When she was 6, Leura Fine's family in Alabama got a horse and named it Cactus. It was more than a child's wish for a pony coming true: Fine's mother grew up with horses, and two of her cousins were rodeo queens. Fine excelled as an equestrian too, taking lessons in Western and English techniques, eventually learning to ride cross-country style.
"You're going down a ditch, and then you're going through water, and you're leaping over bales of hay," explains Fine, who's now 29 and the founder and CEO of the virtual interior-design company Laurel & Wolf--which has raised $25.5 million, and grew from eight to 51 employees in 2015. "It's how the English cavalry used to train their soldiers."
As she grew older, though, she back-burnered her hobby--until she realized the climate and terrain in Los Angeles, where she lives now, are ideal for her old pursuit. In 2013, she took up the reins again at the Westside Riding School in Pacific Palisades.
"You go up there and they have one of the last grass polo fields left" in L.A. County, says Fine.
"It's just such a beautiful, peaceful place," she adds. She tries to ride a favorite horse there once a week. It's provided a necessary opportunity to focus on something other than her company, which she founded in 2014.
"Horses are so sensitive to your energy and particularly to your touch," Fine says. "When I'm distracted, they totally sense it. There's an interesting connection, and you really just have to be present."
Even off the horse, Fine projects an equestrian air: On a recent trip to the dressage shop LA Saddlery, she wore a Hermès bracelet with a massive pony clasp and Chanel-logo earrings reminiscent of horseshoes. Her return to riding has, however, seen some--ahem--hurdles.
"When I first started jumping again, my very lovely horse that I train on threw me," Fine says. It was a valuable lesson. "Being thrown off a horse and then getting back on--there's no greater metaphor for how to conquer life," she says. "Especially in a startup."