Our Beginning

Several years ago, EQUUS Co-Founders Kelly Wendorf and J. Scott Strachan were on a completely different path. Scott was living on a boat in Sausalito, California (just near the Golden Gate Bridge) working as an executive /personal coach, culture consultant, and facilitator. His life was relatively carefree as a single bachelor, cycling long treks around northern California, sailing the San Francisco Bay, or enjoying a sunset off of the pier on his time off. Kelly, a mother of two teenagers, was working as a horse trainer, coach, mentor and facilitator in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and developing The EQUUS Experience®, an equine-assisted learning process that she facilitated for her clientele. She spent her days with horses and clients, and spent her off time hiking and backpacking in the wilderness. The two were worlds away from one another.

Then Scott was recruited by an Argentinian consultancy firm to be one of their six US-based coaches and facilitators. This same firm became clients of Kelly’s and sent their leadership team to do The EQUUS Experience in Santa Fe. After their time there, they invited Kelly as well to join their team. As new recruits, both were invited to attend the firm’s global study group. When Scott and Kelly arrived in Miami, Florida for their first study group workshop, little did they realize everything was about to change. Though they had many things in common, when Kelly described to Scott the part of her work that included horses, Scott expressed his indifference towards horses saying (with no malice) that in his opinion horses were ‘1200 pound beasts with brains the size of walnuts and it made for a bad combination!’ Kelly laughed. Immediately following their first meeting in Florida, they became friends. Over time they became a couple.

Scott’s first sojourn to Santa Fe to visit Kelly, included an introduction to the EQUUS horses. Kelly invited Scott to have a taste of the power inside equine-inspired wisdom. Within twenty minutes, Scott held a new perspective and appreciation for horses, and their powerful ability to create change. He asked Kelly why she had been keeping this work a secret, and immediately invested himself to change that. He traded in his Sperry topsiders for cowboy boots, his foul-weather sailing gear for a Carhartt jacket, and his green Marin vehicle for a horse-trailer-pulling Dodge Ram truck.

Starting a business together is never a first recommendation for a new couple. But Kelly and Scott are no ordinary pair. From the beginning they shared a robust passion for creating conditions where people and organizations could transform. So deep was their commitment to human potential, that they placed their entire relationship in service to that calling. The couple founded EQUUS and with that began the search for a property on which not only to call home, but to create an experiential discovery and learning campus.

One day, as part of their evaluation process of which accommodation partners would bring forward the same level of high touch care to their clients that EQUUS aspires to, they met with Four Seasons Rancho Encantado. During this meeting, Scott and Kelly were informed of an 11-acre estate next door, not on the market, yet standing empty for eight years. Perhaps the owners might be willing to look at a creative way to restore the property through a lease-purchase, they thought, as they peered through the coyote fence into the forsaken property. It was quite obvious that in its current state of disrepair, no lender would provide a mortgage.

As they ambled around its perimeter, they were beginning to think outside the box. Clearly it had suffered from years of neglect. There was colossal amount of work to do. And extreme risk. How on earth could they pull this off? The answer: by doing exactly what they empower their clients to do – leverage their gifts, strengths and crystal clear intention.

After several months of Scott’s nimble negotiations, the property was theirs to lease, and then ultimately to buy. All they needed to do was immerse themselves into creating an environment befitting EQUUS’s quickly growing, high-performing clientele. This took an enormous amount of commitment, hard work, sweat and capital investment on their part. And it took an uncommon courage – all while continuing to grow and develop EQUUS. While they did not realize it at the time, what they were in fact doing was modelling for their clients what it is like to work towards your dream with unwavering determination. This is what they continue to do every day.

“Alice laughed: ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said; ‘one can’t believe impossible things.’ ‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’ – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Scott and Kelly took special care to work within the Traditional Indigenous protocols of the area, and in so doing engaged with the Tesuque Pueblo governance, and asked for express permission to do the EQUUS work. Tesuque Elder, Kathy Sanchez, came to the property, blessed the land, blessed each of the horses, and blessed their work. They embed this protocol each day by formally acknowledging the Traditional carers, past present and future, in every opening of their workshops and retreats, and thanking them for EQUUS’s ability to do its work on the land. In ongoing support of their neighbors, EQUUS donates their property and workshop space to Tewa Women United, a multicultural and multiracial organization founded and led by Native women, for some of their meetings.

Within a year, the property metamorphized into Thunderbird Ridge – an Experiential Discovery and Learning Campus, touting a gracious hacienda, a large arena, paddocks, a large sun-drenched workshop space, sculpture garden and landscaped hiking trails leading all the way into National Forest. It is the home of six gregarious horses, a donkey named Kassie, a dog and two barn cats. And it is a place that embraces every client that steps foot onto the land, and places themselves into the powerful tutelage of the horses. Each and every person, without exception, leaves there transformed.

And they are still at the beginning. There is so much more about to unfold – for EQUUS, for its clients, and for you. We invite you to follow along with us as we continue to grow and make immeasurably powerful impact in the world. Welcome to EQUUS, we are so pleased you are a part of this journey.