Horses are incredibly intuitive animals. It is one of my favorite things about them. They sense your energy the second you walk into their space. I will never get over the fact that these animals let us crawl on their backs, steer them over weird obstacles, make them halt on a dime, and hang out with them! They amaze me. Truly amaze me.
At the end of the day, horses just want to feel safe in our presence. Our energy is crucial to the success of our partnership, no matter what training technique we utilize. We are constantly working on the horse, but we must also pay the same attention to our own energy.
The resources I have created on this subject begin with my book “Yoga for Every Equestrian,” which focuses on the physical and mental aspects of improving the rider’s position. But being your best self for your horse is about more than position. Over the years, my training has evolved to include a practice of mindfulness. It helps us stay connected while giving ourselves the grace to take care of our bodies. We stretch, we laugh, we build muscles, and we focus on body alignment, all in a restorative setting. Most importantly, we learn about ourselves.
As equestrians, we know all about putting pressure on ourselves. I approach yoga classes as a place that offers the chance to take a break from the constant striving. I hope to create a space where equestrians can relax in a community of peace, support one another, and leave our judgments aside. A space that welcomes all disciplines, horses, experience levels, and people!
When people think of the word “yoga,” some envision crazy poses and extreme flexibility. Thankfully, that is not my jam. When I think of yoga, I think of a safe place to relax, treat myself with care, and tune into my body and mind. It’s not dissimilar from the spaces I try to create for my horses.
Horses were built to survive off of reading a predator’s energy and the energy of their herd. They speak energy, if you will. They don’t have computers and to-do lists blurring their energy-reading lines; they practice reading energy daily.
Here we have a video of a rider and horse pair. In this specific session, my rider, Ali, and her partner, Scout, both tend to hold tension. Ali knows that her hips get tight, but she never really thought about it relating to the breath.
Just as horses can strengthen what we call the “spooky” muscles, so can humans. My shoulders are very strong because I hold them up to my ears all the time! This communicates to my brain that I should worry, even if there is nothing to worry about. This is the effect of the vagus nerve, the way that the body communicates with the mind.
What is very important to note in these videos is Scout’s demeanor. Scout is not a typically quiet horse. He is very sensitive. Before the breathing exercises, he was squirmy and did not enjoy standing still. As you can tell in the video, he is practically asleep. How cool!
This is something you can try out with your horse. Look for things like chewing, licking, yawning, stretching the neck down. One of my favorite things about teaching clinics is that I hear almost every horse let out a large sigh during the breathwork. The power of our breath is so incredible, and our horses appreciate it so much! You can find more breathing exercises on my podcast, Rolling My Third Eye.
Gabrielle has been riding her whole life, but she was a very timid rider growing up. Knowing that horses were her passion she kept working hard and finding amazing instructors who helped turn her fear into education. With that said, Gabrielle developed empathy for the nervous rider early on. When she became an instructor herself she tended to work a lot with riders on mindset which led into mindfulness and yoga.
Gabrielle got certified in yoga, meditation and many other mindfulness techniques to help her riders stay more present and work with fear not against it. Developing a deeper relationship with ourselves in order to develop a deeper relationship with our horses. That is her focus in “Yoga for Every Equestrian”. You can find her at GMDTraining.com and Instagram @Gabbydiakon