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Hello there -- I'm Elise Gaston Chand and I'd like to thank you for giving my podcast a listen!

My family swears my first word was "horse." For sure, from the moment I could hurl myself around the car as we drove through the Virginia countryside, I was pointing out every horse in every field we passed, calling "Horse! Horse!" 

We didn't have horses. My parents and older brother really couldn't give a hoot about them. But for me? You'd think they were four-legged angels come to earth. Every book I could get my hands on (and we're a Reading Family, capitol R/capitol F, so there were always tons of books), every doodle and scribble, every TV show, every make-believe game, every toy (Breyer horses, of course).... it was all about horses.

My parents decided if I was going to ride, I was going to ride correctly and safely. So my mom found a great lesson barn for me and, ultimately, I joined the US Pony Club.  My folks drew the line at my taking my horse, Whipper Snapper, to college with me, though, so my Thoroughbred-cross jumper went into semi-retirement between school breaks.

I realized upon graduation that a horse wouldn't fit in my tiny Alexandria, Virginia, apartment so, reluctantly, Whip's retirement became more permanent as I pursued a fledgling journalism career reporting on Capitol Hill. My then-20-year-old gelding did a great job babysitting weanlings on the Thoroughbred breeding farm where he was happily ensconced and my adult life moved on.

One year in my early thirties, I drove home after work -- I was married at this point and living in Dallas, Texas -- to find a pickup truck and loaded horse trailer in front of my house. My zero-lot-line house, deep in the heart of heavily populated Dallas. My heart all but exploded from my chest, thinking maybe my then-husband had, somehow, bought a horse to surprise me -- the quintessential city guy, this wasn't likely, but hey, there was a truck/trailer and horse in front of our house!  I realized very quickly that the beastie wasn't for me, after all... and no one was more surprised than I was when I promptly burst into tears.  And I don't cry pretty.

Hubby, horrified as only a guy can be when presented with his hysterical wife, immediately suggested I start looking for a horse. It was like the heavens opened and the angels sang a glorious chorus! The search began and, ultimately, I discovered one of the top US breeders of Andalusians (Pure Spanish Horses) about an hour away in Aubrey, Texas.  I bought my first Andalusian at three days of age and named him Novelisto (Spanish for "novelist," since my second passion is writing)... and, like Pringles, I couldn't stop at just one horse.

Pretty soon, my quickly growing colt had a gelding buddy, then an imported filly (future girlfriend), then another filly, and another... and Cortijo Chand Pure Spanish Horses really got going. Several years of blissful training, breeding, importing/exporting, competing, etc., and I was -- angels singing again -- a professional horsewoman. While working full-time. And raising a baby.

But life happens and, ultimately, health issues and a divorce put the kibosh on the farm. The horses and equipment were sold, all to great homes with me watching from afar as the Horse of My Life (horsepeople will totally get this) Novelisto has become a movie star, appearing alongside the likes of Russell Crowe, Will Smith, and Colin Farrell.

I switched from journalism to Human Resources and my corporate career took off, my daughter got older, and life pretty much moved on. Somewhere in there, I became a multi-published author, very happily fulfilling another dream. But I never lost my love for horses, using every opportunity to ride or -- barring that -- to photograph others' horses.

I've been blessed to travel quite a bit and always enjoy meeting people along the way, learning about their lives and experiences. And, more and more, I've met folks who have designed wonderful existences doing exactly what they want to be doing, pursuing their passions, and absolutely loving their lives.

Time and again, I've been impressed -- and humbled -- by these incredible people. By their generosity in sharing their stories with me, by their appreciation for everyone along the way who helped them, by their having overcome countless obstacles and still maintaining a positive outlook... But most especially, by their giving back -- to the next generation, to others who are on a similar journey, to people and animals and causes in need.

Each and every time I've met fascinating people like these, I've wondered -- How are they doing this? How are they making it work? Where did they find the courage to step away from a "secure and predictable" career to design something that perfectly meshed with what they loved doing? Not only improving their own lives, but helping others, too?

And that's how the Because of Horses online radio program (podcast) came into being. Each week, I'll feature a guest who has found a way to incorporate their passion into their every day lives, designing a rich. meaningful existence, and even helping make the world a better place. All because of that passion. It just happens that, in this radio program, the passion is horses.

My hope is that we'll all learn more about how we each might craft our own well-designed, intentional life, too. Because of Horses.

- Elise

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