Jill Layman 2012-12-27 01:49:55
My friends chuckled a bit when I told them I was escaping my frenetic, hamster-wheel pace in Silicon Valley for a weeklong women’s yoga and horsemanship retreat in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. “How does that work?” asked a good natured soul facetiously. “I never knew horses did yoga!” Laugh if you will, but for any woman with an inner-cowgirl fantasy and an open-minded consciousness, The Home Ranch offers a soul-enriching exercise in personal reflection, physical wellbeing, friendship, and bonding between a woman and her faithful steed—a brown-eyed, gentle giant willing to nuzzle your hand for affection or a hidden treat. Nestled in picture-perfect Yampa Valley just outside Steamboat Springs, The Home Ranch is an idyllic hideaway from everyday strife. Staying at The Home Ranch is hardly roughing it. A Relais & Chateaux resort, The Home Ranch is a year-round destination with traditional western dude ranch activities in the summer, and cold-weather sports, like cross-country skiing added to the mix during winter season. I became a huge fan of The Home Ranch during my past two summer visits with my children— riding horses, fishing the stocked pond, hiking endless trails, effacing nearby rock formations, rafting the rolling Yampa River, and (especially if you were my two girls) staying on the trails as long as the horses would tolerate us. But this time, I was venturing to the Wild West solo. My visit coincided with the Aspen trees in their full autumn glory. I thought nothing could outdo the summer Columbine blossoms until I saw the surrounding hills gilded in a golden hue. The views of Saddle Mountain, Hahn’s Peak, and the Zirkels encompass the 1,500-acre property, which can host up to 50 guests in an assortment of charming cabins or main lodge rooms. The ranch purposely keeps the number of guests for the yoga retreat much more intimate. During my week at the ranch, 14 of us (varying in age from 33 – 63 years young) gathered each day in search of our own inner peace and outer laughter. The daily regimen varies slightly, beginning with a deep breath of clean, high-altitude air, followed by a gentle hour of restorative yoga led by Janice Baxter, a soulful yogi we all aspire to emulate. Then, fully awake after stretching our aging bodies, we would gather in the rustic dining room for a full breakfast, offering daily specials, eggs to order, and morning comfort in an oversized mug. A quick change and we would head down to the barn, practically skipping with joy to greet our horses. For this program, The Home Ranch brings in the expertise of nationally acclaimed horsewoman, Tammy Pate. Pate encouragingly shares her lifelong love of horses with riders of varying skill levels, enabling each of us to gain confidence and grace in the saddle. Heading out for a morning trail ride, we traversed the flats or the zigzag ridge trails. We put our horses through the paces and headed back to the barn at high noon for barbeque out on the patio. Alunch befitting ravishing cowgirls awaited—organic green salads, tasty quinoa concoctions, and grilled local fish, elk burgers, chicken, or steak. After lunch, we headed to the barn again: barrel racing, cow cutting, or more trails ahead of us. Another late afternoon yoga class stretched our slightly bowed legs. Dinner would bring humorous recollections from the day’s events, made all the merrier with accompanying fine wines. We feasted on yet another gourmet meal, grateful for the knowledge that the next day’s two-hour intensified yoga session would justify the night’s indulgences. One evening it’s margaritas on the back porch, the next night a five-course wine-pairing dinner, and the next, a music night when a local four-piece band entertained us, led on the spoons by Johnny, our Home Ranch host/manager. The days repeat themselves in similar fashion, with opportunities for massages, hikes, fly fishing, or shopping excursions to town, scattered within your week. When I visited The Home Ranch, I gained confidence as a horsewoman, learning to trust the gentle but firm strength I needed to ride—to make my horse listen when I needed to change directions, pause or pick up the pace, and just keep moving forward. I hope to call upon a similar strength to move forward in my own life. Who says you can never go home again? I plan on going as often as possible!
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