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Meet Annie Young

Today we’d like to introduce you to Annie Young.

Annie, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
My initial education led me to become a Pediatric Registered Dietitian. I spent the first part of my career in a hospital setting and eventually moved to outpatient clinics and home visits. I worked with families with children who have special needs and feeding difficulties. These children were medically complicated and between the ages of premature newborn to three years. This was a career I deeply cherished. And through the years, I witnessed a wide variety of family dynamics that came with the territory. The families, themselves, had a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds, levels of education and parental ages. And though many had very little in common, they all had one thing they shared….stress and anxiety.

My now mentor, Melisa Pearce of Touched By A Horse®, once told me that anxiety is when you can’t worry fast enough. This is the perfect way to describe the families I served as a Pediatric Dietitian. I watched highly educated and extremely successful people become puddles of insecurity, self-doubt, and full of fear. Undoubtedly I bore witness to humans going through a high level of trauma in their effort to keep their little babies alive. Sadly, marriages fell apart, friends scattered, and the parents left standing often lost themselves. There was no time or place for supporting that parent as they waded through the depths of finding their way to any stable ground for their child.

I can remember, many times, standing at the door of a home and before ringing the doorbell I would take a deep breath and remind myself that if I could find one tiny way to relieve a fraction of stress or provide a sliver of hope then I had done my job. I was there to serve the child and I did my job with love and an open heart. And, yes, my job was to help find a way to get good nutrition that supported growth and development into a child that did not have a typical road to achieving that. The stress I was trying to relieve and the hope I was trying to provide was directly related to that topic. At the same time, I could see the parents needed the same kind of support for their shattered hearts but was not in a place to offer that kind of support yet…

As I said before, I cherished that career. I have no regrets. I was also clear that it took a lot out of me to be what I needed to be for them. Once I got married and began having my own children, I knew I could not continue this level of work. There was not enough of me left over once I got home from working to be all I needed to be for my children.

Eventually, I stepped away from that career and focused on raising my own family. Once my kids were in elementary school, I dove head first into that world. I volunteered several days a week. I led committees, went on field trips, supported the teachers in the classroom, and participated in fundraisers….all the things a parent could do. I lived firsthand all of the joys and stresses of raising my family without, thank goodness, the medical issues that I had once served in my career. When my youngest was approaching his final days in elementary school, I began soul searching. I felt that I was whole and complete with being a dietitian and also felt like I was being pulled to something else. I had no idea what that was.

Turns out the universe had been giving me several signs to the direction I was being called to do. I did not see any of them until the timing was right. Then one December afternoon I had lunch with a dear friend and she was very excited to tell me about a program she was doing with her horses. Not clear what she was describing, I later went home and went to the Touched By A Horse® website. To my amazement, I realized at that moment that I had found the vehicle that would allow me to go back and support the parents of the families I once served. This time focusing on the parent and supporting them rather than the medical and dietary needs of their children. Six months later, I entered the Equine Gestalt Coaching Method® program.

I could go on and on about the personal benefits of going through the program. One of those is the whole completeness of the education coupled with a solid business foundation. During the program, I was asked to fully lean into the vision I had for my future. The exercise included writing it all out. Wow! I can tell you the power of this was astounding. I am a firm believer that this process has indeed brought me to where I am today.

Currently, I am a Certified Equine Getatlist® and owner of Sawubona Ranch in Littleton, CO. My ranch is designed to support therapeutic retreats, workshops, ongoing groups, and individual work. There are other coaches who serve different populations that work out of Sawubona Ranch. I could not be more proud to say that my husband, Jeff, and I have created something bigger than the two of us.

As I alluded to earlier, as a Certified Equine Getatlist® I work with parents not on parenting techniques or giving specific advice around their external relationships but on learning to alleviate the anxiety and stress that they are experiencing in their own lives.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Like any new adventure, my road to certification was not smooth. I entered the EGCMethod® program at Touched By A Horse® July of 2019, with a graduation date expected for July 2021.

