Yoga with horses: Exercises for equine and human health

Introduction

Yoga with horses is the art of performing traditional poses while also stretching an equine. This combines traditional yoga stretches for humans and gives an added dimension with the moves that are done by the horse to exercise their muscles.

The benefits of yoga with horses are many. The human enjoys all of the usual advantages of yoga such as stronger, more toned muscles, better circulation, increased relaxation, stronger focus and concentration, spiritual enlightenment and boosted fitness. What’s more, the person gets to feel the healing qualities of being very close to such powerful creatures as horses.
The horse meanwhile also reaps many of the bonuses that the human gets.

The equine will become more alert, more relaxed, have better concentration, their muscles will become softer and stronger, they will become more flexible and they will be able to work or exercise for longer periods. The stretches will also be a cure for horses that have stiffness in parts of their body.

In addition to the individual physical benefits for both participants, the bond between man and horse is strengthened. This level of trust helps the relationship and can improve many other areas such as riding and catching a horse in the field. With a more intimate level of communication, the relationship between horse and owner will blossom. Though yoga with horses can also be done by people who don’t have their own pet if they use somebody else’s.

Yoga with horses pioneer Linda Guanti performs a strecth on the back of her horse Lewis
Yoga with horses pioneer Linda Guanti performs a strecth on the back of her horse Lewis | Source

Exercises

The yoga exercises that can be performed with horses are virtually limitless. For humans, they can go as far as their ability allows them to. All of these stretches can be done close to the horse. This will be relaxing for the person but also interesting to the horse as it will give them a form of visual entertainment to keep their mind alert. However, don’t expect the nag to be doing a head stand!

'Yoga with horses improves health and the bond between man and animal'

The goal of yoga with horses is to perform stretches that can incorporate the horse’s body. This will take patience, practise and sensitivity at first and it is best to work up to more complex stretches with simpler exercises until both parties become used to the new experiences.

Many of the yoga exercises and stretches that are done with horses were developed by Linda Guanti who lives in British Columbia in Canada. She runs workshops around the country teaching people how to develop yoga with horses. Scroll down to see detail how to descriptions of the stretches that were taken from an interview with Linda that was used for an article that appeared in the Times, the Daily Express, and the Daily Mail newspapers in the UK.

Triangle pose

This yoga with horses link up is one of the simplest and suitable most for beginners. They can do a version of Utthita Trikonasana or Triangle pose. This pose stretches and strengthens the thighs, knees, ankles. Stretches the hips, groins, hamstrings, calves, shoulders, chest and spine. It stimulates the abdominal organs, relieves stress, improves digestion, and relieves back pain. The move is also therapeutic for anxiety, flat feet, infertility, neck pain, osteoporosis and sciatica.

As the horse owner is performing the Triangle pose, the next part is for the horse to turn around its neck. This helps to improve suppleness by opening up the right shoulders and toning the strong neck muscles.

Linda and Lewis perform a 'triangle pose'
Linda and Lewis perform a 'triangle pose' | Source

Neck Side Stretch

The person does an Anuvittasana or Standing Back Bend. This pose strengthens the back, opens the front of the body, stretches the chest, abdominals, shoulders, keeps the spine flexible. It also helps with depression, poor posture, fatigue, low back pain. The exercise strengthens the respiratory, cardiovascular and endocrine systems.

While the person enjoys the Anuvittasana pose, the horse does a Neck Side Stretch. This pose will help them with flexibility, range of motion and suppleness throughout the neck and also the back. Horses have some back muscles which extend quite far up the neck. It is also to be done on both sides and should be done at different height levels for best results.

The more advanced Neck Side Stretch sees the person do a Standing Back Bend while the horse looks round and improves its flexibility
The more advanced Neck Side Stretch sees the person do a Standing Back Bend while the horse looks round and improves its flexibility | Source

The Bow

One of the most complex yoga poses that can be done with a horse is the ‘Bow’ pose. This involves the horse bending forward and kneeling with one leg while it bends his head into the ground. Although this might look uncomfortable, it actually greatly improves the horse’s physique and their temperament.

This’ Bow’ pose is only advanced because it can take a while for the horse to figure out what is being asked. They also need to be quite flexible and aware of where to have their feet and body. You wouldn't be asking your horse to do this full pose in their first session but you might start with a pose that introduces them to it.

The Bow is more advanced and sees the horse push its head to the ground to stretch its back. It also learns to remain calm in a vulnerable position
The Bow is more advanced and sees the horse push its head to the ground to stretch its back. It also learns to remain calm in a vulnerable position | Source

The pose is very dynamic. (Just a few of the muscles are named in brackets) The one forward leg stretches the shoulder forward (latissimus dorsi), the tucked leg stretches the shoulder back (brachiocephalicus), the neck stretched under (scalene), the back of the hind legs (hamstrings, gluteals) stretch and the back.

The pose also allows the horse to find calmness in a very vulnerable position. They find new ways to balance themselves and to move their feet in order to get into the pose. I would always have a horse do this pose on both sides so as to keep the muscles and brain balanced.

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Comments 4 comments

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

What an interesting read. I can imagine these are very satisfying and beneficial exercises for both human and horse, especially out of doors on a beautiful day. Now, if only I had a horse!


Rickrideshorses profile image

Rickrideshorses 5 years ago from England Author

Yes, on a beautiful day they would be lovely. Great for developing a close relationship with horses and nature. Shame you don't have a horse Sally! Perhaps you could borrow one to try!


morven 5 years ago

I have 3 horses and do yoga and pilates and very fit.I am also an excellent rider and have dressage experience as I grew up on horses.But this is madness.They are not meant to be doing yoga or helping their owners do yoga either.And I have no fear of horses but you wouldn't get me stretching on my horses back unless someone was making sure he didn't get fed up and rear up and throw me off.Not impressed one bit.


Rickrideshorses profile image

Rickrideshorses 5 years ago from England Author

Morve, stretching horses' muscles is done by professional riders, vets, physiotherapists and many hobby horse owners. It's scientifically proven to benefit the horse. If you are afraid of your horse rearing when you're on it's back then perhaps you need to look at your horse's behaviour and your own temperament and perhaps consider learning how to overcome this with many of the techniques including natural horsemanship that are now widely available.

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