Hair and makeup on the portraits by Robyn Lynch @rlbeautydotcom
It took less than five minutes of speaking with Charisse to know we needed to share her wisdom and strength with all of you. It takes a person of tremendous grit and patience to compete in the 100-mile endurance riding events she participates in. It stopped me in my tracks — 100 miles? Meaning all day? As in you are doing this in the backcountry in pitch-black darkness? Wow, talk about trust; this is next level.
When we think about north stars for how one can live at our age, she is shining brightly. This wonderful, warm, open soul has a remarkable way of making everyone feel welcome, including what seems to be the entire plant and animal kingdoms, all of which flourish in her presence. This beautiful woman is the embodiment of age and wisdom.
How long have you been in this house? It is rather magical here.
Thank you, I’m happy you feel the magic. I affectionately call it the Zen Hacienda. I bought it in ’99 so I could have my horses on the property. Aren’t the trees spectacular? Many are hundreds of years old. I designed the front garden so while sitting on my sofa I had a peaceful view. I love it here.
Horses as Life Inspiration
You have a new initiative, “The Let Go,” that is inspired by your relations with your horses. What is that about?
I move through the world by the lessons I’ve learned from horses. They are the inspiration for my life and the name of my blog/my book in the works, The Let Go.
When training horses, you apply pressure to cue or teach them to do something. The nanosecond they move away from the pressure, which means they are complying with the cue, you release the pressure. The release is what I call The Let Go, and it informs their brain they had the correct thought and are taking the proper action. The release is the reward for doing the right thing.
As humans, letting go of anything that no longer serves us is a reward to ourselves. It’s decluttering our souls by letting go of all of the shit we no longer need. The Let Go is a lifestyle blog, but it’s not about which sofa to buy, it is about how we design our lives.
“The Let Go” and Understanding Yourself
What is your ambition for The Let Go?
To help people better understand themselves. I write about all aspects of life. An area I am passionate about is giving people permission to age. By shedding the beliefs surrounding the aging process, we can become the #socialtrendworthfollowing.
When we were younger, there were very few role models who were cool, healthy, and living interesting lives in their 50s, 60s, 70s. Our generation is filled with vibrant people. Through social media and advertising, we have an opportunity to set an example for younger people and show them the other side of age.
Because we age, it does not mean it’s too late to redefine and refine our identities. Our evolution comes from no longer following the social norms that hold us back. By embracing our age and wisdom, we are shaping how younger generations view aging.
Animals as Friends
You have a great relationship with our fellow creatures. Has it always been like that?
I do, and it has. If I could bring home every stray I see I would, but I can’t. I do what I can. I must admit, amongst friends my nickname is Ms. Dr. Dolittle.
I see that when you are riding, you often don’t use the reins, but rather hold the horse at his mane. Why is that?
Well, I do hold the reins, I just don’t rely on them for balance or steering. The picture I think you are referring to is going up a very steep rock. To get off of my horse’s back, allowing him freedom of movement, I was holding the mane to help me stay up out of the saddle. To guide a horse, you use your seat and legs; the hands are secondary.
Do you have children?
No. I always thought I would, although I was never baby crazy. It’s funny; I was more attracted to puppies and kittens than babies; then the window of opportunity passed. It took me a few years to mourn the idea of not experiencing childbirth, but I am very content now. And no, my pets are not my children. My animals are my animals, and I love them as family, but they are not a substitute.
Around the World to Find Riding
I recall you lived in France for a time. Could you give us a bit of background on your life story?
I was born in Southern California. My family moved quite a bit, including moving to Europe when I was 8. We eventually landed in Newport Beach where I graduated high school a year early, and although I made it through one year of city college, I knew my education would happen in the world so I started my sojourn. I wanted to be a ski bum, so I moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a year, then to Maui, where I lived off the grid for 4 years, growing my food, riding horses, dabbling in real estate and practicing yoga. From there, I moved to NYC to work in the fashion industry. I was also briefly married while I was there.
Fleeing my marriage, quitting my job, and looking for a new adventure, I flew to Paris for what I thought was a month, which turned into 2 years. While there, I practiced asana, meditated and chanted several hours a day, and deepened my yoga practice. I also began to write. It was there the ideas for The Let Go started, but it took 30 more years of living before I could share it with the world.
After Paris, I made my way back to LA which again I thought was going to be a brief stay. The first week I was here, I booked a commercial as an actor, started working with my mother, who was a casting director, and I was given a horse. That horse took me on the trail of becoming an endurance rider. I have been casting now 30+ years. I guess we land where we are supposed to.
You do this most amazing sport: long-distance horse racing. What is that?
