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Why We "Circle Up"

Not that long ago, humans were more connected. We were more aware of how much we needed each other.

Humans have lived in “herds” for thousands of years — communities, big or small, that have provided us a safe haven for sharing resources and leaning on each other for support and fellowship. Even in these highly technological times when self-sufficiency is the norm, we still long to be connected. It’s how we truly thrive.

When we stray from our herd and stop practicing the basic elements of community-building and trust-growing, our groups and relationships suffer.

Through meaningful experiences and intentional conversation, we can reclaim and revive this simple but essential part of our human story.

Circle Up’s model of Natural Leadership and experiential learning with horses integrates human psychology, animal behavior, and natural systems to offer a unique approach to personal and professional development.

Resources for Crisis and Rapid Change During The Pandemic

Are you or your group needing extra support right now, but you aren’t quite sure where to start? Does it feel disorienting and nearly impossible to create a new daily routine or to find your balance point? Here are some ways Circle Up can offer support:

We come from diverse backgrounds with distinctive life stories, a wide range of expertise, and, at times, hilariously different leadership styles!

Yet, we share a common message and mission:

It’s time to wake up your Natural Leadership and more deeply experience your life.

We believe in the power of awareness, the gifts of authentic relationship, and the necessity of trusting community.

We call it Natural Leadership and we’ve walked every mile of this work ourselves.

Why We Work With Horses

See yourself through the eyes of a horse, and you see your true nature.

Our starting point with any group is with our horses. Simply put, horse work is our assessment tool. While more traditional approaches can be valuable to how we understand ourselves and each other, few are so immediately transformative.

Our equine-assisted activities (non-riding) allow the horses to teach you and show you parts of your leadership that need more room to play.

As prey animals, horses possess exquisitely attuned emotional systems and they are able to pick up on the ever-changing nuances of mammals’ internal workings as they assess for safety. The cohesion of the herd is at the heart of the group’s survival.

They rely on a radical commitment to awareness and to an ever-present feedback system flowing through their herd. This unique sensing system allows the horses to read each other and their environment so they can detect danger and look for opportunities to rest in safety.

It also allows them to read us and to notice the places where we are blocked. Because so much of our innate power is trapped in our thoughts and often self-defeating scripts, our truest desires are just out of our reach.

This is an opportunity to get honest AND gentle feedback from your equine teachers and coaching and support from your human facilitators.

You will leave a Circle Up experience with an open channel of your authentic power ready for you to bring into your world.

Beth Anstandig

Beth Anstandig

Head Cowgirl, Owner

Beth Andstandig is changing the way organizations, leaders, and individuals use their power. As a life-long cowgirl, writer, professor, and licensed psychotherapist, Beth has 25 years of experience developing, implementing, and training people in Natural Leadership—a model she pioneered. Natural leadership helps people awaken their innate awareness so they can live and work with more authentic relationships and connection.

Beth owns Take a Chance Ranch in Morgan Hill, CA providing leadership, culture, and well-being programs through The Circle Up Experience. Together with an ever-growing menagerie of animals, Beth works with human herds onsite and online. She’s trained thousands of leaders and teams from some of the most renowned corporations, universities, and nonprofits.

Beth’s fresh perspective and work integrating basic animal practices into everyday human life have been featured in global media including BBC World Service, PBS, and Forbes. She is a frequent podcast guest, contributing writer for MomsRising, and an advisor and content creator for Kahilla: A Basecamp for Women on the Rise.

Beth has an MA degree in Clinical Psychology from Santa Clara University and an MFA degree in Creative Writing from Arizona State University. Beth is the author of A Garden of Forking Paths (Pearson Longman, 2006) and upcoming The Human Herd: Awakening Our True Nature (Morgan James Publishing, 2021). She lives on her ranch with an expanding community of animal herds.

Our Team

Tami Thompson

Core Facilitator, Horse Expert

Taylor Peterson

Core Facilitator, Outdoor Leadership Expert

Andy Robson
Andy Robson

Circle Up Austin Director and Operations Guru

John Christy

Core Facilitator, First Responder and Recovery Expert

Amy Hublou

Core Facilitator, Horse Expert

Allison Scott

Event and Workshop Coordinator

Lucia Brizzi

Facilitator, Improvisation Expert

Samantha Zorn
Samantha Zorn


Diane Hunter

Core Facilitator

David Hott

Facilitator, Outdoor Leadership Expert

Venerable Ekkasak Aggasakko

Dhammakaya Monk

Join the Natural Leadership School

Graduates of our online training program are invited to work with Circle Up. Now enrolling...


Beth is featured in the latest issue of ShoutOut LA which introduces readers to entrepreneurs focused on having a positive social impact on their community or the world at large. She shares how by helping clients tap into their Natural Leadership, we can better attend to our needs, have deeper and more meaningful relationships with each other, and create psychological safety and trust in our groups and communities.  

