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2016 Cowgirls vs. Cancer
Healing with Horses & Yoga

Yoga and horses can fix anything. They're kind of like duct tape and string.
-Tanya, 2011 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

We are now taking nominations for our 2016 retreat!
Are you or someone you know a breast cancer thriver?

Cowgirls vs. Cancer is offering eight scholarships to our May 26-29, 2016 Cowgirls vs. Cancer retreat. Nominate yourself or another cowgirl during October 2015, breast cancer awareness month, through November 15, 2015. Make your nomination here.

Through Cowgirls vs. Cancer, Big Sky Yoga Retreats provides retreat scholarships to yoginis who have experienced the physical, emotional and financial hardships of breast cancer. 2016 will be our seventh year, and thanks to the generosity of everyone we work with at Cowgirl Yoga, it will be the fifth time we are able to dedicate an entire retreat to Cowgirls vs. Cancer.

For our 2015 retreat, we awarded 10 scholarships - scroll down to meet the cancer kickin' cowgirls. This rejuvenating retreat provides something positive to look forward to, and helps our scholarship recipients heal through horses and yoga following cancer. Our hope is that through fundraising efforts, we can keep making more breast cancer survivors Cowgirl Yoginis every year. Please help us make a difference in the fight against cancer by purchasing a Cowgirl tee or making a donation (scroll down). Or in cowgirl lingo - help us kick cancer's ass. Yeehaw & Namaste! Cowgirls vs. Cancer is now a non-profit organization, all donations are tax deductible!

A Big-Sky sized Thank You to everyone contributing to the 2015 program:

Alpine Organic Farm
Anahata Mala

Balo Vineyards
Boulder Bands
Chewy Lou Designs
Cowgirl Dirt
Double T River Ranch
GLOW for a Cause
Intrigue Ink
Kate's Catering
Kathleen Hammett
Land of Enchantment Equine Yoga
Larry Stanley Photography
Lisa Laird Yoga
Lori Frank
Milk Thistle Skincare & Massage Studio
Mindful Creations
Montana Horse Sense
Old Gringo
Ranch Organics
The Tea Spot
Troxel Helmets
Yellowstone Cellars & Winery

How to Help

In 2014, we added something new - we sent a pair of Cancer Kickin' Cowgirl Boots to four women currently in treatment for breast cancer (read about cancer kickin' cowgirl Mary Ann). This idea was inspired by one of our previous scholarship recipients, who wore her cowgirl boots throughout her treatment. Thanks to our partner Old Gringo, we've grown this program in 2015 and hope to send out many more pairs. Help us buy the boots by making a donation! Nominate yourself or another cowgirl here.

Giddy Up & Get your Cowgirl Tee

Big Sky Yoga Retreats has teamed up with ChewyLou Designs and retreat alumna Alyssa Dinowitz to create the "COWGIRL" tee.

Tees are $34 each. Long-sleeved tee in chocolate and pink, with pink writing. The front simply says "COWGIRL". The sleeve has the CY "brand", with a hand-embellished Swarovski crystal.

And the back spells it all out: Courage, Optimism, Warrior, Giddy-Up, Inspiration, Respect, Loyalty.


All proceeds from the sale of this tee will go to our Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship fund, dedicated to paying tuition for Cowgirl Yoga scholarship recipients. So start shopping - buy one for yourself, your mom, your sister, your friends, anyone you know who wants to be a Cowgirl!

Full scoop on the Cowgirl tee here (sizing, shipping, returns, etc.)




Make a Donation

Any amount makes a difference and adds to our scholarship fund!

Meet our 2015 Scholarship Recipients

About Allison
2015 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

Namaste. Upon learning I needed chemo and radiation, in addition to multiple surgeries, I cried. And then I pulled myself together. It is what it is. And we have to learn to live with it – to make the best of it. This, to me, is the essence of Namaste. Finding peace no matter what is thrown at you. How would I find peace? I knew I needed to do something – anything – to keep myself engaged despite my day-to-day reality. I needed a way to make the most out of the situation. For the first time in my life I’d have spare time on my hands. So I seized the opportunity and did something I had always dreamed of. I wrote a book.

