I’ve mentioned before that I’m an alternative-horse-activities skeptic. Or at least an agnostic. The Spirituality of Horses(tm) stuff (with special! specific! equipment! just $49.95 each!) does not win me over. I tend to shudder a bit and move on.
So when the boarder started taking Horse-Assisted Yoga, I figured, well, stretching and balance and breathing and all that are good things, but not for me, you know?
Then a class happened at my farm, because boarder needed to work with the horse she’s riding, and she wanted a ridden session, which was basically a riding lesson. And it wasn’t what I expected at all. Not just that it was, yes, basically a really good riding lesson, but the horse was seriously into it. And I mean seriously. Doing the breathing, taking the postures with the humans. Getting all mellow and blinky and like, cool, man.
So last week we had a foregathering of writers here, not entirely facetiously called Camp Lipizzan: combination writers’ retreat, mini-sf con, and horse camp. We’ve been doing riding/groundwork/horse communication lessons for some time now, and we did them again. But this time we added a yoga class.
Yoga in the horse herd. Breathing and stretching while the horses looked on and, one by one, weighed in with opinions. What they did determined the directions the instructor took with us (and them). Sometimes it was about the horses:
Sometimes it was about the people (and curious horses):
And sometimes everybody got in on it:
Note that the horse had the same leg up as we did (as far as her anatomy allowed), and was helping one of the students with her balance. A minute or two before, she had been behind me (that’s me on the right), giving me something to lean against while I figured out where all my bits were.
It was an experience even for the instructor, who hadn’t tried this in a full herd before–it needs to be a well-established herd of very people-focused horses, who won’t forget about human frailty and get into a spat and hurt somebody. Kind of a Do Not Try This At Home Unless Home Is a Breeding Farm With Really Well-Socialized Horses In Solid Family Groups.
In which case, this can (safely and wonderfully) happen:
That’s a human completely wrapped in horses. For a horse person, a kind of heaven–though with the thought in the back of the mind: “Crikey! I’m wrapped in half-ton herbivores!”
Participants noted that as long as humans were acting like horses (moving and circling and stretching and being quiet), the horses were in and out and happily participating. As soon as they started talking, the horses wandered off. Monkey chatter was of no interest.
It was a remarkable morning for all concerned–experienced yoga students, instructor, newbies, horse people, non-horse people, and horses, too. Everybody was awesomely quiet and calm, which considering that the wind was gusting so strongly we sometimes could barely keep our feet, was impressive. Horses do not, as a rule, like wind. At All. But here they were, chillin’ as if the air had been perfectly calm.
So OK, now I’m a convert. I still can’t keep the words straight. Prana, maya, Downward-Facing Dog? Uhhh. But breathing and bending and balance, and horses doing it all with and around me? Oh Yeah. It’s done on horseback, too, and I found I already do quite a bit of it thanks to my regular lessons and the fact that the horses want me to do things like breathe and be calm when I ride.
I’ll be doing this again. All indications are that the horses are completely in favor.