Beth Killough on ShoutOutLA


Hardship and Herdship: We Need Each Other

As human animals, we’ve always needed each other. But we’ve spent a few generations forgetting just how much. The global pandemic was our reminder. A giant level set with an invitation to notice and find awe, strength, and innate connection in our human herdship. But we need to get intentional about herd behavior and practice leaning on each other for those instincts to become part of our daily lives. Beth explains in her latest post for MOMSRISING.

MomsRising Logo


The Nature of Closure

The natural rhythm of a new year offers us an opportunity to reflect and repair. It calls upon us to make meaning of what we have walked through and to think ahead to what we will encounter. But before we do the work of setting intentions and thinking ahead, we really need some closure. Read more in Beth’s latest contribution to MomsRising.

MomsRising Logo


Ciocca Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University

Broncos, Actually Video Series
In this episode, Beth (MA Counseling Psychology ’03) shares the dream, literally, that motivated her to start The Circle Up Experience, the impact of the pandemic on mental health and leadership, the role of horse and other animal herds in teaching us about relationships and well-being, and what it means to be an entrepreneur with integrity.

Santa Clara University


Conversations at Basecamp Podcast

Own your narrative. How can we improve the way we relate to ourselves and to others? Dr. Keba Rogers and Beth joined KAHILLA PODCAST, CONVERSATIONS AT BASECAMP for a conversation on Self-Authoring Your Script -- how to define your own beliefs, identity, and purpose for a stronger relationship with yourself and your community.


The Art of Human Whispering

Too often we lead and show up in our relationships with complete ignorance. We plow through each other’s sensitivities like heavy machinery.  With a slight pivot, we can become human whisperers, changing our approach to relating in some simple but profoundly effective ways. Read more in Beth’s latest contribution to MomsRising.

MomsRising Logo


Humans Now and Then podcast: The Nature of Leadership for our Human Herd

Humans, Now and Then explores how our rapidly changing world impacts our human experience, now and in the future.  As Humans, we belong in a group. Much like horses, belonging to a herd allows us to truly thrive. So, what can we learn from horses to help us better connect with those around us, and enable us to lead in more effective ways?  Beth spoke with host Rebecca Scott about how we can see our true nature through the eyes of a horse, and what we can learn from animals to help us center on our human selves.

Humans Now and Then Podcast


Conversations at Basecamp Podcast

Are You an Emotional Butler? We all have tipping points, even in the roles we willingly signed up to play. Too often, we think we’re showing up for the common good, a belief that can keep us propping up other people even if it’s hurting us and blocking them from growth. We think we’re supporting or nurturing. But really, we’re like a butler, pouring tea and providing a blanket that covers up the realities of life. Beth joined the Kahilla Podcast, Conversations at Basecamp to share how caretaking instincts can backfire, and how to cultivate awareness and healthy feedback mechanisms that will truly nurture ourselves and help support the growth of others.


Take the Reins Podcast

Beth joined Take the Reins podcast, Nikki Porter, for a deep dive into our ability to show up in life and recognizing the role awareness plays in all of our relationships. And toward the end of the conversation, Beth and Nikki share their personal connections to awareness and awareness fatigue as a mother. Take the Reins is a personal growth podcast featuring interviews with leading trainers and thought leaders.


Working with the Fires of Fear

While wildfires rage across the west, the elections, pandemic and societal unrest have fueled a fire of fear in our households, work teams, virtual classrooms, and neighborhoods. In my latest column, I share how we can tame these internal fires as we continue to battle 2020's inferno of upset and trauma.

MomsRising Logo

READ on MomsRising

Humanly Possible with Bryan Kramer

Learning to Continually Shift with Beth Anstandig
Humanly Possible with Bryan Kramer is a podcast that reminds us being imperfect humans is our greatest competitive advantage and where guests share stories about small shifts that make an epic difference. Beth shared with Bryan how we can tap into our natural awareness as human mammals for a wealth of information about how to take care of ourselves and operate with others. We chatted further about how we're all learning together to continually shift. Listen here.


Work and the Future with Linda Nazareth

What Can Animals Tell Us About How to Work Better?
Are there things that animals can tell us about how to cope with work stress and ultimately how to work better? Beth joins economist and host Linda Nazareth. In this episode, they discuss how human beings are mammals, but mammals who do not do a good job of being attuned to their own needs and acting on them. At a time when many of us feel that our lives are not completely in control, it may be time to take a cue from that and see if there are ways that we can express our needs in the workplace and ultimately get to a place where we are both happier and more productive as a result.


Value through Vulnerability Podcast Episode 132: Guest Beth Anstandig

The Value through Vulnerability Podcast (boosted by HumansFirst) and sponsored by Aequip is dedicated to helping put the human back into humanity. Guest Beth Anstandig chats with hosts, Mike Vacanti and Garry Turner, about how humans have a unique moment in the COVID Crisis to use the unprecedented pressures we are facing to wake up, adjust, and transform how we are leading our lives and how we are showing up in our communities.