Writing Booby Trap made me laugh, and it helped me cope during a difficult time. But it also taught me that no matter what, there is good in everything. You just need to find it. The day to day joys that come with keeping your mind open to all the possibilities around you make life just as sweet as can be. Given that, how could I pass up an opportunity to finally learn yoga – and be surrounded by horses? I’m not a cowgirl – yet. But cancer has shown me there is no time like the present to enjoy and embrace any new experience. To seize life by the horns and make the most of the adventure. Or, as my yet-to-be released inner cowgirl would say: Yeehaw!

About Angelique
2015 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

I spent vacations doing research trips with dad in the middle of nowhere. Mom put me on a horse every time we were near one. At 12 I met Harvey, a kind horse. I learned to ride and jump little things in our way. I felt at home for the first time on a horse. My first yoga class was when I was 13 at school; I found a peace there that I have loved ever since but not practiced regularly. The idea of horseback riding and doing yoga for a few days is a form of heaven I can’t imagine. The biggest mystery, I guess, is why Louis L’Amour’s kid didn’t grow up in the saddle. We didn’t have the money to spend on riding lessons when I was a kid. Mom taught me. I was diagnosed with cancer 5 years ago and had complications with my reconstruction. I went back to yoga recently - I need it for my soul and my body. I love the way I feel while I am doing it and how I feel after.

Searching for a way to teach my girls how to do Breast Self-Exam (BSE), I found The Get In Touch Foundation and then started teaching the program at two high schools. I co-chaired a successful fundraiser for GIT last March and am now a board member. My passionate Yeehaw is teaching, fundraising with GIT, and jumping the obstacles in my way. Namaste is staying healthy and present for my family, the girls I teach and myself.

About Cynthia
2015 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

Breast cancer has been in my life for 27 years. When I was 16, my grandmother was diagnosed, and 2 years later my dear friend/confidant Nancy was diagnosed. I helped coordinate her appointments, chemo treatments, and childcare for her sons. Nancy taught me how to persevere and make each day count during her 18 year battle with breast cancer. I was there the day she crossed over...no words were exchanged...just a squeeze of my hand. I miss her but, feel we are together in spirit.

The year before Nancy passed away, the unthinkable happened. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36. I knew all too well what cancer looked like...now I was the patient. With 2 young daughters, Francesca (3), and Eloise (15 months), I dreamed of watching them grow into amazing, compassionate and strong women. I underwent a bilateral mastectomy, removal of 24 lymph nodes, reconstruction, chemotherapy and removal of my ovaries. Eight years later I'm cancer free, and I have such gratitude & appreciation for this wonderful and magical gift called LIFE!

Cancer put a strain on our family. I'm now healing more than just surgery wounds; today I'm working towards rebuilding my marriage, forgiving, trusting, loving, and discovering the new woman, mother, wife, sister, daughter and friend that I have become.

I have been practicing yoga for over 2 years. Finally, a safe space with no judgement! Each time I step on my mat I look forward to being challenged both physically and mentally. Yoga encourages me to stop, look up, breathe, savor and feel life. I wish everyone would allow themselves to experience the awesomeness of yoga!

I'm a city girl from Chicago, but The West has always touched my soul. I've often dreamed of riding a horse with my hair blowing in the wind - complete freedom! Horses are beautiful, strong and graceful, just like a woman. Each day I strive to think like a cowgirl: don't stop when things get difficult, and power through when it hurts (that's when I know things are working). By attending this retreat, I look forward to being surrounded by amazing women who will lift me up and instantly understand my struggles. Despite everything, they will always find the good, and we will build friendships that are made from trust, love and respect. That to me is truly the heart and soul of YEEHAW and NAMASTE.

About Jennie
2015 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

What may seem a last-minute nomination, is really the hope that reading about your amazing program today, deadline day, is just a sign that this was meant to find me. And this past week of chemo, scans and appointment has given me just enough spunk to do what seems a bit tough...self-nominate. Only something as amazing as the Cowgirl Yoga retreat could get me to self-promote in such a way, so here it goes!

