Park City Lodging talks with owner Alejandra Lara
Park City is deservedly renowned for its many and varied events and activities. To the long list of more familiar options, Park City Horse Experience adds a unique and often profound experience. Owner Alejandra Lara shares her vision with us.
Park City Lodging: What is Park City Horse Experience?
Alejandra Lara: I’ve been working at National Ability Center for 11 years, conducting Equine Assisted Learning programs. The NAC serves individuals with cognitive, behavioral or physical disabilities. Most of the 5,000 participants I have worked with so far were military, and drawing on the success and enjoyment I witnessed, three years ago I decided to expand and create an opportunity for everyone to engage with horses. I started Park City Horse Experience at High Star Ranch in Kamas, a beautiful, natural location with both indoor and outdoor facilities for interacting with the horses.
PCL: Understanding that it isn’t a typical trail ride or a horse show, what happens during a horse experience?
AL: It’s a way of learning more about ourselves, in order to grow and maybe work through some challenging life situations. Horses mirror our internal state. They help us get aligned and congruent what we’re feeling in our bodies; they reflect that in how they relate to us.
For example, a person may come to one of our programs with the persona of “Things are great!” but really they’re feeling sad or angry. They come into the corral with the horse, and the horse reacts by not wanting to connect. Because of their prey nature, horses have developed survival skills, to be very attuned to their environment, including us. They change their breathing pattern to us. If we’re holding our breath, they think we’re anticipating the predator, and they mirror that. We breathe deep and the horse does, too. Our facilitators guide the connection, with awareness of the breath or body sensations, to recognize the internal state as it is. When that happens, the horse connects.
PCL: That’s really fascinating! What programs would you recommend for first time experience?
AL: Our Family Horse Adventure is great for families, for example moms and daughters or dads and sons, or everyone all together. It’s great for all ages and abilities, and the program would be exclusive for just your family. It’s two hours of fun activities where everyone learns to communicate and work together with the horses towards a goal. We can add riding to the experience, too.
Corporate groups also benefit from working with the horses to reach alignment as a team, to work through effective communication skills and in having a unique unparalleled team building experience. Park City Horse Experience can serve small and large groups from a couple of hours to multi day retreats.
The Horse Experience is great for an individual, a couple or a small group that doesn’t want to do a typical spa day, for example. It’s an open-hearted experience, life coaching, if you will. We learn about ourselves from the non-judgmental horse. It’s 90 minutes where you can come with a goal, or we can assess how you’re reacting to the horse and vice versa and customize the experience. Recently we had a client who came with a goal to overcome a fear of horses. Through the experience we discovered she was actually carrying fear from other events in her life. Working with the horse she was able to overcome not only her fear of horses, but also to release and get beyond other fears she was experiencing.
The mountains surrounding Park City can spark intense feelings of awe and strong desires to explore. Shaun Raskin, owner of Inspired Summit Adventures, is very familiar with these powerful reactions; she’s experienced them herself and she’s embraced and shared them with others through her unique outfitting and guide service. Park City Lodging sits down with Shaun to find out more.
Park City Lodging – Some basics – how long have you owned and operated Inspired Summit Adventures? How would you describe the process you went through in deciding to start and grow the business?
Shaun Raskin – I have owned and operated Inspired Summit for five years. I am a pretty free-spirited person, so I guess I started the company with a dream and a vision to provide something more personal than what I saw other outfitters providing. I had a few incredible clients who gave me the nudge and confidence that what I was offering was truly a product that others would gravitate towards. So with their encouragement and my own stubborn determination I started Inspired Summit. The desire to see how big we could take it and my passion for coming up with creative programs has allowed us to grow at an exponential rate each season.
PCL – The commercial ski experience here in Park City has changed recently, with Vail and its Epic passes and Deer Valley and its Ikon passes, etc. Likely you’ve seen changes in your business, as well – What kinds of changes have you experienced?
SR – For us, it’s been fun. We see more people looking to get into the backcountry for the first time. We also get the clients who have passes and want to learn some backcountry skills and avalanche awareness so they feel more comfortable to step out of the resort boundaries via the access gates and into the backcountry. So for us we are able to cater to those looking to not just be guided, but who want to learn and up their skill set, which is truly what Inspired Summit is about – facilitating people in reaching their personal goals.
PCL – The name of your company and the descriptions of your adventures makes it clear that there is “something more” involved in your guiding. How would you explain that difference?
SR – We are a high touch experience. All of our trips are privately booked and are completely customized to fit our clients’ desires, objectives and skill sets. We work with the industry’s best guides who excel at not just the hard skills, but also can read and relate tou our clients, allowing our participants to feel connected to their activity, surroundings, and ultimately a deeper connection to themselves.
PCL – Who is your typical client? What type of person would you encourage to try one of your adventures? What kinds of concerns do first-time adventurers express and how do you address those?
SR – Our clients vary. I think because we offer such a wide range of activities and because of the customization it allows first timers, families, advanced recreationalists and people training for a bigger goal, to all find our services appropriate. I encourage anyone who has ever wanted to explore nature, feel what being in nature offers, or anyone looking to get more out of their time in the backcountry to try one of our trips. Be it summer or winter, we are getting our clients out in the backcountry and helping them achieve their goals and go further.
PCL – Do you have stories of clients who try different kinds of adventures with you, for example, they did lift access ski touring, then did a hut trip, then came back in the summer to do some backpacking?
SR – We definitely have the four season clients. No particular story comes to mind, just a collection of really incredible people who choose to use us for their adventuring and allow us to share our expertise with them and in return we get to be part of their memories of exceptional days spent exceeding their own expectations. These clients feel more like family.
PCL – What’s your personal favorite adventure, one that you love to guide, and why?
SR – That’s a hard one. I am a skier first and foremost. I love guiding our sled-accessed backcountry ski tours. It’s really where we get to get away from it all. We spend the day deep in the Uinta mountains with no one around. Endless fresh powder to ski, ancient forests and jagged peaks. It definitely is an inspiring setting to say the least. That is probably why I also love our backpacking/ camping adventures so much too, it’s an opportunity to let clients immerse themselves in the backcountry setting and really gain perspective and connect to nature and themselves.
PCL – What are your plans for sustaining and growing your business in the future?
SR – We are constantly working on implementing the industry’s best practices, whether for safety, administrative practices, hiring, or client care. This is something we actively invest in. We take courses and we are involved in industry workshops. The idea is to get those good habits started in the beginning, set a solid foundation even if it means slowing growth. That way we can ensure that every step of the way is intentional and truly creating the experiences and value that we set out to create from the beginning.
PCL – What is your approach to climate change?
SR – Climate change is a reality that our industry is actively discussing, facing. We will have to remain flexible and imaginative in our response to changes, but we also want to be proactive as stewards of the environment. There is always more we can do, but we try to work with mindful companies such as Patagonia and Goal Zero to minimize our impacts on the land and wildlife that inspire a sense of self and place. We have goals to join different environmental nonprofits in 2020. The trick is picking the ones that are doing the most good and figuring out what that looks like within the scope of a small business.
PCL – Finally, what do you do for fun, or for your own vacations?
SR – We do some mountains – winter and spring we definitely go to huts or interesting areas and ski. Late spring and fall we surf – well… Weston surfs and I just try. But now with our little one some of that is changing and we are looking at doing family vacations that are a little mellower – same activities, just kid friendly.
For more motivation to push your own boundaries go to Inspired Summit Adventures.
For more information about exclusive deals for Park City Lodging guests go to Inspired Adventure Package.
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