If you’re like us, you know that the equestrian community is so much more than just riders, drivers, trainers, and all of us that are lucky enough to work with equines all of the time. Every touch and moment with a horse, whether from afar through a TV screen or in person at the country fair, brings a little bit of magic to grow the equestrian community, to bring joy, and to bring people together. You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone that knows this better and is more passionate about it than Liz Beeson Evans, owner of the non-profit, Caring Cowgirl. We caught up with Liz recently to learn more about the amazing work and story behind Caring Cowgirl.
SE: Caring Cowgirl has been growing by leaps and bounds, but not everyone knows about the good work you’re doing. What is your amazing organization all about?
LBE: CC is about bringing minis to the masses! Our mission, as a 501c3, is to provide therapeutic mini-equine visits in the San Francisco Bay Area. We invite you to meet us outside and take a ‘mini’ break with us. We will come to you in person or virtually. The minis remind us to care for nature and celebrate how we all communicate differently.
SE: How did you decide to go into therapeutic mini-equine visits? Was there an "ah-ha" moment?
LBE: I have a background in teaching kids with special needs to ride. After work I would go back to our home in the city and see so many kids with and without needs that could benefit from animal interactions. I knew hauling a truck and trailer with full size horses into San Francisco would be a logistical nightmare. I also realized that not all folks needed to ride to experience the calm and therapeutic benefits of sharing space with horses. That’s when my “aha-ha” moment came. I then decided to adopt a couple of minis and bring them to people rather than have them come to me. This also would allow me to reach more people!
SE: With whom do you want Caring Cowgirl to make an impact? Are visits for kids and adults? Companies? Families?
LBE: We are a full inclusion program that seeks to make an impact with those that have limited access to nature and animals. The minis and I have done home visits for folks that are homebound, school visits, libraries, and large companies looking for a ‘mini’ break from the daily grind. We’ll basically go anywhere we can to provide a therapeutic interaction with Shakira and Vanessa.
SE: The wonderful Shakira and Vanessa! Tell us about your therapy equines and what their special role is.
LBE: Our therapy equines are Shakira and Vanessa, both rescued from a Texas kill pen. Shakira is a mini horse with dwarfism and Vanessa is a mini donkey. They are both trained to be therapy/comfort animals.
SE: What are their personalities? Do they have any fun habits, quirks, likes/dislikes? Fun habits?
LBE: Where do I begin?! Shakira is a fearless yet gentle mini that will go anywhere and do anything that is asked of her. During visits she is very quiet and still. Vanessa on the other hand is very interactive with people, in fact if you ignore her for too long she will nudge you to get pets and scratches. She also loves to have the inside of her large and beautiful ears scratched.
SE: What are their favorite treats?
LBE: They love carrots, and as a very special treat, they get apples every once in a while. Since they are minis I am very careful not to give them too much sugar.
SE: How did the girls come into your life?
LBE: When I knew I was going to start Caring Cowgirl, I originally set out to adopt two matching mini horses. I had this idea in my head that they would be the same height, color, and have sweet temperaments. So when I went to my local mini rescue I had no idea that I would be coming home with a chestnut colored, dwarf mini horse and gray dun mini donkey!
SE: Was it challenging to train them to be therapy horses? Is it different from training horses for riding, for example?
LBE: There were many challenges in the beginning while training our mini donkey to be a therapy animal. Vanessa took a lot longer to get used to new tasks than our mini horse did. But the same basic principles apply to training the minis as would riding horses. This was also the first time that I had the opportunity to work with a donkey vs a horse and let me tell you, they are so very different! Now that I’ve had them for almost two years we have earned each others trust and they are both currently at the same training levels.
SE: I’ve heard that minis can be really smart and perform special skills. What have you learned about minis from working with Shakira and Vanessa?
LBE: Yes, minis can learn as many commands as a dog or service dog. In recent years more people have started using mini horses as certified service animals. Both Vanessa and Shakira have learned to ‘shake’ with their front right hoof; they can jump in and out of the mini van with a one word command, and Vanessa is really good off lead. When we’re hiking, I sometimes unclip her lead rope and she runs up and down the trail, running farting, kicking out, and then after about 5 minutes she slows down to a walk and returns to me and Shakira.
