Shelene Taylor has yet to reach her dreamed-of life as a beach bum in the Bahamas.

Still, she deals in relaxation every day, sometimes on horseback, sometimes at work.

For the last 28 years, Taylor has rubbed shoulders in the business of massage therapy. She is the owner and operator of Spa NiVa and Rubs Massage Studio, which have several locations throughout Tucson.

Guaranteeing peace to her customers occasionally causes Taylor personal stress. That was especially true in her early days as a business owner, with only two months of experience as a massage therapist.

“I would wear all the hats of a small-business owner and worked six days a week,” Taylor, 59, says. “On the seventh day, I would clean and cry because I was so tired.”

About 10 years in, Taylor turned to riding, a childhood fascination never realized. As a 40-year-old business owner, Taylor jumped on a horse, learning to ride in a class with women half her age. She eventually transitioned from competing with jumper horses to dressage events, focusing on patterns and rhythms, much like a dance.

“Because of the age that I started at, it wasn’t quite relaxing, because I didn’t bounce easily,” Taylor says. “It was actually a little stressful, but grooming the horse is relaxing because it is connecting with another being.”

Now, after almost 20 years of riding and competing, Taylor tries to ride five times a week. Sometimes it is social, but she also savors alone time with Brio, the horse she stables at Willow Woods, an equestrian center beside her northeast-side home.

“What happens for me when I ride is it takes 100 percent of my concentration,” Taylor says. “Even though it’s physical work, it takes you out of the world you live in on a daily basis.”

Unless, of course, the horse wakes up in a stubborn mood. When you’re dealing with an animal so much larger than you are, it takes some skills.

“It has been a good lesson in leadership,” she says.

Riding centers her and helps Taylor sidestep stress in her professional life.

Some mornings, Taylor and Brio go for a trail ride, leaving reality in the dust for two or three hours. If they stay at the barn to practice, it is a morning spent under the shade of the stable’s old trees.

“Willow Woods is this little gem of a place,” she says. “We have two owls that live in the trees and part of the riding is being out in nature also. There are birds all over and we see a lot of hummingbirds and finches. There’s a barn cat. Everything smells like big bales of hay and smells like horse.”

It soothes her. Kind of like a massage.

Contact reporter Johanna Willett at of 573-4357.

Writing about Tucson's heart and soul — its people, its kindness, its faith — for #ThisIsTucson.