The Dark Side of Yoga & Horses

There are a lot of opinions in the two main communities I’m involved in—horse and yoga. The horse community has as many opinions as there are blades of grass—to shoe or not to shoe, how much grain to feed, what kind of grain to feed, whether to feed any grain, to use a flash noseband or not, to turn out at night or during the day or all the time, to lead and mount and dismount from the left side or both sides (like there’s a wrong side of the horse, I mean, c’mon), the list goes on.

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The yoga community has more opinions than all those “Namastes” will lead you to believe. That Hatha or Kundalini or Bikram or Baptiste or Vinyasa or Yin or Jivamukti or Restorative is the best kind of yoga. That this type of mat is better than another. That your hips should point totally forward in Warrior I or that they should be slightly turned. That Sanskrit should be used. That it shouldn’t be used. That yoga classes with music aren’t real yoga. That real yogis are vegan. That true yogis look a certain way, act a certain way, sound a certain way. That headstand should never be done, or that it should always be practiced. This list goes on, too.

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What’s most important in these two communities isn’t anyone’s opinion (unless it’s Shiva Rea’s or George Morris’—kidding, sort of), but respecting each other and extending kindness and acceptance. Becoming a teacher has shown me that while most people are supportive, some in the community are not, whether that lack of support comes from a place of insecurity, misunderstanding, or something else. And that’s okay. I don’t expect everyone to like me and what I’m doing. Yoga on horseback is new and different, so of course some people are critical. Some horsepeople have told me it’s cruel to the horse. Those people haven’t taken the time to get to know me and my horse, but if they did, they’d see that Snowy enjoys our yoga sessions just as much the human on his back enjoys them. They’d realize that I’m a knowledgeable horsewoman who has both the yoga and horse skills to make sure we’re not doing any poses that would put Snowy in discomfort or pain. They’d see that his well-being is my priority.

camel on horseback

I encourage all of us in the yoga and horse communities to respect each other and to be open to others’ opinions. Just because you’ve been told that a certain way is the RIGHT way, that doesn’t mean it’s the only way. What’s right for you may not work for someone else. So remain open. Try being curious instead of critical, open-minded instead of judgmental. That’s how we continue to learn. With yoga and horses, there is always more to learn. Thinking you’re right about everything only closes you off to further learning. Starting today, love more. Offer more kindness. Be more accepting of those who are different from you. I guarantee the world will respond with more love in return.

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