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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

Thank you for the nominations for our 2016 retreat.
We will be taking nominations for 2017 this fall.

Our 2013 C vs C Cowgirls are in the JADE Yoga 2016 calendar, featuring businesses that make a difference!

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 2016 retreat, we've 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 2016 program:

Alpine Organic Farm
Anahata Mala

Balo Vineyards
Creative Quarterback
Dosha Pops
Double T River Ranch
GLOW for a Cause
Good Karmal
Kate's Catering
Land of Enchantment Equine Yoga
Larry Stanley Photography
Liberty Bottles
Lisa Laird Yoga
Milk Thistle Skincare & Massage Studio
Old Gringo
One Horse Threads
Pura Vida Bracelets
The Tea Spot
Yogi Surprise

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 continue to grow this program and hope to send out many more pairs. Help us buy the boots by making a donation! Nominate yourself or another cowgirl here.

Make a Donation

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

Meet our 2016 Scholarship Recipients

About Carlene
2016 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

One year ago today, I got the phone call that I had breast cancer. In this year, I have been lifted up by so many but I have also worked fiercely to power through for my husband and children. I look back on much of this past year and see how much I dealt with and kept in so that everyone around me was taken care of. I am now starting to process the magnitude of what has happened physically and mentally, the fear of what could occur in the future and it can all be overwhelming. I am feeling a little lost and a little sad. My guess is that this is all emotion that has to pass through me in order to get to the other side. I think that much of this year was spent “fighting”, being strong for others and just generally holding it all together. I lost my mother to colon cancer (she was 36) and my mother in law to breast cancer (age 59). Right or wrong, seeing what they went through was something I wanted to shield my own children from.

Part of what fuels me, in addition to my family and friends, is knowing that I now posses a new power to help others. I know that this experience will shape the rest of my life in a positive way. I love to teach yoga and share the peace and space it has created in my life. I know that this experience will allow me to find a powerful way to help others going through challenging situations and I am open to see how.

Now is my time to really take care of myself and allow the healing to happen both physically and emotionally. I never put myself first and I see how, at times, this can really hurt me and impede the healing process. The Cowgirls vs. Cancer retreat would be an opportunity to be around other women who understand the journey, to support and inspire others and be inspired and supported.

Yeehaw and Namaste means we celebrate and lift up each other. We see each other as whole, healthy, vibrant souls and celebrate that with a big YEEHAW! 

About Debbie
2016 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

Forest Fire was a Shire-Thoroughbred cross, a gentle giant. When I rode him I felt strong and free, like nothing could stop me. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer and began treatment, I missed that freedom and strength he gave me.

I have always been a strong person so I faced cancer the same way I faced everything else difficult in life, head down and pushing forward until I made it through. I spoke at functions to encourage and support other women battling breast cancer. I wanted to share my strength with others. If I could make a difference for one woman, then this battle wouldn’t be for nothing.

I was an active person and getting weak and not being able to do my sweat dripping workouts was difficult. That’s when I found yoga. When I thought my body was failing me and my muscles were disappearing before my eyes, I would do yoga. After a session I would feel calm and comforted in knowing that my body still worked and though my muscles were smaller, they still had strength. Yoga let me know that chemo was not taking everything from me. I was still me.

On January 23, 2015 after 13 months, 17 days, 2 hours and 30 minutes I completed breast cancer treatment. When I was finished with treatment I thought “now I’m DONE, now I can move on”. After all my strength during treatment, I find that the hardest part is after treatment. I underestimated the challenge of this, and how emotional it would be. I continue to use yoga to help me through. After a session I feel calm, like I can breathe again.

I would love to attend this retreat to be surrounded by women that understand, in a beautiful healing place. A place where we can support and help each other heal…and share our strength. To me “Yeehaw” means thundering across fields on gentle giants feeling like a strong warrior that can’t be defeated. “Namaste” means calm, to not look over my shoulder in fear…to just breathe. Combining the two means “you can’t stop me…I’ve got this!”

About Erin
2016 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

Yeehaw and Namaste” seems the perfect mantra for me to embrace as my fifth year of breast cancer survivorship begins this November. To me it means, “Celebrate! Reflect and have peace...Live life!  

I am Erin, a North Carolinian, whose inner cowgirl yogini comes out while living the balance of country girl in my time spent outdoors with my girls and my man, going with my youngest to the barn and marveling at the beauty and strength of the horses, yet living in peace with gratitude daily as I strive to give back in my daily walk. Making my weekly yoga survivors’ class was my goal each week through over a year of treatment...I went no matter what; it was where I found my mojo each week to keep fighting and keep believing while resting and listening for that still, small voice to reassure me, “All is well.”  My yoga mat was integral in healing all of me.

