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Horses & Yoga: The Pairing You Never Saw Coming

Horses and yoga, yoga and horses, yoga with horses, yoga ON horses… the pairing between equines and yoga is only growing.

Yoga is one of those practices that I’ve always wished I had the time, patience and physical ability to attempt on a regular basis. I did take a “relaxation yoga” class with my mother-in-law, who, bless her, is not a horse person but was trying desperately to find something fun we could do together… I think I fell asleep, a lot. (I guess in that respect the class was a success — what’s more relaxing than napping in yoga pants?)

Yoga, to me, was simply time consumed by another activity that prevented me from getting to the barn. Yes, I know there are physical benefits, mental benefits, some emotional benefits from practicing yoga… but I also know there are plenty of physical, mental and emotional benefits to spending quality time with my horses too, and when push comes to shove and I’ve only got enough hours in the day for one or the other, I think you know what one I’m going to pick.

Then I found this video, which blew my mind a little.

Wait, was this a thing? Yoga in the presence of horses? Yoga using the horse as a balance point? Yoga… on horseback? I’ve seen the whole goat yoga thing but just thought that was some sort of farm-to-yoga-mat hipster thing to be cute.

Longtime HN readers will remember this viral hit from yesteryear of some truly bonkers horse yoga involving both human and horse doing some poses together, walking that fine line between awesome and totally @$$-backwards crazy (does that man actually have a horse’s hoof on his head? Yes, yes he does).

Curious, I reached out to my old boss from the Wyoming guest ranch where I used to work summers. The ranch has branched out a bit in recent years, building an honest-to-goodness yurt on the property to host yoga retreats in addition to trail riding, training clinics and cattle drives that draw the majority of the guests. Seeking the best in the game to help teach the first yoga classes, the ranch found this lady:

“It’s a good compliment to riding,” my old boss, who recently got certified to instruct herself (though perhaps not quite to the level of the above-pictured master). “But we only offer it in the yurt… not on horseback.”

A quick Google search for “horse yoga” brought up a flurry of websites, news stories and luxurious-sounding yoga retreats all over the world. Generally speaking, yogis seem to be noticing what we’ve always picked up on — horses can have a calming, centering presence, which is why various of equine-assisted therapies are becoming more mainstream. When combined with the slow, practiced movements and poses of yoga, horses can help individuals find that sense of peace.

It’s not necessary to actually practice yoga ON horseback, though some certainly do, and I’d assume that particular practice adds a new dimension of balance and connection. Most of the equine yoga clinics and retreats I found advertised did not require that attendees bring their own horses, have horse experience, or even have yoga experience — for many, this seemed like an opportunity simply to connect to nature, find inner calm and try something new.

Much like goat yoga (which literally just looks like a bunch of yogis having a laugh as goat kids leap all over them), there doesn’t seem to be any sort of real accrediting process to becoming a certified “equine yoga” practitioner or teacher… but I can see the appeal of pairing horses and yoga, once I get over the fear of my semi-feral pasture pets running me right over as I child’s pose in the middle of the field, or harassing me for cookies midway through the Warrior series.

Go yoga. Go riding!

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