I am a 34 year old gal with metastatic breast cancer. Diagnosed with stage 2 disease at 27, and stage 4 at 30,with my share of chemo, surgery, radiation, hormonal therapy and more (treatments that I wear RHINESTONE COWBOY BOOTS to - a must for any cowgirl yogini!).

But the real story of who I am, comes in my love for (1) yoga and (2) animals (another reason why I think that this retreat could be the perfect cosmic match!). Yoga has been my getaway throughout my cancer journey. My mat has become my "cancer-free zone". My little spot in the universe where cancer can not enter but where love, calm and peace are always found.

And my love for all things animal is especially shown with the light that fills my face, heart and body when I am with horses. Pre-cancer I was a seven-time marathon runner with a special love for trail running and hiking - a gift from growing up in Colorado. However, when my cancer metastasized, it came back in the form of a hip fracture during a half marathon. An event that has not allowed me to run, or even quite move in the way that I once did.

That is until I am on a horse. Not only do these magical animals soothe me with their beauty, they grant me the gift of movement that I once had. Atop a horse, I am running again. I am a healthy 34 year old with cancer left behind, moving through the world with strength, agility and beauty.

So, I suppose that what the Cowgirl Yoga Retreat would be for me iis not only my dream vacation, but also a much needed recharging and healing of the long enduring drain of cancer. Having lost my ability to work, have children, the physical hobbies that gave me so much - and now my hair with this recent chemo therapy - the retreat would give me space to connect with myself through the things that I love most

To me “Yeehaw & Namaste” mean happiness. "Yeehaw" means to let go - to wildly find your spirit, joy and happiness. "Namaste" means my inner self connecting with my true heart while simultaneously connecting with the larger spirit and world around me. These words mean connection in a realm untouched by cancer. A space in which I am able to seek out my true joy and wonder. They mean the happy place that I journey to away from cancer when I am lost in my love of yoga and horses.

About Linda
2015 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

Nominated by her husband Rob

In her nineteenth week of pregnancy, my amazing wife Linda was diagnosed with aggressive triple negative breast cancer. It spread to her lymph nodes and she immediately began chemotherapy while pregnant. After three chemotherapy treatments and 27 weeks into the pregnancy, Linda was met with another challenge. Her water broke and she was rushed by ambulance to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for an emergency C-section. Born three months early and weighing just over two pounds, our baby daughter Ava struggled for life while Linda fought for her own. Just a week after her C-section, Linda continued chemotherapy while attending to our daughter every spare moment. Ava spent 74 days in the NICU, and overcame her extreme prematurity to become a healthy girl. Linda finished her treatments, is doing great, and is now a leading area advocate for cancer and children’s charities: helping start a lymphedema support fund and a cancer survivorship fund.

Linda has always loved horses and owned several growing up. Now that her time is more limited, she enjoys the occasional opportunity to ride or interact with horses. Horses allow Linda to connect with her inner child and are an emotional connection for her. When she was diagnosed with cancer, Linda began taking yoga and now uses it to help maintain balance in her otherwise busy life. The long term benefits of yoga have encouraged Linda to live more in the present moment and to take care of her body, mind, and spirit.

Horses were part of Linda’s pre-cancer life and childhood. Yoga has become a part of her life post-cancer to help her maintain spiritual, mental and physical health. When Linda does yoga there is a calmness and peace that happens - I know she has done yoga the moment she walks in the door! Cowgirl Yoga will be a way to link these two parts of her life, and help her move forward with her now cancer free life. Linda’s oncologist just told her she is now “cured” and cancer-free of triple negative breast cancer. This retreat will be an important milestone to help her recognize how far she has come in this journey. Yeehaw - all or nothing to the finish line. Namaste - the divine in me sees and respects the divine in you.

About Lisa
2015 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

Nominated by her children Andrew and Lauren.

We are nominating our Mom to go to the Cowgirl vs. Cancer retreat. First of all, she loves Montana and has been trying to convince our Dad to move there. When our mom finished chemo, she was craving space and what she calls “the great wide open.” We live in a crowded town and our neighbors are so close. She went to Montana on her own when she was sick and then took us kids a few summers ago to Bozeman, Flathead Lake, and Glacier National Park.