SE: What is one of the most memorable therapy visits you’ve done so far?
LBE: As you know we are experiencing a global pandemic and kids attend school through online classes now. So my most memorable therapy visit yet was joining my friend Mr. Limata’s first grade class at Emerson Elementary School in Oakland via Zoom! He invited me to join the class on the last day of summer school after he had read them a book about barnyard animals. As soon as the minis popped up on their screen, I heard Ooo’s and Ahhh’s! One student asked if the minis understood different languages? To which I excitedly replied, “Yes they do! They can understand English, Spanish, Mandarin, Tagalog and every other beautiful language in this world. But they speak and understand body language the best.” I then proceeded to show the kids different examples of body language such as happiness, sadness, and anger. As the class continued and we moved on to different topics, the students began to pay close attention to the minis’ body language and would begin to identify what exactly their body language was saying. So cool!
SE: What do you love most about Caring Cowgirl?
LBE: I love that I can reach so many people in San Francisco and surrounding areas.
SE: Ok, so your girls are amazing, as is CC. But let’s hear about you, the woman behind the curtain! :) When did you start riding, and was it love at first sight?
LBE: I started riding at a very young age and it was absolutely love at first sight! I spent much of my childhood at my Grandparents’ ranch in Mexico. They used to live in a small rural town called Huejuquilla where many people still rode horses as a main mode of transportation. So everytime someone would pass by my Grandmother’s house on horseback I would tuck at her dress and ask her if she knew them and to ask if they could stop so that I could pet the horse.
SE: What’s your motto or philosophy for how you work with your equines?
LBE: I often tell myself, patience, patience, patience. Equines communicate with nonverbal body language from a equine’s point of view. So if I were to approach them from a human perspective with only verbal commands, well, that would just be silly and unproductive.
SE: What do you like to do in your “down-time”? Any favorite hobbies?
LBE: In my down-time I love being around people; they fascinate me. We are all so weird in the best way. Before this terrible pandemic my husband and I used to travel once a year for at least a month at a time. Nowadays we enjoy watching movies at home and hikes with the minis.
SE: What is your bucket list vacation that you would love to take if you had the chance?
LBE: I would really love to track elephants on horseback in Tanzania.
SE: Stripes or polka dots? Books or movies? Coffee or tea? Sunset or sunrise?
LBE: Both stripes and polka dots, I love clothes and love so many different styles. Movies for sure, one of my favorite things to do is watch movies and eat ice cream. Sunsets! That golden hour is so magical, especially when you're on horseback.
SE: What is your favorite place to visit in the Bay Area for relaxation, fun, and to recharge your batteries?
LBE: My favorite place in the Bay Area is definitely the Mission in San Francisco. Just to be surrounded by my culture is a recharge for me. I miss Mexico; I miss my family that is in Northern California, so when I can’t be with them I go to the Mission.
SE: What is your favorite Sterling Essentials fragrance?
LBE: So far I have used the Floral Citrus leather cleaner and conditioner and I love that scent!
SE: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
LBE: The reason I am so passionate about being fully inclusive is I am an immigrant's daughter. My whole life I have watched people speak down to my Mother because she has an accent or because her skin is darker than theirs. If you speak multiple languages, like my Mother and I do, we celebrate you! If your skin tone is a different number on the Pantone scale than her’s or mine, we celebrate you! I was raised in a biracial home and was taught to be a kind and caring human to all and that it was my duty to help others that could not help themselves. For this reason I am forever a caring cowgirl.
Caring Cowgirl is located in the California’s San Francisco Bay area and serves the city and surrounding areas. For more information on Liz, Shakira, Vanessa, and how to get involved or contact them visit www.Caringcowgirl.org. You can also find and follow them on Facebook (@caringcowgirl) and Instagram (@caringcowgirl) - and we hope you do!! :)