Devon, can you tell us a little bit about your life before “Beyond the Arena?”
My life before Beyond the Arena was full of dresses, panty hose, high heels, showing houses and writing real estate contracts. I spent my days working as a residential realtor and talking about the appreciation value of slab granite countertops. In my free time, I was around horses as much as possible! I had a passion for helping people experience the healing benefits of being around these intuitive animals. I didn’t know how my passion would pan out professionally so I did a lot of volunteering at therapeutic riding centers. Well into my real estate career, I discovered a two-year certification course to become an equine gestalt coach (working with horses to help people) and I jumped at the opportunity.
When you traded in heels for cowboy boots, was it an abrupt change or had you already started “Beyond the Arena” while you were still in the business world?
Trading in high heels for cowgirl boots happened over time. I built Beyond the Arena and worked in real estate for three and a half years…it was hectic (and a lot of daily outfit swaps from pencil skirts into Wrangler jeans) but so worth it! If I wasn’t showing houses and talking about square footage I was out at the barn helping people process their emotions through connecting with horses. Real estate was a bridge career and I’m grateful I spent time in the business world learning about sales, marketing and time management. It gave me the confidence and savvy to make the leap to becoming an entrepreneur. After six and a half years, I cut the golden handcuffs of real estate and moved to a horse ranch in the country to go full time with Beyond the Arena. I haven’t looked back since!
What drew you to horses? What is it about horses that can bring healing to so many people, children and adults, alike?
I’ve been blessed to be around horses my whole life and I hail from a family of animal lovers. Both of my parents grew up with horses and I learned how to ride as a young girl. Thoughout my teens, I competed in horse shows, but it was the quiet moments in the barn that I cherished the most. Although I wasn’t able to articulate it at the time, being in the presence of horses and their healing energy nourished my soul. When I sold my horse and went to college in California, I became homesick and depressed and developed an eating disorder. Bulimia took over my life and I dropped out of college. I ended up in a treatment center in Arizona that had equine therapy. I was reunited with horses and this time, there were no horse show ribbons involved. It was about becoming vulnerable, sharing my stuffed down feelings and being healed. Equine therapy saved my life and the light bulb went off that THIS is how I was supposed to work with horses. These majestic and intuitive animals had come back into my life full circle and it became my mission to share their healing gifts with others. At age 21, my passion was ignited and my purpose became clear (by way of a helluva rocky trail!)
What is your typical day like?
Today my typical day starts out with a cup of coffee, feeding my dog, putting on rubber boots and heading down to the barn to feed five horses. My morning workout consists of lifting and moving 50 pound hay bales, cleaning water troughs and filling grain buckets. In the spring and summer, I groom the horses and then hose down the arena in preparation for a private coaching client or weekend women’s retreat. Clients arrive by 9AM and most of the coaching happens in our indoor arena. At the end of the day, I feed all the horses again, take care of ranch chores, come up to the house and return emails and post pictures that I’ve taken that day. My days are a combination caring for animals, helping people experience healing and awakening with horses, driving tractors and being out on the land.
Throughout the winter, I coach clients over the phone and the ranch chores shift from mowing fields to plowing snow. My soul is happy here, I wouldn’t trade it in for the world.
Tell us about your “Beyond the Arena Retreats?” Can you give any examples of women’s transformations?
Beyond the Arena Retreats are one of a kind! They are for women who are on the self-discovery trail and whom are at a personal or professional crossroads in life. They are a safe and experiential environment for women to deepen to connection with themselves and others with the help of nature’s greatest teachers: horses! Through interactions with horses, we explore what limiting beliefs are keeping people stuck, how to tap into their intuition and how to move forward in their lives.
At a recent UNBRIDLED retreat, I lined up five orange cones down the center of the arena with a word on each cone: Specific, Measurable, Action, Reason and Time, also known as SMART Goals. The client, Jane, was supposed to lead Blue, the horse, down the line of cones, stating out loud what each cone represented for her.
Jane started at the Specific cone and shared aloud that her goal was to keep her dream consulting as a side business so she could keep her salary and benefits at her current job (which she hated.) Blue didn’t move an inch. The beautiful bay mare cocked her back hip and wouldn’t budge. Jane tugged on the lead rope to try to get her to walk to the next cone. Blue knew Jane wasn’t telling the truth and she picked up the incongruent energy between what Jane was saying and how she was feeling. You can’t fool a 1,200 intuitive animal!
Tired of trying to force Blue to move (and tired of trying to force herself to keeping slogging through a job she despised), Jane had tears in her eyes as her truth became clear. She took a deep breath and shared that her Specific goal was to create a plan to leave her current job so she could go full throttle with her consulting business. As she stated her truth, Blue immediately walked right next to her and kept walking to the next cone!
As prey animals horses are super sensitive to energy and sense when we are saying one thing but feeling another. They don’t judge but will give us direct and honest feedback. When we tap into our intuition and become congruent with what we are saying and feeling, horses will connect with us, every time. It’s the ultimate validation for showing up authentically and speaking your truth.
You’ve created a life you love. What advice would you give someone who feels stuck.
Often, we are stuck in the trap of what we “should do” and we dig ourselves into a rut. When we identify what we truly want (through taking action and trying new things and NOT just by thinking about it!) doors open and opportunities manifest.
If you feel stuck, keep trying new things. Keep experimenting and don’t settle until you discover what feeds your soul and energizes you. Follow your passions and curiosity. Let go of controlling how you “think it should look” and allow new opportunities to come your way. Have faith and keep following the trail of what you love. It will lead you to the right people, places (and horses!)
I have an UNBRIDLED Retreat in Arizona in February and my goal is to facilitate more national retreats. I want to share the healing gifts of horses with as many people possible so that others can follow their passions and turn their dream into a reality.
Devon Combs is a lifelong horsewoman, certified equine gestalt coach and the CEO of Beyond the Arena. She teaches women how to live an UNBRIDLED life. She walks her talk as a strong, sensitive, adventurous, spiritual, entrepreneurial cowgirl. Devon’s retreats are one-of-a-kind experiences to help women have fun, feel safe and supported in a group, and to experience the ultimate freedom through transformational connections with horses. Be sure to visit Beyond the Arena to see what’s new and follow Devon on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
This is a wonderful telling of your story, Devon. It will inspire others to find you, the horses and themselves at the next UNBRIDLED retreat. And that’s only a good thing.