In January of 2020, I found out I had breast cancer. An accidental find during a routine surgery. For me, hearing the “C” word was scary enough. The days that followed were fast, with lots of information and an enormous amount of confusion. The good news is that it was found early. It had not gone vascular as far as they could tell. Because it was an accidental find, they did not get clean margins so they wanted to remove the rest. Here is where the confusion set in. Prior to finding the cancer, I had three mammograms, two ultrasounds, and an MRI and it was completely invisible. My doctors sprang into motion. My file was taken to the cancer board where 8 other oncologists looked my case over and all came to the same conclusion. My breast tissue was as dense as the cancer making modern technology useless in determining if there was more on that side or the other side and making future screenings a waste of time. I had stealth cancer. Yay me!

By mid-February, I went in for my next surgery, a double mastectomy. And come to find out, I did have cancer in the other breast. A completely different kind and also non-vascular. This was my ticket off the chemo and radiation train. Thank Heavens those treatments were no longer in the discussion. My future held two more big surgeries and many hours with Physical Therapy.

Recovery was hard with three kids, an active life, my studies, and of course my three horses and three goats to take care of. Oh, and did I mention a pandemic?

Although the pandemic caused fear around a suppressed immune system and grief from losing my father-in-law early in April of 2020, I have to say, it was a gift for me as well. What it brought to me was my family all under one roof. The worry of keeping my three kids’ lives looking normal with their activities and school was lifted. My incredible husband, Jeff, was not running off to meetings. He was home, maintaining all of his business and household responsibilities and adding all of mine to his daily list. My educational in-person training was altered and did not resume until I was through with all but one surgery and I had the stamina to attend.

During all this my spirits were struggling. Once again, my amazing husband stepped up. The vision I had created for my new career was intertwined with a dream he and I had designed. I wanted to build a ranch. I wanted it to be beautiful and manicured yet natural in a mountain setting. I wanted it to be something I could share with the world. Something bigger than myself. A place other coaches could work out of and transform the lives of their clients, not just mine. This is the part that aligned so beautifully with our combined goal. Long ago, while dating, Jeff and I talked about one day giving back to the world. We talked endlessly about making a difference in people’s lives. We had no idea what that vehicle was going to be at the time. After sharing with him my personal vision for my new business, he was full in. Seeing it as the way to leave a legacy. Our intentions were to begin searching for the property in February of 2020. As my spirits were sinking with recovery, Jeff’s loving support helped me find the strength to begin our search spring of 2020. Sometimes we would go look at a piece of land I would barely get out of the truck and say, “Nope, this is not it” before removing my hand from the door. Then he would carefully help me back up into the cab, which was no small feat, and off we would go to the next one. By June we found the perfect piece of Heaven right here on Earth that is now known as Sawubona Ranch. We closed on July 31, 2020.

It took quite an effort with the chaos of the world and the chaos of MY world, and despite all that I graduated a month early, June of 2021.

The aftermath of the pandemic has made the build-out a slow process. I am super proud to say that the barn is complete and we are now holding groups and doing individual work, all while enjoying our resident family of deer and spectacular flock of wild turkeys. Ten minutes from a major freeway and 15 minutes to town. It’s easy to get to, it feels like a dream escape driving to it.

I have other buildings under construction that will soon support week long retreats, and weekend workshops, among other things.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I am a Certified Equine Gestaltist® and I am currently in the graduate program working towards becoming a Master Gestaltist® both through Touched By A Horse®. Gestalt is a holistic therapeutic approach to personal healing and development. I am not a therapist and therefore, I do not work with diagnoses. Gestalt, a German word, is loosely translated to mean “wholeness” or “flowing into wholeness”. As a trauma-informed trained Gestalt coach, I support clients in finding their own answers, I guide them to their own energy and ability to heal from trauma, I walk with them to discover their power, self-worth, their place in the world and self-compassion.

A special feature of any Gestalist is the personal work that is required for certification. In training, the Master Gestaltist® that is certifying the student not only trains that student, they stand in witness to that student walking through their own journey of healing. If the Master determines that more work is needed then the student’s certification is delayed. Understanding this gives future clients of that student the confidence that their coach has walked the walk and can stand beside them without bringing forward any unfinished business that could cloud the experience from an unclear perspective on the side of the coach.