Our Mom had stage 3 breast cancer and had chemo, radiation and 7 surgeries. Our family is so lucky that she is healthy and it’s been 6 years. We were 9 and 5 when she had cancer, and we are 15 and 11 now. We would love our Mom to win a trip to her favorite place for horses and yoga! She loves horseback riding and takes Lauren’s Girl Scout troop to horseback riding camp every year. She goes to the gym a lot and does yoga to keep flexible. She even teaches us her yoga moves.

We think “Yeehaw and Namaste” means heaven on earth to our Mom! If she gets to wear Cowboy boots, she is even happier! She even made Lauren a Cowgirl pillow and blanket se. Our Mom loves everything cowgirl, trips of all kinds and adventure. She needs a break without us and our Dad too.

About Kathleen
2015 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

Nominated by her sister Anne.

My sister Kathleen was diagnosed in spring 2014 with HER-2 Positive breast cancer, a very aggressive kind of cancer. In the hospital, she took ill with an infection, resulting in her having to stay bedridden for weeks. This delayed her chemotherapy treatment for just enough time for her early stage cancer to metastasize to her sternum, and become stage 4 cancer. Kathleen is a soon-to-be divorced single mother of five children. Two are biological: Marie - age 17, and Evered - age 14, and three adopted: Kanye - 8, Miguel - 6, and Aja - 5. Her adopted children all have special needs as they were born addicted to heroin. Kanye has learning disabilities, Aja has speech articulation disorder, and Miguel has Turrets and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

I’ve always admired my sister for her personal strength which is especially evident during this
difficult time of her life. But I’m awestruck by the love, courage, compassion, and generosity that
she demonstrates daily in her role as a mother. Completely undaunted by all the challenges,
she lives life with the motto: “Embrace The Chaos!!!”

As a yogi for the past 20+ years, she continuously seeks opportunities to educate herself in order to deepen her personal practice. Being very knowledgable about the benefits of yoga, she uses it to help calm, de-stress, relax, and to help keep her kids focused.

Her success with her own children inspired her to immerse herself in a kids yoga teacher training with Grounded Kids Yoga, which led to her becoming the yoga guru of Warwick NY, where she teaches at nursery schools, after-school programs, and community organizations.

She has joined The Newark Yoga Movement where teachers teach free yoga classes to underprivileged kids in Newark NJ. Newark is New Jersey’s poorest and toughest city. She’s also just a typical single mom who cooks, disciplines, helps with homework, and teaches her 16 year old how to drive. Every monday, her daughter, Marie, takes off from school to drive her mom 60 miles each way for chemotherapy. I love that they’re still laughing!!! That’s a Yeehaw & Namaste attitude if I’ve ever seen one!

Though she is an equestrian, she hasn’t had much time to ride horses herself recently (her
beloved quarter horse, Oliver, died several years ago). However, she will always make time to take her son, Miguel, to therapeutic riding classes. I’m hoping a Cowgirl Yoga Retreat will remind her of her love of horses, and inspire her to get herself back in the saddle.

Oh, and did I mention that she invented a healthy bread, called Miguel’s Omega 3 Chia Bread?
It’s named after her son because adding Chia’s Omega 3’s to his diet has helped regulate his nervous system. Her goal is to get this bread’s nutrition in the hands of every child in the country…then the world!

Kathleen is almost finished with 12-weeks of aggressive, weekly chemotherapy. This will be followed by Herceptin treatments every three weeks for the rest of her (long, long, long) life. A picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, closer to 250-ish words.