Click the link below to listen, or READ THE TRANSCRIPT HERE.

Value through Vulnerability


How Animals Can Help You Handle Stress, Anxiety: A BBC Report

Beth Anstandig joins Alison van Diggelen on her podcast, Fresh Dialogues, to discuss equine therapy and how working with animals can improve our resilience and well being.


From Chickens to llamas, Cow Palace sheltering animals displaced by Bay Area wildfires

As part of the rescue efforts, Beth Anstandig of The Circle Up Experience is temporarily housing 40 horses whose owners were forced to flee their homes in the California fires at Take a Chance Ranch.

READ the Article

California Wildfires: Bay Area ranchers and shelters rush to save hundreds of animals left behind

Usually The Circle Up Experience at Take a Chance Ranch is hosting online and in person leadership and consulting programs, but right now the ranch is housing more than 40 evacuated horses as the region fights wildfires.

READ the Article

Awareness as a Super Power to Manage Life's Fires

Practicing “pressure awareness” is a game changer in how we lead and show up for our children, spouses, and others. Humans don’t play with pressure, engage with feedback, or adjust until we hit overwhelm. Natural Leadership Awareness is about embracing and honing that mammal part of ourselves, so we have more self-care tools and better relationship strategies. 

MomsRising Logo

READ on MomsRising

Ag State of Mind with Jason Medows Podcast

Focusing on combating the mental health crisis in agriculture, join Jason Medows as he delves into the topics that are hard to talk about.

"Really exciting episode today with Beth Anstandig of the Circle Up Experience. Beth is a lifelong cowgirl who has combined her love of horses with her love of improving people's mental health into a great approach. Beth uses horses to help humans return to their natural state of being by interacting with horses. Horses can help us learn so much about our natural, primitive selves. At the end, Beth and I switch gears a bit to talk about each of our past battles with alcohol. We are both several years sober and we talk about the struggles and joys that this journey has brought each of us. Incredible episode with an incredible woman."

Click the link below to listen, or DOWNLOAD A PDF TRANSCRIPT.

Ag State of Mind Podcast

BBC World Service Health Check with

Alison van Diggelen from BBC World Series Health Check interviewed Beth Anstandig of The Circle Up Experience to report on how horses on the Take a Chance Ranch in California are helping people with anxiety and depression – following an improvement in symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder when equine therapy was used on military personnel.


How Beth Anstandig creates connections and communities...

There are ways to have a healthy work environment, even while working remotely.

Click the link below to read the article, or READ THE PDF.

Silicon Valley Business Journal

READ the article

Wrangling the COVID-19 Labor Divide

Now more than ever humans, women especially, need to wake up and utilize our Natural Leadership instincts and skills inherent to us as mammals including signals, sensations, and sensors about well-being and needs. We must return to the human-animal, the inner mammal, we lost as we became busy adults and parents.

MomsRising Logo

READ on MomsRising

The Find Your Awesome Podcast hosted by Kelsey Abbott

Kelsey Abbott is an intuitive Human Design Reader, a Certified Professional Coach, and Instigator of Joy. Kelsey helps spiritual adventurers remember who they are and why they’re here so they can uplevel with ease. 

"A life-long cowgirl, writer, professor, and a licensed psychotherapist, Beth helps people awaken their innate leadership gifts so they can live and work with more authentic relationship and connection. Listen in as Beth shares stories from the ranch and her own life to teach us about true leadership."

Click the link below to listen, or download a PDF transcript.


Nature's Medicine: A Virtual Wellness Experience

Allowed Podcast with Dr. Caneel Joyce

#11: Horses, Herds and Human Animals

In today's episode, we talk with Beth Anstandig from The Circle Up Experience. Beth teaches about natural leadership, humans as animals, and how people respond to pressure. She will also discuss the four types of awareness, that whether we are conscious of it or not, actually guide us in our daily lives.

Listen on Allowed

The Circle Up Experience Taps into the Human, and Hooved, Animals...

This isn’t the typical corporate culture training, with stuffy PowerPoints, dry lectures, and the dreaded “trust fall.” Instead, it features a bucolic, indoor/outdoor setting with horses, cattle, dogs, and other furry and feathered friends.

Read on Gilroy Life

Uncovering Hidden Beliefs

That bright and clear morning as I drove to Take A Chance Ranch, I could not have predicted what would happen to me that day.

Read on Medium

Four Reasons These Entrepreneurs Have Horses For Partners

Choosing your partners and staff is the most important job every entrepreneur has to manage to run a successful business. 


Don't Horse Around with the Chocolate

Gary and the crew head to Morgan Hill, California to talk with Beth Anstandig and Susan McCusker, the founders of The Circle Up Experience, a horse assisted leadership and team building program. Start Up Experience PBS | Ep: 6 (Video)


Seeing in a new way

"When we see ourselves through the eyes of a horse, we are seeing ourselves how others see us."


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