. The few times I got to ride - at a birthday party or the rare trail ride at day camp - I felt an almost frantic need to stay on the horse just a bit longer, and would often have to choke back tears when the time came to jump down. I remember one time after such a ride, crammed into a station wagon with a group of friends being driven home by a parent, I sat in the back seat with my hands pressed to my nose, desperate to keep the smell of the horse alive as long as possible.
I can still remember a vivid recurring dream I had when I was probably 9 or 10 - I had my own secret horse in our back yard, living behind our garage, a beautiful big chestnut with a proud but gentle face whom I would ride bareback at night all through our town. When I’d wake up I was filled with such intense sadness and longing, knowing that it was only an impossible dream, but the feeling of his silky, powerful body lingered on my skin and in my bones. My secret horse was a source of such comfort and strength through some very confusing, painful times as a young girl. I collected little porcelain and plastic statues of horses and arranged them on my bureau and at night I would talk to them as I fell asleep. I guess they were my guardian angels.
In my early thirties I gave myself the gift of weekly riding lessons for a while, and it was both thrilling and frustrating. Living in New York City my access to horses was so limited, and finally it became clear that it wasn't sustainable to try to resurrect this dream.
Fast forward a few decades... we bought a ten acre property in the Catskill Mountains, just raw land with a vision to build a small retreat center, and lo and behold there was a lovely family horse farm a half mile down the road. Well into my '50s this girl went for a trail ride up into the mountains and I felt as though I had finally come home. I rode as often as I could, took a few lessons, and the dream started pushing its way up from its carefully buried space in my heart. At the encouragement of the farm’s owner I leased a horse that summer, and summoned the courage to ride alone every day up into the mountains, enjoying breathtaking views and a feeling of exhilaration and wonder.
Then through a series of strange synchronistic events I was introduced to the world of therapeutic riding and started volunteering with a wonderful TR center, GallopNYC. It was a time of some turbulence in my life, and I poured myself into the work with the horses, spending hours every day at the barn, learning every possible aspect of horse care. In the afternoons when the barn was quiet, I would spend long sessions with my hands loving and soothing the horses, lost in the miracle of this long-buried dream coming true. I would often weep softly as I felt a horse release age-old tension, sighing as he relaxed gratefully into my hands. My heart was being soothed as well, and I was often flooded with memories from my childhood and my very troubled teen and young adult years, old wounds gently resurfacing for deeper healing.
It was there I met Chris Irwin, a master horse trainer from Canada who was brought in several times a year to work with the staff and volunteers. I knew I had found my teacher. My heart broke open the first time I heard him talk about the importance of compassion and respect when working with a horse, of learning to listen deeply to what their bodies were trying to communicate to us rather than imposing our will on them. He had us place our hands on a horse and allow the energy to circulate between our bodies. It was stunning. I couldn’t get enough of his teaching, and I began to follow him around to clinics up and down the East Coast, and finally up to the majestic western Rockies of British Columbia and beautiful Willow Ranch for an intensive certification training. Somewhere along the way - almost unconsciously - I had decided to really go for this dream. I’d started to develop real skill as a horse trainer - people noticed and commented on how much of a “natural” I was with the horses, I even heard half-joking/half-serious comments of "there goes the horse whisper" lol! - eventually I became a therapeutic riding instructor-in-training, and then a certified equine massage therapist.
But those old familiar self-sabotaging voices were never far away. "You're too old. Who do you think you are to pursue such a wonderful dream? You don't deserve this. You missed your chance. You're being foolish, people are laughing at you." etc. etc. Many days I would come home exhausted, barely able to move, collapse on the couch and cry on Paul's patient shoulder, giving voice to my doubts and regrets. He never wavered. "You can do it. Follow your heart. Don't give up."
And now I have just completed the next step in the fruition of this dream - attaining my rank as a Master Level One Certified Horse Trainer in the Irwin Insights system. It was a grueling, demanding two week course (also delightful, exhilarating, wild and joyous!). There were many times during the two weeks when I thought I couldn't finish, wanted to give up. I was by far the oldest person in the group. The worst moment came after my riding test. I felt I had ridden poorly, I was so tense and nervous and seemed to forget all technique. Afterward I hid in the barn, sobbing, where two of the kindest people found me (thank you Inga & Lissy!), put their arms around me and listened to me pour out my feelings, then told me to go wash my face and get back out there to finish my testing! I did so, and to my amazement at the end of the day I was announced as one of the people who had attained Master Level certification! I cried through that whole evening and night and didn't stop for two more days.
This is so much more than a certification for me - it is my heart reuniting with some dear old friends, who have been with me on this long, long, crazy journey of my life, tucked away in my heart until I was ready to risk disappointment and failure in order to claim my right to love them. And I am reminded of a saying I heard many years ago when I first began my own healing work. "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." Indeed.