I grew up on an Aberdeen Black Angus cattle ranch, Grey Sage Angus Ranch, in southeastern Wyoming during the 50s and 60s.  Horses were an integral part of the culture and a necessity on the ranch as this was before 4 wheelers.  We usually had about 20 head of horses at any given time, I don’t think we really needed that many, but my parents had the land and  they loved having the horses.  They too grew up on ranches, with cows, horses and other critters.  It was their way of life and I learned how to care for animals from them. They gave me strong roots that way.  I lived to ride and summer months were spent with my sister and brother and I riding the pastures making sure that the momma cows and their babies were all doing fine.  We would leave early in the mornings with our sack lunches and  would return toward evening, exhausted and dusty yet happy for the day.  Our horses were ranch QHs who knew their jobs and what I remember is that we would just head for the next gate that was sometimes more than a mile away and the horses would take us there.  I didn’t think about my riding then, I just rode, and we worked by doing what needed done on the ranch.  I think back on the horses that I rode and in some ways feel kind of sad that I didn’t know them with the eyes that I have now.  They must have been incredibly tolerant of my ignorance.  I was never bucked off the QHs that we had back then.  But I had this little black and white shetland pony, named Smokey.  I am sure that riding him was  one of the main reasons that led me to the bodywork profession that I have found myself fascinated with for the past 35 years.  If any of you grew up with one of those little twerps, you know that what I am about to say is true.  I dodged trees, the clothes line, half-shut gates and when I couldn’t dodge them, I would bail and roll.  His favorite was heading through the barn doors of the old red barn, on the run and the trick was getting horizontal on his back so you wouldn’t lose your legs on the way into the barn.  Smokey wouldn’t do anything once he got in the barn but to this day I can see the smug look on his face knowing he got his reward for carrying me around against his will.

My early twenty’s were a blur and I am not going to go there, suffice it to say, I did survive and struggle and search for my personal meaning in life. In the rubble a precious person took me to the Shambala Meditation Center in Boulder and became my meditation instructor.  I moved into an old historic house on High Street with four other Buddhist women one of whom was a Shiatsu massage practitioner through the East West Foundation and was a student of Shizuko Yamamoto’s of Barefoot Shiatsu.  She gave me my first ever massage and I was absolutely fascinated with the results.  My body didn’t ache for the first time I could remember in my life.  Strange how something so simple can set you on a path.  While living on High Street I met Jane and Bataan Faigao who were teaching T’ai Chi Ch’uan through Naropa which was mostly a summer program at that time.  I was taking dance classes and attending some of the wonderful summer classes through Naropa that year and met some mighty talented people. I remember in dance class always peeking through the curtain and watching Jane and Bataan’s T’ai Chi class. It seemed like a strange thing to do being the cowgirl that I was, yet the fascination wasn’t going away.  A mutual friend introduced me to Jane and Bataan and I started studying T’ai Chi Ch’uan with them.  I felt at home for the first time since leaving my home of my youth and I had found my practice to self discovery and awareness.

I am a very practical person as that is the way I grew up, my parents were very practical and their philosophy was everything should be useful.  T’ai Chi Ch’uan was “useful”. It was a moving meditation, which is good because sitting still is and always has been very difficult for me, it is a dance, which gave me creative expression and it is a martial art, it had a purpose.  I will go more into this in my blog, which is the purpose of sharing this information with all of you.  Over the years it has never failed me and by that I mean it has become such a part of me and that part is the root in which I live my life.

Jane and Bataan introduced me to my wonderful husband, Michael.  Michael was Jane and Bataan’s first student in Colorado and was assisting them at the time when I started taking their class.  We dated, we moved in together and Bataan married us the next August in a ceremony held in our backyard. Michael and I have continued our friendship and love of practicing and teaching Yang Style Short Form T’ai Chi Ch’uan.

I call studying T’ai Chi Ch’uan my middle years. We studied, we taught, we sparred and learned as much as we could possibly hold during those years in Boulder, under the library working our legs to a slow burn.  At one point, Tam Gibbs, one of Professor Chen Man-ching’s senior students came to Boulder and taught a few of us The Eight Ways to Graceful Aging.  This was the Professor’s way of offering Americans Chi Gung.  We still hold those exercises very dear to our practice as they were a gift from Tam and from the Professor and they are the basis of the Chi Gung that I teach to seniors, people in rehab and  equestrians.

Horses, Again…

I have to say, I got bored living in town all of those years and deep inside of me was the need to reconnect with animals, to have them around me, to have land around me.  Michael and I started a slow migration north of Boulder.  We bought 5 wonderful acres in Berthoud, next to a horse barn that was a barrel racing training center.  The women there encouraged me to do my massage practice on horses and I liked that idea. I started out by giving the riders massages so they would know about my massage, how I worked and the benefits.  I got clients and I was up and running as an equine massage therapist.  On one particular journey working on some barrel horses I met little Sage.

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