Using Yoga Principles To Improve Horsemanship, From Ground to Saddle

Cowgirl and Yogini Cathy Woods shares how to use yoga to become a more aware and conscious rider.

by Cathy Woods

As a yoga teacher of 26 years and long-time trail rider, it was a natural, organic process that my passions combined, as there are many similarities between the two. Both yoga and horsemanship require present moment awareness, breathing awareness, body awareness and certainly energy awareness. Several years ago I decided to create a program that synergistically combined these practices into a cohesive, fun, educational workshop called The Yoga of Horsemanship™, also known as Body, Mind, Equine™.

Cathy Woods Yoga Leading Horses

Body, Mind Equine™ is not really about doing yoga postures on the back of your horse as I see little value to that, though we do a few stretches in the saddle. The actual program is about how to use yoga and yogic principles to improve your horsemanship from ground to saddle.

A big misconception about yoga is that it's all about stretches and yoga poses. In its origins, there is much more to it. Postures are only one portion of true yoga. The westernized version of yoga focuses on postures and uses yoga as an exercise or fitness practice. It often excludes the rest of what yoga is about. Much of what is excluded can apply to horsemanship and life in general.

Yoga Poses on Horseback

Yoga is an awareness practice and so is horsemanship if we allow it to be.

The word yoga means unity. In the practice of yoga, it is believed that our energy is interconnected with all things. Our energy from ground to saddle affects the horse (and everyone and everything else around us).
Horses are great mirrors. If we come to them with centered, calm energy, that is often what we receive back. If we encounter them with scattered, fragmented, nervous energy that is often what we receive.

What Yoga Teaches Us:

• Present moment awareness
• Breathing awareness
• Energy awareness
• How to recognize when our energy changes
• How to recognize when the horse’s energy changes
• How to recognize when the energies around us change
• Body awareness and scanning the body for places using too much energy or holding tension

Stretching on Horseback Yoga Poses

Using Yoga to Improve Horsemanship Can Include:

• Meditation to improve focus and centeredness
• Deep relaxation and body scans
• Yoga postures such as hip openers, back stretches, core work, and balance poses
• Breathing through challenges, on the yoga mat, and in the saddle
• Being more present in the moment

The practices of combining yoga with horsemanship can help you have a better relationship and experience with your horse and the world around you.

About the Author: Cathy Woods teaches yoga as an “awareness practice” to be used on and off the mat. In addition, she leads a program called, Body, Mind, Equine combining her passions of yoga and horsemanship, teaching how yogic principles can be used to improve one’s horsemanship to become a more aware and conscious rider. For more information on Cathy’s horse and yoga retreats, visit her website.