I live in full-on, High Definition...“Yeehaw, ya’ll!”, teaching, volunteering, and mentoring out of thanksgiving, and I crave more oases to center my heart on all the blessings my life has afforded me with people who “get” where I have been...Namaste.

After surviving a bilateral mastectomy as a triple positive survivor (diagnosed at 34) and a hysterectomy, I know the time to pursue my dreams is now. I’ve had my heart set on coming to Bozeman for several years as my cousin lives there. When I learned of this retreat, my heart literally fluttered as I pondered, “Maybe...” My curls have grown back, and I have resumed my “normal.” This retreat would afford me the continued reflection I desire to stay rooted, never losing sight of how grateful I am for one more day, one more memory. What a blessing it will be to come to Montana to celebrate LIFE, HOPE, and HEALTH in true “YEEHAW and Namaste” style!

About Jennie
2016 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 Ingrid
2016 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

Photo by Chad Awalt, taken the day after I completed radiation, for a series he did of cancer survivors.

I've been a breast cancer survivor for nearly half my life now. Incredible!

I learned early on, along with all the medical information that shoved its way into my consciousness, that two things would play a huge role in my survivorship: movement and the outdoors.

Yoga, dance, bicycling; hiking and swimming. I had always loved them and now they were proof that I could feel healthy and vigorous, even during treatment. As I prepared for each surgery, places in nature that I loved became the settings for calming meditation. As I recovered, I swam in the ocean every chance I got, and if I could do it without a bathing suit (YEEHAW!) all the better.

My first diagnosis was at 35. After 13 cancer free years, I had a second diagnosis that tested my resolve, for sure, but today I am six years out from my last round of treatment. If I ever doubt my strength, I remind myself that I've biked the 200-mile Tour de Pink for Young Survival Coalition, an organization for young women with breast cancer. Four times.

On my fiftieth birthday, instead of a party, I opted for an equine experience at a ranch in Arizona. Grooming and riding a beautiful, gentle horse under a brilliant desert sky was a namaste moment, for sure, full of peace and trust.

YEEHAW is physical exhilaration: body-surfing a big wave, or plunging down a hill on a bike. Sharing and laughing with my sister survivors. Opening my eyes to new landscapes.

About Karen
2016 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

Nominated by her friend Mary Ann

My sweet friend Karen was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer just two days shy of her 39th birthday, her twin daughters Zoe and Clea about to turn 10 – all just days away from Christmas 2012. Karen, an elementary school teacher, is serene and gentle; her personality already Zen-like, she endured treatment with grace and beauty, immediately incorporating yoga into her life to find an even deeper sense of peace. It is a beautiful thing to see Karen stand in tree pose, you sense she is reaching up toward her adoring husband and loving daughters… she becomes the tree, strong and powerful, beautiful and grounded…she is small, but mighty.

Karen’s daughter rode horses for three years as a young child, and Karen attended each riding session, admiring the connection, the freedom and strength that her daughter radiated when she rode. Karen has always wanted to ride and decided she would; those plans were sidelined when she was diagnosed with a stage 4 metastatic recurrence of her breast cancer almost two years after her original diagnosis.

Back on the chemotherapy horse for life-saving aggressive treatment that would test even the strongest constitution, this yoga-loving cowgirl rode that “bucking-cancer-bronco” with skill, her body and soul strong and flexible from her time on the mat.

Karen has had a brutally challenging three years; this retreat would be heaven for her…and she would finally get to ride a horse as gentle as she is, and not the “bucking-cancer-bronco” she’s been riding for three years!

Karen’s “Yeehaw” is the fearless, yet graceful way in which she lives her life, all while riding this “bucking-cancer-bronco” that continually attempts to throw her each and every day.  When you are in Karen’s presence, you feel the honest gift of the “Namaste” attitude she has about each of us lucky enough to be in her orbit.  Without even having to say it to those she is with, you know that the Divine in her honors the Divine in you – she is one of the most gentle and peaceful women I have ever known.

About Kristen
2016 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

I found my tumor during my college reunion. I had been repeatedly vaulting onto an artificial horse at the school’s riding center. My chest muscles became sore and I ran my hand up my sternum to feel what felt like a rib sticking up in my chest. Soon thereafter, I was diagnosed with Stage 2B breast cancer. A (fake) horse probably saved my life!

I am currently in chemotherapy and practicing yoga. I am BRCA2+ and will be undergoing a preventative oophorectomy and a double Mastectomy.

I began riding horses when I was ten years old and my family was having difficulties. Riding kept me on track during some vulnerable years. I had a hiatus during my childbearing years, then got back to it. Two riding accidents later, I stopped riding and discovered yoga as the most effective way to rehabilitate my injuries. But once you catch the horse bug, it doesn’t go away.

