She's trying to 'live one heck of a good life.'
First off, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your family, education, background/previous stops, career, etc.?
I was raised on a crop farm south of Fisher, MN where we had horses and cattle as I got a little older. I went to college for Registered Nursing. I am married to an amazing cowboy that I met in College while in Bemidji. We were engaged at a rodeo in Effie, Mn where he stopped the rodeo to propose before he roped. We were married outdoors on the family farm with horses, hay bales, and an awesome live band barn dance! I rode in on horseback and we tried to ride out to the reception by horseback but had some bad weather come in and we had to get off the horses (lightning).
We now will be married 13 years this summer and have 3 sons and 1 daughter that are pretty darn incredible. My poor husband has always been so supportive of all of my crazy adventures and for that I am so thankful. He is the epitomy of grace and patience. He works so hard to help me reach my goals even when I bite off more than I can chew. I have had lots of great experiences in my career that have led me down paths that I never saw coming.
I was a nurse and then went back into agriculture, which landed me in an amazing position at AgriMAX in Fisher, MN. This position grew and evolved, helping me learn so much about agriculture, which was a passion of mine due to growing up watching my family farm. AgriMAX helped me grow as a professional and I am so grateful for my bosses that took me under their wing in that position. I then started to go into our local school to teach elementary students about Agriculture.
That opportunity led me into teaching an agriculture class in Fisher School. That class turned into a full time teaching opportunity and I was very excited to be able to introduce students to the world of Agriculture. Along with Teaching at Fisher and Climax-Shelly Schools, My husband, Travis and I started a program called Walk By Faith Therapeutic Riding.
How early in your life did you know you were a cowgirl? (And I pose that question in the most positive, complimentary sense.)
I am not sure when exactly I became a cowgirl or even if I can truely wear that badge of honor yet because I am always learning, but I have loved horses ever since I could remember. I don't think I ever consciously made the decision to be so interested in horses, It was just always in me. I would visit my cousin's farm and ride or I would attend lessons at UMC when I was young, just to be near horses. In junior high and high school, I would spend my summer weekends bouncing from horse show to horse show with my father. I had so much fun and really had another family in my horse show friends.
Then I met Travis in my first year in Bemidji, who trained horses and lived the same lifestyle. Horses were part of our engagment and also a part of our wedding. Our family now rodeos together. My husband and I rope and our oldest son rides mini-broncs, while our daughter runs barrels (which is what I enjoyed growing up competing in)
You wear cowboy boots, boot-cut jeans, big belt buckles, flannel and long-sleeved button-up shirts with big checkered patterns, and a cowboy hat? How do you best explain to someone who simply doesn’t get it that this is simply your way of life and you love it?
Believe me, my cowgirl fashion has not always been the most popular but it was always true to me. When you often head straight from school to the barn or spend your weekends and evenings with your horse family: boots, jeans and belt buckles become your natural choice of attire. It is like riding your own Harley, which was also a part of my life for a few years, you start to wear leather chaps, leather jackets, leather boots. You wear these things initially for safety, but then they become a part of you. My cowboy boots are an expression of me, and plus what doesn't a good pair of cowboys boots go with anyway ;)
Tell me a little bit about Walk By Faith Therapeutic Riding. How it got started, what you’re doing with it now, and what you hope it comes in the future…
Walk by Faith Therapeutic Riding began as a dream of mine, I wanted to use horses to give back and brought it up to Travis. Anyone who knows Travis knows that he believes that absolutely anything is possible with a little bit of faith and hard work. We decided that we were going to go for it! We formed Walk By Faith Therapeutic riding which is a non-profit that allows us to provide riding lessons to incredible little children with special needs.
About a year or so after we started the children's program we decided to kick start a veterans side to the program. Travis had a buddy that had been deployed and Travis wanted to be able to give back to those that have given so much of themselves to provide us our freedom.
We started talking about what the veteran's program could look like. Around that same time, Travis had mentioned in passing that he would really like to adopt a mustang. So what do I do? Naturally, I apply for adopting a mustang immediately before he can change his mind ;) We brought our first mustang home that October and his name was Hunter. Hunter's gentling and training became the avenue we were going to use to give back to our Veterans.
Anyone who knows you even a little bit knows that it’s no accident that you have the word “Faith” in your non-profit venture’s title. Please share the role faith plays in your non-profit and in your life.
When we started the program, we had our fair share of setbacks and hurdles. There were so many roadblocks that it often felt impossible, but often we had to put trust in our faith. Surely, our complications would figure themselves out and our road to serving others would open back up.
In reality, I am a very anxious person and I tend to take on way more than I probably ever should, but those wild adventures often lead to some pretty incredible experiences.
I love horses even though I’ve ridden one once in my life. I could just stand there and pet one and talk to it all day. As someone who obviously loves horses and knows infinitely more about them than I do, please try to explain what makes horses so amazing.