It’s called Endurance Riding in the USA and Endurance Racing internationally, which are 50 -100-mile events. One rider, one horse. I competed in both arenas. There are mandatory veterinarian stops for the horse, so it is very regulated.
“I love to ride at night”
Help us to understand, how do you ride a horse in wild terrain at night?
Trust. I love to ride at night. Trusting my horse is the most significant factor. Horses can see better than humans, so you need to let go of wanting to control them, and allow them to guide you. My job as a rider is to be balanced and centered on his back and as light as possible — oh, and keep one hand ready to protect my face from low branches! You get great at ducking.
This incredible photo of you riding up the mountain, where was that?
On Cougar Rock, the infamous pièce de résistance of the Tevis Cup. It is a 100-mile race, also known as the Western States Trail Ride from Squaw Valley, CA to Auburn, CA. The Tevis is the granddaddy of endurance, also referred by many as the hardest endurance race in the world. An interesting statistic is more people have summited Mt. Everest than have completed Tevis.
Lady Luck was with me. I was able to finish three times.
“That moment I will never forget”
There was a story that you wrote about, the moment on the rock where you almost lost your horse. How did you save him?
They say challenges never come to us unless we are prepared for them and fortuitously for me, that day I was ready. Life is amazing if you are open to the wisdom it serves up.
The story you are referring to was during the Tevis Cup. My horse Steel slipped on a boulder in the Granite Chiefs. Luckily, I had run into a friend a few weeks prior, and he shared with me a story of a mutual friend who had just lost her horse during a training ride on the exact boulders on which I now found myself. If he had not given me the information on how to lower the horse’s head to get him to scramble up with his haunches, which is counter-intuitive to how a horse moves, I would have lost him on the side of the mountain.
I remember looking into those beautiful brown eyes of his and willed him with every ounce of determination and willpower in me for him to scurry up. That moment I will never forget. And to this day, as I think about it tears well up. Our eyes met, and he knew that we were in this together. Our minds were synced.
“Horses see the images we think”
As with all animals, horses see the images that we think, and my entire focus was seeing him safe at the top of the boulder. Never losing eye contact, and “Don’t Let Go” screaming in my head, I gave the last pull. Steel made his move and was able to scurry to the top of the rock, standing up.
I don’t remember exactly what was being said by the other riders nearby, but I felt if there could have been a standing ovation for Steel’s courage, there would have been.
You have the sweetest Dobies. One was rescued?
Yes, Antoinette is an older girl. She came to me last year as a foster, but I was a foster failure. I kept her. Her situation was terrible: mistreated, chained, and starved. What’s wrong with people? Thankfully, Joie de Vivre, my younger girl, is the epitome of her name and has shown her what the good life is about.
How often do you ride these days?
Lately, I have only been riding casually, maybe twice a week. However, recently I’ve been inspired to race again. A friend offered me some horses to compete on, so I now need to get back to training.
“Yoga keeps me centered on all my adventures”
I recall you do a lot of yoga, which is all about breathing and centering. It must help with your relationship with the horses?
Yoga helps me with everything. It keeps me centered on all my adventures, but breathing is definitely essential when riding. It’s why I never rode with an iPod even though it is a popular trend. I wanted to hear my horse’s breath. It’s my gauge on how he’s doing, guiding me if I needed to slow down allowing him to recover or if we could go full out. It also worked conversely: when I was tired, his breath would recharge me. Listening to the rhythm was my metronome, syncing our energies to work as one.
“I think skin starts with our diets”
How do you take care of your skin from being in the sun so much? It looks amazing.
Thank you. I thank genetics to start; my mother is Japanese. Other than that, I think skin starts with our diets. I drink mainly water and eat very simple, clean food. I have not eaten meat since I was 14. Now it’s primarily a plant-based diet with occasional dairy, and even more rarely, I’ll eat poultry. I do on occasion love french fries, though.
Having grown up at the beach, I started using sunscreen when I was a teenager before it was mainstream; I remember it was Rachel Perry. Thankfully, I was obsessed with using sunscreen throughout my endurance racing years. And hats. I love hats! One of my grandmothers was a milliner. Other than that, I don’t have any specific product I use regularly. I just keep hydrated.
Speaking of hats, what is the story of the cowboy hat you are wearing?
It belonged to my stepdad (my dad for 45 years) who was a stunt man. He was James Arness’ double on Gunsmoke for the run of the show plus thousands of other shows. He also wrote for Bonanza. At the end of his life, he was in hospice on morphine. I told him it was ok to leave. He asked me for advice, where should he go? I told him to find his light and hit his mark, which for a lifelong stunt man is always what one does. I went to dinner that night and when I returned, he was gone. I miss him terribly.