Horses have gotten me through tough emotional times. Yoga has seen me through difficult physical rehabilitation. Cancer is hard both physically and emotionally. A Cowgirl Yoga Retreat is the perfect combination for all aspects of healing.

“Yeehaw & Namaste” combines the thrill of life – moments so filled with joy that you unselfconsciously let out a sound – with acknowledgement of and gratitude for all that is good. Cancer survivors need a healthy dose of Yeehaw & Namaste, to be reminded of the thrills of and gratitude for the life for which we have battled so hard.

About Lara
2016 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 at the age of 30, 7 months pregnant with our second son. I was a picture of health - a runner, yogi and health nut…but my world fell apart with three words - you have cancer. I endured chemo, surgeries and reconstruction. Our baby was born healthy and we never lost sight of the possibilities in store for family. Shortly after I started chemo I was sent a box of scarves and a note saying “you can do this.” I turned this scary time in my life into something positive as I shared my headscarves and encouragement with others as had been done for me. Realizing the power of these scarves & stories, I started a nonprofit organization called Hope Scarves - our mission is to share scarves, stories and hope with people facing cancer. We collect scarves and stories from survivors and then send them on to others with a story of encouragement. We have sent over 2,500 Hope Scarves to every state & 12 countries. Our oldest recipient is 92 and our youngest, 5. We have become known as the “sisterhood of the traveling scarves. In 2014 I developed low back pain that wouldn’t go away no matter how many cat/cow combinations I did. An MRI revealed every cancer survivors worst nightmare: metastatic breast cancer. I am now a stage IV breast cancer patient, at the age of 38…but determined as ever to live life to the fullest.

Horses & Yoga
I live in Louisville, KY (nuff said?). This isn’t where I grew up, but one of the best things about raising my family here is horses. I love that they are all around us. I love watching them run. My mother in law has two horses and I’m a little nervous of them. I guess I like watching them run more than being on one myself. I’d like to overcome this apprehension. This retreat seems like a perfect chance to do that! Yoga is an important part of my wellness as I face metastatic disease – my joints are often sore from my treatments, but yoga helps me stay flexible and decreases my pain. Yoga also helps me stay in the present instead of living in fear of the perceived future. Yoga helps me be open to possibilities even when doctors and statistics don’t leave much room for hope.

I would be honored to participate in this retreat for several reasons. First of all I love Montana. We have been skiing in Big Sky 4 times. But, I’ve never seen this magical place in the summertime.  Living with stage IV breast cancer, while raising 10 and 7 year old boys is overwhelming. I am exhausted both physically & emotionally just trying to keep up and maintain a sense of normalcy in our little world, without being overwhelmed with the reality that our time together is fleeting. Each day is a gift and I treasure moments – big and small. But, I don’t often find time for me. I give of myself constantly – either to my family or Hope Scarves. This retreat would be a good chance to recharge and connect with other women.

Yeehaw & Namaste
The balance of living with metastatic breast cancer. Some days I kick up my heels and live life with gusto. Other days I breathe deeply and find stillness. I need both to live life to the fullest.

About Melissa
2016 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.

About Sarah
2016 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

Photo by Tony Cordoza, with makeup by Gina Rivas-Velasquez, as part of their project entitled Contemporary Tribal Markings. Their invitation to have me be part of the project was such a wonderful way to pull myself out of the chemo world for awhile.

In 2010, I was given a completely unexpected diagnosis of breast cancer. After a mastectomy and reconstruction, I was in chemo for five months and radiation for two. I have been in remission for four and a half years.

The combination of horses and yoga makes total sense to me. Both offer us the clarity of the present moment and the simple truth of what's real, and this retreat would provide essential grounding for me in a world that has repeatedly knocked me off my feet. I was "horse crazy" as a kid, reading every horse book I could get my hands on and taking riding lessons when I could, although my parents couldn't afford to send me often. I was introduced to Iyengar yoga in the early 1990s and have practiced since then, exploring ashtanga and power flow and more, taking classes as well as practicing at home. Yoga has been a steadfast companion through pregnancies and parenthood, cancer treatment and recovery, and the loss last year of my brother and only sibling, killed by a drunk driver.

“Yeehaw and Namaste” encompass the whole spectrum of what I seek in my life every day - gratitude for being alive, enthusiasm for the day ahead, honoring the humanity of those around me, and peace. I say that I seek these things because I cannot claim to find them every day - I am human, after all - but I am always seeking them, I am always on the path.

I blog regularly on coping with grief, illness, and crisis in ways that set toxic judgment aside. You can find my writing at www.lifewithoutjudgment.com.

Congrats to the 2016 cancer kickin' cowgirls!
Yeehaw & Namaste.