About Kelly
2015 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

I'm a 33 year old wife and mother of two young children. Over the last 16 months, I have been fighting a very tough battle with an aggressive stage 4 triple negative breast cancer. I endured various types of chemo, four surgeries, and was almost finished with radiation when I found a new lump in May. The cancer we thought we had almost beat had already come back, and additional scans showed it had spread to my lungs. Up until this time, I continued with life as usual, working full time and taking care of my two young children while undergoing treatments. After finding out my cancer had spread and was now classified as “incurable”, I took a medical retirement from my job of 11 years to have more time with my family and focus on me. This summer I participated in a clinical trial of experimental treatments to try attacking the cancer with a new method. The treatments appeared to be working for the first few months until a few weeks ago, when my last scan showed further metastasis. I was disqualified from continuing with the cynical trial. I mentioned to the doctor that I had a headache that would not go away, so the doctor ordered a brain MRI, which revealed two brain tumors. I was rushed into the neurosurgery ICU where I spent 11 days and had 2 emergency brain surgeries to remove the tumors. Thanks to the blessed hands of an amazing neurosurgical team and miracles only capable through the power of prayer, I am still alive today to tell my story! I will keep battling with brain radiation next on the treatment regiment then will continue on with a new clinical trial. I am a fighter and will not let cancer beat me!

I don’t have a lot of experience interacting with horses, but find myself amazed at their beauty. The few times that I have been lucky enough to ride a horse have been absolutely incredible experiences. Yoga, on the other hand, I am much more experienced with. I love yoga! I have been practicing various formats of yoga for years and have found yoga to be an especially great escape to help cope with the many stresses that come along with fighting cancer.

A Cowgirl Yoga retreat sounds like the most fun and inspirational experience to help with my healing process. Not only would it be a excellent opportunity to meet and bond with other ladies that have gone through similar experiences, but it would be a wonderful escape to treat myself to some “me” time for healing.

“Yeehaw & Namaste” means to me one heck of a good time! Strap on those cowgirl boots & ride “Yeehaw”, then relax with some down time “Namaste”. It's the best of both worlds! Two kinds of happiness all wrapped into one.

About Mary Ann
2015 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

I’m a 10+ year breast cancer kickin’ cowgirl and warrior! I’m also a mother, author, founder of The Get In Touch Foundation, and health activist.

I’ve been living with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer for the last 3 ½ years and I’ll be in treatment for the rest of my life, which is fine by me since right now my cancer is uncharacteristically stable!

I must confess that I’m the winner of Big Sky Yoga’s 2014 Ariat Cancer Kickin’ Cowgirl Boots and although I’ve long fancied myself an actual cowgirl, I now feel somewhat validated in my self-imposed moniker!

Why a cowgirl? I spent my first paycheck as a 16-years old on a pair of Dingo cowgirl boots that I placed on lay-a-way! (Remember lay-a-way?!)

My cherished boots have valiantly weathered 34 years and now reside on the feet of my 22-year old daughter who wears them with sundresses, jeans, or shorts – I do believe I have raised myself another cowgirl!

My other two children are equally infatuated with all things cowgirl/cowboy, unusual for a family from Connecticut, the land of prepsters and hipsters!

I practice yoga every day, if only for a few minutes on the floor in my bedroom before I rise to hop back on the chemo-horse and ride into my day.

My boots and my yoga make me feel like I can wrangle the biggest “bull” I run into on any given day with a big fat “Yeehaw & Namaste!”

About Melissa
2015 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

In September, I learned my breast cancer was back and I would begin a third round of chemotherapy. I was first diagnosed with breast cancer while serving in Iraq in 2009. It is an 18 week regimen that will be followed by surgery to remove the mass.

In December, I will receive my provisional license as a therapist specializing in animal assisted psychotherapy. After my experiences in Iraq and with cancer, I wanted to do something to help my fellow veterans and others struggling with PTSD. Since I have loved nature and animals my whole life, animal assisted psychotherapy was a natural draw. Dr. Frank Green afforded me the opportunity to work as an intern with Charis Foundation on Serenity Grace Farm. I immediately fell in love with the horses there. As a child, I had always wanted a horse but they were too expensive for my family to afford.

When I learned of this recurrence, I told Nutmeg, our sorrel Arabian Cross, first. Our morning “talks” during feed time helped me summon my inner strength to face cancer treatment yet again. For me, “Yeehaw & Namaste” conjures the image of mornings on the farm. The peaceful stillness as everything awakens and begins a new day reminds me that each day is a new opportunity to be cherished, pursued wholeheartedly, and met with a smile. A scholarship to this retreat will help my physical, mental, and emotional well-being as I face this latest round of treatment.

Congrats to the 2015 cancer kickin' cowgirls!
Yeehaw & Namaste.