We're bringing back the Amateur Moments blog series to celebrate the stories of everyday, hardworking adult equestrians and what they do to balance life, work, and horses.
Laurel White is the founder of Elysian Movement, a new yoga studio dedicated to tailoring classes specifically for equestrians to improve flexibility, position, and balance. We recently partnered with Elysian to release an apparel collection for their studio, and during the collab process we sat down (virtually, of course!) to hear more about her motivations behind starting her studio, her philosophy on integrating yoga with riding, and how she feels adult amateur riders are portrayed in mainstream equestrian media.
How long have you been riding, and what discipline do you ride/show in?
I've been riding since I was 9 years old! I got a gift certificate for my birthday and found a way to be around the barn from that point forward! I worked off my lessons from a young age, and convinced my dad using a PowerPoint to let me try and take in a resale horse. We couldn't afford a horse, so the potential to make our money back was the only way this would work.
I bought a horse at 15 yrs old, trained the horse over the next year, and sold him to a wonderful dressage home a year later. It made me sad to see him go, but I was just so happy that I found a way to have a horse for a year! I used ride in the jumpers, but now I do dressage with my 19 yr old Dutch Warmblood!
When did you get into yoga, and how long have you been teaching?
I have always done yoga off and on since my early 20s to try and relieve back pain, but I was never consistent and would go months and months without practicing. I didn't really get deeply into it until my late 20's after my body really started to deteriorate. I got my teaching license November 2020, and started classes in December 2020!
What inspired you to start Elysian Movement?
I wanted to start my business as a way to help fellow equestrians get through what I went through. I started riding when I was nine years old and never did anything else. I never did any sports where stretching is a normal thing to do before and after you practice, so I was just never stretching at all.
I started to feel the effects at a young age. I was throwing my back out as early as 12 years old and I had joint pain in my later teens, early twenties. Touching my toes was out of the question, and it was something I always felt deeply embarrassed about. I wanted to normalize stretching in horseback riding and make it more of a regular occurrence so that other equestrians are starting to treat themselves like the athletes they are.
What's your schedule like for work/life/horse balance? How often do you ride? Do you show?
Work/life balance is not really there for me right now in the early stages of getting this business off the ground. I am balancing managing four different businesses right now to make ends meet and to help my family.
I work as the Director of Business Development for my dad at his coding school for kids, Code Wiz Arlington. I work as the Business Manager for my mom for her Fine Art Studio, Tracy Mattheson Fine Art. I work as an Office Manager for Canton Equestrian Center. My favorite of course is being the Business Owner for Elysian! It feels like the one thing I am truly doing for myself and it gives me so much happiness, no matter how many hours I am doing.
I ride 5-6 days a week, since Response is older, I try to keep the schedule of 3 days on for riding with 1 day off! I will show occasionally; Response and I are currently working on a test to go to one Dressage Show this year!
Do you feel like adult amateurs are accurately portrayed in mainstream equestrian media? Why or why not?
This is a really good question. I feel like there is more of an effort to portray them correctly, but not even close to enough emphasis on diversity as well as the frequent challenges that adult ammys may face.
I've spoken about it before and I'll speak about it forever until it changes, but I still see so much pressure being put on equestrians to stay a certain size. Your shirt, "Every body is a breech body" was one of the main things that drew me to the Left Lead Collective clothing line. I'm not saying that equestrians shouldn't cross train to stay strong/flexible or to find a horse that is the best match for them, but I'm saying that we should try to remove the stigma and show a more accurate representation of all of the shapes and sizes of the equestrians in our community.
What other riders or horse people do you look up to? It can be a pro, your trainer, or even just a friend.
Okay, this is going to sound so weird, but stick with me. There are many trainers/riders that I admire and look up to, but the main one is my future self.
I try very hard not to compare myself to any one person, and I also try very hard to take in all of the advice and guidance around me and use that to improve myself just a little more each day. I find that I can get discouraged quickly if I look up to only one person, as I can't help but compare myself to them and get a bit frustrated that I'm not further along. I start to get into my head too much and find myself enjoying the journey less and less.
Every single one of us has unique opinions and experiences that shape the way that we work with our horses on a day to day basis, and since there is no single way to do anything in the horse world, I like to combine all of the best advice I've ever heard and walk my slightly unique path.
I know that there will never be a day where I stop learning or stop growing, so I'm always looking up to my future self.
Last question - what's your favorite piece from the Elysian x LLC collab?
So, so many favorites! It's been an absolute dream to partner with Left Lead Collective, but I have to say that my absolute favorite so far is the "Saddle Up, then Savasana" cowlneck sweatshirt!! I love that message, and it is SO comfy!
You can shop the Elysian x LLC collection here on our site, or visit elysianmovement.com to book a virtual yoga class and pick up an adorable new Equestrian Yogi tank to wear while you get your stretch on. Thanks for reading!
Do you know an amateur rider you think should be featured? Drop us a DM on Instagram or email us at email@example.com!