We live in a fantasy novel around here. Not always the part with the unicorns and the flowers. Mostly the one with stablehands and pitchforks and bread that needs baking. Once in a while some grimdark. And around just about every corner, a good dose of the Weird.
We thought we were starting horse yoga here because a human then in residence needed to loosen up some tightness to ride a horse better. We were quickly disabused of that when one of the horses marched up and took charge.
She likes Warrior. And Chanting. And Stories. She’s our Story Horse. She’s telling our human teacher all about it in this photo.
That isn’t what Horse-Assisted Yoga is everywhere else that we know of. That’s about the humans using horses for the humans’ purposes. Pretty much the way humans in general use the world and its animals. The size, cooperative nature, and fundamental calm of the well-adjusted horse makes her a wonderful therapy animal and yoga mat/teacher/studio.
But that’s the real world. Our fantasy novel does it differently.
We do this for ourselves, of course. It’s peaceful mostly. Gentle postures. Breathing. Eyes open and shoes on the feet–we’re in the herd with large animals who are not always Tame Lions. Some meditation, walking and standing. Good yoga things in good, if modified, yoga ways.
But it’s really for the horses.
We’re the White herd here. There’s the Brown one elsewhere, which is a more accidental grouping, with unrelated horses connected by their owners’ friendship and professional associations. The White herd is more of a family affair. We introduce its members to newcomers as, “That one’s the mother of that one, and those two are sisters, and that’s the other one’s aunt, and the one up there is this one’s brother, and…”
There’s a stallion. Mares. Several geldings who play different roles: herd wrangler, buddy horse, Night Patrol. They don’t all live in the same spaces at the same times, but they’re a closely constructed and interrelated ecology. A herd.
Yoga makes the herd happy and calm. They’ll be mellow and peaceful and drifty all day after the humans have left. They love the breathing and the chanting. Sometimes they’ll do the poses, or hold space, or practice their arts of herd geometry in and around and through the humans. As often as not they’ll teach the class, gently moving the human teacher aside and taking over the lesson.
Yoga makes sense to a horse. It’s breathing and movement and being quiet inside. Things that humans in general are not all that good at. When they make the effort, to a horse, it seems as if they’re trying to be more like horses.
It gets weird. Talk about something specific, and horse comes over and answers in horse, with body language and expression. They have remarkably large vocabularies, in which words for meals and food figure prominently, along with their names.
But “story”? “Warrior”? Talk about what they want us to know and they come purposefully over and touch us or stand by us. Change the subject or wander off it, the way monkeys tend to do, and off they wander, sometimes with a sarcastic expression around the ears.
And then there was the most recent morning, in which a conversation was proceeding about tarot, arcana, and the meanings of cards, and stallion let it be known with movement in response to the words and relaxation and nose in the hand and deep sigh that yes, he is all the Knights. At once. And it’s a great deal of work. But he is up to it. If the mares would just let him be.
Horses are not supposed to comprehend abstractions. They’re animals. That’s a human prerogative.
It’s a good thing we know we’re in a fantasy novel.