Horses are super intelligent creatures. They can sense things that ourselves that we often can't see or don't want to admit. They are great mirrors of what we are feeling on the inside. They are protectors of those that they trust, and they take that job very seriously. When you partner with a horse, they take care of you. now that I have children, I see it in a whole new level. I watch this big 15+ hand gelding carefully maneuver around three barrels carrying a beautiful little 6 year old blondie that barely has the muscle strength to even tip his nose. But he listens, he predicts her movements, he stops slowly so she doesn't lose her balance. He listens to her soft little verbal cues and lets her build her confidence.
They just know what we need, often before we do. They have been there to bring a smile when I needed it, to dry many tears, to listen, to build my confidence, and sometimes to knock my stubbornness down a notch, and in all honesty, they have been the center to some of our best and most unforgettable family memories.
If you could name one teacher in your life who had the most profound effect on you and inspired you more than any other teacher to follow your dreams and be the best person you could possibly be, who would that teacher be? (Wink, wink…) Please explain why…
When I was a junior in high school, I decided I wanted to take a different path in my education and I started pursuing college in high school. Spring semester of my junior year, I stepped way out of my comfort zone and enrolled at the University of Minnesota, Crookston. At the time, this option was not very common because jumping into college at a young age could be very challenging. When I went to sign up for classes and had to make sure that the classes I chose met the credits needed for my high school graduation requirements.
One of my classes was a composition class, but that class was 1 credit short of what I needed. My advisor recommended taking a college writing prep course to make up that last credit needed for graduating. My first week of classes I remember feeling so intimidated and a bit worried about if I could really pull all of this off. As my first couple of weeks unfolded and my initial assignments were being handed in and graded, I remember feeling very unsure of myself.
I walked into college writing prep class and my instructor had just read one of my writing assignments saying something like, why are you even in this prep course, you are an excellent writer and will do well here. He always knew how to build me up to keep pushing through the hard assignments and was always there if I needed help. Throughout that semester, this instructor built up my self-confidence and gave me the guts to keep going. To this day, he is always there to show support of my adventures and keeps up with what I am doing in life. He also happens to be the one asking me these questions :)
I have had so many great teachers shape the person I am today and am so grateful!
I’m not a big fan of the phrase “living your best life.” But from my perspective, you seem to be pretty close to living your best life. Is that a fair assessment of Kristen Schwarz? Please explain…
I don't know if I would say that but I am sure living one heck of a good life :) Because I have a tendency to always be a dreamer, I think there are still goals that I want to work towards and one day achieve. Honestly, there are always going to be things I would love to be better at or focus more on. Life is about being a life-long learner and man do I have a lot more learning to do. :)
Let’s say you’re stranded on a deserted island. You have an endless supply of food and water and you have shelter, but you don’t know if you’re ever going to be rescued. Somehow, you have a TV and stereo that work. For all of your time there, you can only listen to three songs and watch three movies. What three songs and three movies would you have with you on the island?
Oh jeepers, If you ask my husband, he will tell you that I don't really like to watch a movie more than once unless I haven't seen it in a VERY long time. lol Pure Country is one of my favorites if I had to pick. I remember watching it with my dad growing up and when Travis and I first started dating, he asked if I wanted to watch a movie and guess what movie he had :))) Our daughter also got her name from this movie, Harleigh. Now go out and rent it Mike, it has George Strait so you really can't lose anything by giving it a watch. ;)
As far as music, I like a little bit of everything! My music choices bounce around in many different genre's. I love 80's rock ballads and even though he secretly despises them, I often get to belt them out on road trips with my husband. I love the country music from my younger years including Garth Brooks and George Strait. As for my most commonly played at this moment, I would say, Porch Swing Angel by Muscadine Bloodline, Shinedown's remake of Simple Man, Tangled Up in You by Staind, Island by Trent Wilmon and Beautiful Crazy by Luke Combs. But If I had to listen to the same three songs over and over, I would hate them in a quick hurry tho lol.
People tend to overuse the word “hero” these days, so I’m not asking you to list any of your personal heroes. But could you mention three people that you look up to or particularly admire, and explain why?
I have so many people that I look up to, that this would be really hard to answer with only three!
Number 1 & 2 would have to be my parents. Growing up my parents have always been great role models for hard work and determination. They worked hard to raise 4 kids while making sure that the farm continued and we had everything we needed. They made sure that we grew up with incredible experiences and continue to do the same with their 13 grandkids.
My number 3 is my husband, Travis. This man will work until the daylight is almost gone, then come home and saddle horses, or pull the roping dummies so that his kids and wife can rope. He loves working on the farm and many days goes straight from working on the farm to working on trimming other people's horses in the evening, only to return home and read books for the kids before bedtime. He has a heart for his family and friends that never ceases to amaze me. This man also can ride a horse with such grace and beauty, that I am often jealous that I will never look like that on a horse. He has an uncanny way of leading without even speaking and can make any person feel welcome when he is around.
Please describe yourself in ten words or less...
Farm girl trying to do her best for family/community.