A Gestalt experience is difficult to explain and magical to experience. It is not talk therapy. The client is up out of their chair, dumping their frustrations, anger, confusion, sadness, or whatever is holding them back in life and stepping into their light. Because of this, it fits all personalities from the people who find verbal expression easy to the people who do not enjoy a lot of words. Men, traditionally, find this work more comfortable than other therapeutic choices.

Every experience is unique to the individual and what they are dealing with in the moment. This is why it is not easy to explain a typical session. The things the sessions do have in common are a friendly greeting, a little bit of paperwork, and a quick safety demo with the horse.

How does the horse (equine coach) get involved? We have known for a long time that horses are healing animals. Simply brushing a horse, although you think you are only doing it for their benefit, brings the human a healing shift at the same time. In an Equine Gestalt session, the horse is present to the work. Whatever experience the coach has set up for the client, the horse is near and bears witness to the exploration the client does within. The horse’s individual gifts to the process are also unique with each session. You might have someone say, “when my energy lifted” or “I feel lighter”. A horse’s ability to tune into the energy vibrations of a human is truly healing. They help the human solidify the shifts and healing making it possible for the human to move forward in life with a new found lightness, not just for the day. No brushing needed. In fact, the horses prefer the client to allow them to tune into the energy and let it flow between them and the client without any agenda or task at hand. Again, this means that Equine Gestalt coaching is for all people, no horse experience needed. Many people who are nervous around horses find this work extremely comfortable and valuable.

The group experience is sometimes with and sometimes without an equine coach. In a Gestalt group, you will not find unsolicited advice from other members of the group or the coach. In fact, Gestalt coaching should never provide advice as we believe that you have your own answers and bringing awareness to the different parts of your own personality, the good the bad the ugly, is what will give you the tools to finding your own path. And it will give you the ability to be responsive in life and not reactive.

What you will find in a Gestalt group is unimaginable support and acceptance of who you are at the core. While being witness to others and their process, you will gain insight to your own true self. You will find the gift in supporting another in sorting through their barriers in life as well as the gifts that come from receiving their support. I wish I could put into words the magic that happens in a Gestalt group.

Myself and some of our coaches hold retreats and weekend workshops. These have all the benefits of group and individual work over the span of 2 to 6 days. Some coaches provide a VIP Day and that is a one day experience unlike an individual session that is 1-2 hours long.

Team Building days are another option at Sawubona Ranch. Designed for businesses or families or any cohort, these days are a fun way to look at how everyone is communicating and how to better appreciate each other while finding new self-compassion within each individual participant.

All of these options are currently, or will be, available at Sawubona Ranch.

I, personally, focus on clients who are parents. My specialty supports the parents of children who have special needs and are/were medically complicated and expands to parents with children who might be dealing with behavioral and/or emotional challenges.

My first career was limited to children 7 years and younger. Now I serve ALL parents with kids of ALL ages who are typically or non-typically developing. Having teenagers of my own now, I have seen the stress associated with everyday issues from school shootings, pandemic chaos, to suicide. I have seen and felt what that is like from a parent standpoint. I am committed to making a difference with integrity and empathy for those ready to stand with courage; to reconnect with all you are and all you are meant to be including and also beyond parenting. I will not offer parenting advice. I offer clients a way to rediscover the lost parts of themselves that are sometimes lost with raising children.

Are there any apps, books, podcasts, blogs or other resources you think our readers should check out?
Books What the Heck is Gestalt? – by Melisa Pearce
Wild at Heart – by Heather H. Kirby
The Go-Giver – by Bob Burg and John David Mann
The Slight Edge – by Jeff Olson
The Places that Scare You – by Pema Chodron

The Business Animal with Kimberly Beer and Cara Taylor Swift
Touched By A Horse Podcast with Melisa Pearce

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Lilo Photography in Littleton, CO – Responsible for the following: Sawubona Ranch_Annie_001.jpeg Sawubona Ranch_Annie_002.jpeg Sawubona Ranch_Annie_003.jpeg Sawubona Ranch_Annie_004.jpeg

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