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The last time Caity Weaver reported in person, she spent much of her time communicating with a horse.
Ms. Weaver, a member of the New York Times styles desk, ventured to Santa Fe, New Mexico, last March to try Equus, a horse riding experience that is mostly offered in two- and four-hour sessions and has a long list from famous clients like Bette Midler and Jeff Bezos; The program’s website encourages customers to imagine creating the life you truly deserve.
Her instructor told her that the horses would reproduce “what is true in you” – if only she was receptive to the signals they were sending.
“I heard mostly birds and wind,” said Ms. Weaver. “But I’ve spoken to customers who said it helped them a lot, so results can vary.”
The article, published last week, has been postponed for some time as Ms. Weaver has often been withdrawn for pandemic-related duties. In a recent conversation, she pondered how Equus crossed her radar and what her own experience was like.
How long has this story been in progress?
I visited last March. I was going to be in New Mexico anyway, and I was looking for something interesting, so I just pinned it on while I was in the area. It wasn’t a year of work. It’s just that I just got around to finishing it!
What experiences have you had with horses before?
I was thrown from a horse at my friend’s 11th birthday party – it was stung by a bee or bitten by a beetle – and I haven’t spent much time with them since. I was ready to rumble with the horses, but I was relieved to know that I didn’t have to saddle up and keep climbing. Riding is not part of Equus.
What did you know about Equus before you arrived in Santa Fe?
Little. They purposely don’t have a lot of photos on their website. The founders told me that they don’t want people to come up with a certain idea of what their experience will be, because if it doesn’t work out, customers might be disappointed.
So what increased it to “I have to try”?
One thing you keep asking yourself when you have an interesting experience is, “Is someone actually paying for it?” And often the answer is no. But the customer list was so impressive – Margaret Atwood, Microsoft, many other names I recognized. So I was curious to probably get out whatever they wanted to get out. I would love if my life was as good as Bette Midler’s – I think.
Which detail have you tried the most to track down?
Find out how far back you have to go to find humans and horses who share a common ancestor. I did some research and spoke to several paleontologists about it.
Have you reached out to one of the celebrity customers?
I’ve spoken to people who work at well-known companies like REI and Microsoft and have brought in Equus to work with their teams. It’s not cheap and I wanted to know if this was a difficult expense to justify. They said no. They are satisfied that it is producing results.
What is something fun or unexpected that you learned?
Candace Croney, professor of animal behavior and wellbeing at Purdue University, told me to think of horses the way you think of cats – they are not like a dog that wants to be with you and want attention. A horse doesn’t really want to be the main thing – maybe it wants to be petted and petted, maybe not. I didn’t learn this before I left, but if I ever meet another horse I’ll just picture it like a big cat.
How did your impression of Equus change at the end of your experience?
I didn’t know what to expect and had no clear idea of how to compare and contrast. Perhaps the strategy of not having many images on the site will work.
How close are you to the life you have always dreamed of?
My life is definitely not bad now. I think it’s impossible to know how much of this can be credited to Equus. It involved a lot more interaction with horses than my life would otherwise have had.