The practice of yoga provides a wealth of benefits that enhance horsemanship and riding. The ability to ride depends on the horse allowing us to guide them without resistance, to trust us to make decisions and to follow our communication through what they are feeling from us. As the horse’s leader and guide, it is essential to maintain a calm and grounded presence, to stay attuned to the horse in the moment, to be aware of the subtle communications of the body, and to work from a place of compassion and good intentions. The more we cultivate these qualities before engaging with the horse the more successful we will be in creating a partnership of authentic connection and unity.
Yoga and Horses clinics begin with a traditional yoga class focusing on core concepts that apply directly to working with the horse. These include developing mindfulness of the breath, improving balance, stability and core strength, achieving more fluid and flexible movement, letting go of tension in mind and body. and increasing body awareness. These concepts are then applied to interacting with the horses on the ground and finally to riding in a way that supports the horse’s well-being. Just as groundwork prepares the horse for what’s to come when we transition to riding, time on the mat prepares the handler/rider to engage with the horse from a place of clarity and equanimity.
It Begins with the Breath
Pranayama, or control of the breath, is one of the eight limbs of yoga and is a core component of most yoga practices. The simplest version of breathwork is to notice the breath, notice if there is a fluid rhythm of inhaling and exhaling. Often in times of stress there is a tendency for the breath to become interrupted. The ability to maintain or restore deep and steady breathing has a profound effect on the nervous system, helping us to stay calm and grounded even in challenging situations. Staying aware of the breath also keeps our focus in the present moment. Since our energetic state and awareness affect our interaction with the horse, staying in control of ourselves and our breathing also helps the horse to stay calm and focused.