A lifetime of love on four legs.
I’ve loved horses as long as I can remember and when I say ‘love’ I mean I was the crazy girl on the playground pretending to gallop around in an enchanted meadow surrounded by a herd of other beautiful horses. Essays in school were about horses, and every picture I drew had horses with long flowing manes and tales.
As much as I begged and pleaded and bargained, it took my parents until my 10th birthday to dramatically walk the gift (horse) up the driveway while videotaping me with the camcorder perched on mom's shoulder. From that day on i lived, breathed and dreamed horse. I spent my youth showing, racing, trail riding, and spending hours upon hours in the barn. I earned many ribbons, learned lessons, and more than a few tears of joy and pain were shed.
Fast forward to adult life- I continue to adore these gorgeous creatures and am lucky enough to live on a horse property; Sunhaven, with my four, four-legged friends. Barrel racing is a major love of mine and in 2014 was running my now retired, fast horse Impressivestartdust, we call her Star. With the demands of practice and competition and an unfortunate back injury hand racking at a race, I threw my back out. I remember drawing out of my race, limping back to the trailer to tie Star up and immediately going to the tack room to lay flat on the floor in terrible pain. I didn’t sit in the saddle again for an entire month. The pain was unbearable. I missed riding and struggled with sadness and not competing. Through visits to the chiropractor, therapy and ice ice ice I healed eventually. I had x-rays done and found out that an old neck injury from my college track and field days as a high jumper at WSU was a broken neck that had healed itself.
In conversations with my chiro, we discovered that my fitness had dipped below the level it needed to be to keep my back and neck functioning correctly and my body injury free. That added to the stress of riding and racing were the catalysts to my back going out- it was a ticking time bomb. I needed a way to maintain strength to be able to ride.
Since my late teenage years, I’ve practiced yoga in addition to working out. I love the mind-body connection, and how challenging poses are at first and then they become easier and easier the more you devote to your practice. As a way to get back in the saddle, I started practicing yoga more and more. My strength and flexibility improved. I was able to ride again! I went back to running Star and was injury free until she retired from barrel racing in 2016.
I’ve always loved horses. Since my late teenage years, I have always loved yoga. I was practicing on my mat one day, and a bright, beautiful light went off in my head. Why don’t I put the two loves together? I ran out to the barn, fetched Star and hoped on her, bareback. It was amazing! I tried poses like seated twist, mountain pose, and triangle, and was so excited! It felt amazing! It was challenging in the best of ways as it was creative, fun and new. I started practicing regularly and began to invite friends over to try. Teaching yoga on horses felt so natural and fun for me, the words and poses just came out and flowed.
As my practice deepened with my horse, I noticed that I began to feel a calmness and connection that wasn’t there before. I felt trust and willingness between my horse and me that went beyond our practice. Yoga itself is the union between mind and body. Integrate a horse into the practice, and you have the union between horse, mind, and body. Riders rely so much on their communication with the horse, and horseback yoga is a beautiful way to deepen that connection.
All riders know the feeling of being so in tune with their animals, there is a magical moment where you barely even consciously think about a move or a direction and the horse does it without being asked or cued. There are spiritual connections, and ways of communicating with each other we don’t even realize are going on. Horseback yoga increases these channels while at the same time increasing strength and flexibility and the massive bonus of learning to be present.