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Letter to My Rookie Self: Margaret Burns Vap

Written by Margaret Burns Vap

Equestrian Advice: This is part of our Letter to My Rookie Self series, an open letter equestrian reflection project. Learn more and/or submit your own letter here.

Dear Rookie Self…

You’re that girl (well, one of many girls), who spends a good part of her childhood drawing horses, dreaming about horses, and pining away for a pony of her own.

You make dad take you to the local barn so you can visit your favorite horse, Water Music. (Maybe that’s why you adore Handel so much?) She will be your first horse love, but far from your last.

You feel that both horses and music are unattainably beautiful. You don’t have a horse or have access to one. (Spoiler alert: You’ll watch at your own herd out your kitchen window one day.) Your 6th grade music teacher will even tell you music “isn’t your thing.” (Spoiler alert: She’s wrong.)

In the blink of an eye, you’ll grow up. Your horse dreams will be relegated to the back burner of your brain, and a mostly equine-free (albeit wonderful) life will unfold. You’ll land a fancy corporate job in New York City, meet your future husband, and even open your own yoga studio once you marry, move to Washington, D.C., and have a little girl of your own.

Suddenly, when you least expect it, your life will become all about horses.

As an adult, as a mom, and as a yoga entrepreneur, horses will return to you once again. In fact, I’m pretty sure you couldn’t even dream of this life if you tried. Reality has turned out to be better than any of your dreams… lucky you.

You’ll move to Montana, where your husband is from, and be surrounded by horses. You’ll work and play with horses and give your daughter the horsey upbringing you longed for. And, you’ll spend seven years (and counting) learning to play the violin. (Spoiler alert: You can even play Handel.) You never plan to stop playing and learning.


Serenading my horse Java in beautiful Montana, USA

Now, take a deep breath because you won’t believe this part…

You’ll create a women’s retreat business that combines yoga and horses. You’ll call it Big Sky Yoga Retreats, and you will love your job more than you ever thought possible. (You’ll even get to partner with and model for Ariat!)

Check out Big Sky Yoga Retreats for luxury women’s yoga and horseback riding vacations. Use Referral Code “HRcowgirlup” during registration for a special gift upon arrival!

And the best advice I can give you along this winding road? You’re never done learning with yoga or horses. You will never “know it all.” When you accept and embrace that, magic happens. Like, unicorns-and-rainbows-style magic.

It’s pretty epic.

And, like a key unlocking a treasure chest, you’ll discover that the pursuit of more knowledge is the best drug ever, with no side effects besides the heady experience of folding that knowledge into the fabric of your being. Allow it to become part of you, making you a richer, deeper human.

Then, share your knowledge with others. It is much more meaningful than calling yourself any kind of expert. Stay motivated to never stop learning so you can continue sharing this beauty with everyone else. You won’t become a yoga guru or a horse whisperer, per se. But you will learn many things about both–things that enrich your life and the lives of others around you.

Want to bring the benefits of yoga to your riding? Check out Margaret’s article Get Your Asana in the Saddle: 5 Yoga Tips for Equestrians.

Remember this: the mistake of a lifetime is falsely believing that you are finished with learning, or that it’s too late to start something new.

The privilege of a lifetime is to be able to deepen what you know and add layer upon layer to your collective knowledge. Every time you interact with a horse, every time you roll out your yoga mat, you keep adding layers.

You’ll travel the world to ride horses and do yoga. It’s never enough. Travel makes you feel alive and ever-hungry for more.

Never stop learning. Never think that you are done. That’s what I wish I could whisper to you, my horse (and yoga) rookie self.

Yeehaw and Namaste,


Check out Big Sky Yoga Retreats for luxury women’s yoga and horseback riding vacations. Use Referral Code “HRcowgirlup” during registration for a special gift upon arrival!

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About the author


I'm the Founder and Boss Mare at Big Sky Yoga Retreats, a Montana-based yoga and horseback riding retreat company. I've been teaching yoga for decades, including at the studio I formerly owned in Washington D.C. Now, I spend my time caring for my herd of three geldings at home in Montana.

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