Yoga for Riders, Not Yoga on Horses
There seems to be a trend emerging that involves doing yoga poses on bareback horses.
No, that’s not what I do. Though some of my show jump lessons may feel like you are vaulting around up there, my goal is definitely to keep you in the saddle.
While horseback headstands may offer some off-beat instagram photos, pseudo-Avatar equine connections, and a flurry of invocative hashtags, it brings to question a broader range of issues than most people consider.
Let’s be honest, I can’t do a backbend (yet) on solid ground; there is no way I am going to do it successfully and safely on the back of a horse that moves simply by breathing. As success is a very relative term that largely does not belong when describing yoga, let’s chat about the safety of attempting different poses on top of a horse.
The instructor in me cringes every time I see this. Years of training to keep riders safe while on horse back- dozens of clinics, certifications, mentors, and books all aiming for rider safety are shoved aside painfully while someone tries to manipulate their body into crow on horse’s withers.
The best part?
Do they have a helmet on?
No! How would one do a headstand with a helmet on? (trick question)
I believe that is the point of wearing a helmet- to not do a headstand with it on as you come tumbling off a horse. I’m sure the well-educated instructors that are diligently holding the lead rope while their equine yogi is digging their knees into the spinal processes of the horse is assuming the liability of head trauma from horse back.
I hear the silent tears of Pony Clubbers whispering through the trees while watching uneducated handlers moving around horses and riders without helmets banging around up there. Please, if you are going to put yourself or someone else on the back of a horse- make sure the “instructor” on the ground is well-educated and appropriate for the activity you are paying them for. Trying to do a headstand on the back of a horse is called vaulting, not yoga. Hashtags don’t make it true.
If you want to vault, find a professional vaulting instructor. If you want to event, find a professional eventing instructor. If you want to do yoga, go on instagram and try to find the coolest poses you can and mimic them.
For OM Riding, as riders, the goal of yoga is to make us better riders rather than to disregard all the safety mechanisms specifically in place to keep us riding. We are trying to be fitter, both mentally and physically, so that we may be stronger in the tack and more aware of the moments in which we can refine our skills. Our goal is to give riders the ability to stay focused and breathing when they come down centerline. We work on the mat to find balance in our bodies so that our instructors will stop yelling at us, “Don’t lean right. You’re still leaning right.” Our goal is to figure out that we are leaning right and find our center while on the mat. After that, when appropriately mounted in helmets, vests, boots with heels, gloves, etc… then we apply it to our rides.
Be safe, my fellow equine yogis.