Helen ~ The Value Project // Hillsborough, NC

“What makes ME feel valued? Hmm. That’s not an easy question, is it?”

Early Sunday morning, I walked up to Helen’s house. I could see the barns off to the side, I could hear a rooster announcing the Sun’s arrival. Helen brewed us a cup of coffee and we sat down to talk. Coffee and conversation: Two of my favorite things.

“I’m not a pro-trainer. I could be, but I do this for me. These horses provide an opportunity for me to look at myself. Animals aren’t fake, they don’t have an agenda. They simply hold a sacred space. They do what they’re created to do; They just ARE. Introspection is a luxury, you know? I’m constantly thinking about what I need to do with myself, so that I don’t negatively affect them? Nothing in my life is separate. As I like to say, ‘All the food on my plate touches.’ The things I learn while working with my horses are the same things that I want to implement in my personal life and in my business. It’s my job to make sure that things are lined up and in place.”

Helen sits facing the back porch door, looking out over the training grounds and her horses as she talks. Soft light filters in, warming my shoulders and lighting up her face.

“My mother is from Argentina. Being first-born to a Latina mother and I wasn’t a boy, was hard. My mother was terrified. She didn’t know what to do with me. The horse thing, that was my thing. When I was 11, I had a best friend that took riding lessons and worked with me at the stables. We cleaned out the stalls, worked with the horses, did whatever was necessary. I was working to ride. We, (Nick and I) got to be kind of feral. We would get on our ponies and just ride through the woods, across counties. He was way braver than I was. He gave me courage when I didn’t have any.”

“What makes me feel valued? Feeling heard. I was in rehab for two years when I was 16.  I can remember asking myself, ‘how do I not feel so terrible? To bear being in this world?’ But I had people in my life who thought I was worth saving. Without them, I probably wouldn’t be here. I was institutionalized for my drug addiction, locked away. The consequences of that made me realize that I had to make better choices for my own survival. Looking at the course my life has taken, dealing with my addiction and being locked away, it took me a while to get my voice back. Being able to speak, to voice what I feel and having someone hear me, is how I feel valued. It’s being heard.”

“Out of all of this, Haven came to be. I want my salon to be a place of unconditional love and acceptance. My job is to listen to you; To what you’re saying or not saying. Someone thought that I was worth saving. I want the people I come in contact with to know that I understand that their lives are fragile and I can care for them. I love it here. Hillsborough is where I settled. It was important for me to have a place to be near my horses. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be with them. They are a commentary on who I am. Not the state of my house or how messy my life is. Those beautiful creatures out there are.”

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