Connecting with Horses through Yoga
Our true and natural state as a foundation for the human-horse relationship
By Rosemary Wyndham-Jones, Founder of Equine Pathfinders Foundation
I sit out in the paddock as the sun rises, casting light on the watery horizon of the South Pacific, illuminating the grass-covered dune behind me. A soft, golden glow embraces the silhouettes of my magnificent herd of horses.
As I draw the warm spring air down to my core, my breath connects my body to the ground beneath me and the sky above.
As I breathe, my body and busy mind gradually molt into a connected, peaceful state, shedding old layers to make way for new growth. Like the horses peacefully grazing around me, I feel at one with the world around me.
Just as yoga is about union of the breath, body, and mind, the connection between horse and human explores the relationship of two seemly opposite beings coming into union as one. The experience of using breath, subtle movement, and deep rapport allows heart-felt transmission of a mutual reality and one's true self.
“Ordinary life is not just about the self. If it were we would not have survived long as a species. The interrelationship among all things and all beings is fundamental to this journey we are on, and should be celebrated.”
Mark Whitwell, The Promise of Love, Sex, and Intimacy
Horses are prey animals and flight is their main survival strategy. For humans to connect with horses in this way, we find ourselves digging deep inside to break predatory patterns.
There are many people who say they love horses and then use paradigms of domination and control including pain to mold the horse to their will. This is not love; this is loving what the horse does to elevate the human ego, prowess, and esteem.
Furthermore, our relationship with our horses may provide a glimpse into the patterns we bring to other relationships in our lives, including the relationship with Self.
“If you treat the horse gently, soon the horse will do everything you ask the horse to do. If you bully the horse, the horse will never do anything for you. Similarly it is not wise to bully the body with will of mind.”
- Sri T Krishnamacharya,
"Father" of Modern Yoga
This is as real with a horse as it is metaphorically with the body. The intimacy, unity, and true friendship that is experienced by being in a relationship with horses in this way is as unique as it is profound. Practicing yoga and “being” with horses does not require getting anywhere, only the willingness to participate.
Just as the principles of breath are the foundation of the asana, the same is applied to the foundation of starting a relationship with a horse, and indeed with any being. Once body and breath connect then connection with other sentient beings happens almost simultaneously and effortlessly.
Thus yoga and horses guide us to our true and perfect natural state.
Horses as Role Models
Horses model behaviour that we as humans would be wise to incorporate into our lives. In their natural state they are peaceful herbivores. They are congruent in their inner and outer expressions. They utilise their breath and demonstrate the releasing of energy: by yawning, snorting, taking big outbreaths, licking and chewing, stretching, shaking, rolling, and going back to grazing. They don’t hold judgement or resentment.
Horses regulate and conserve their energy for only what’s required to survive and thrive. They live in the moment, dealing with situations as they arise - without worry about past or future events. They are intimate, focused, and pay full attention. They are the epitome of patience. Herd leaders provide focused energy and clear guidance on how to respond to energy shifts as they lead through direction.
If we allow ourselves to listen, horses have the innate ability to teach us:
How Do I Impact Others?
Horses offer a powerful method for developing human self-awareness, helping us to see how we impact others. The horse's response to our actions, moods, and energy is immediate and authentic. They pick up on non-verbal communication and give us an indication as to how other humans might consciously or sub-consciously be picking up those signals as well.
When we embody our energy and our actions through the breath and the teachings of yoga, we can better understand our impacts on others and learn to communicate more purposefully and effectively.
As much as 90% of our communication is non-verbal. Are you aware of the non-verbal signals
you express to others? Do you pick up on what the body language of others is telling you?
Over the years at our Yoga Retreat and Horse Inspired Learning Center, I have been touched every time I witness the difference horses make in another person's life. I am grateful to have the opportunity to enable and nourish the feeling of interconnectedness of all life and the links to our own unique sources of power. By bringing my two passions - yoga and horses - together, I am able to use the teachings of the horses and my yoga mentors to guide people to a deeper level of authenticity and connection to their natural state.
I lift my arms slowly to the sky, saluting the rising sun as I finish up my morning yoga practice with the herd. My head is already starting to buzz with the never-ending list of to-do's that will fill the rest of my day.
My bay horse Soma stops eating and raises his head. He approaches me slowly and pauses, gently placing his hooves next to my crossed legs. I welcome his warm breath blowing into the top of my head, tousling my hair.
"Just a bit longer," he seems to say. "Just be here in the moment with me and breathe a bit longer." And so I listen.
With Soma's gentle reminder to remain present and aware, I slowly rise to start the day, feeling connected and embracing my true and perfect natural state.
Rosemary Wyndham-Jones is a life-long horsewoman, a natural horse-friendship trainer, an EAGALA Equine Specialist, an EPONAQUEST Riding Focused Instructor, and a Holistic Horse and Hoof-care Professional. She is a certified yoga instructor, basing her practice on the teachings of internationally renowned Mark Whitwell.
Rosemary is the owner and founder of Dune Lakes Lodge, a Retreat and Horse Inspired Learning Centre. She co-founded Equine Pathfinders Foundation, a charitable organisation established to make equine assisted growth and learning accessible to everyone.
Rosemary is honored to host the Spirit Horse Festival with her herd at their home.
Find out more about our presenters and what's in store for the 2020 festival program