London-based Lisa Chambers is quite the equestrian. She has been riding horses ever since her father gifted her a pony on her sixth birthday. After being vaccinated this year, she took off on her first vacation ever since the pandemic broke out. Along with a friend, she stayed at an exclusive eco-resort north of Marbella in Spain, which houses 70 purebred Lusitano studs. But the main attraction was yoga on horseback conducted by a special trainer.
“This was my third time experiencing equestrian yoga, and it was exactly what the doctor ordered after a difficult year of being locked indoors. I’m very comfortable on horseback, so I can push myself to try different asanas under the trainer’s guidance, but it was the first time for my friend who was hesitant to combine riding with yoga. She practiced her postures on the ground, channelling the energy of the horse by touching it or using it to find her own balance,” explains Chambers.
Equestrian yoga is not new. Yoga Journal magazine notes that the practice was originally created by yogis to improve their core stability and balance, and help them stay focussed on the present while being in touch with nature. Horsemen of yore are believed to have incorporated balance exercises on horseback in order to calm and tame unruly horses, and forge a strong bond between riders and their animals.
This unique yet increasingly popular wellness practice has now caught the attention of Indian riders too. Rudrika Singh, riding coach and owner of Adagio Riding Stables in Gurugram, Haryana, is keen to incorporate the practice into her classes. Already a certified equine therapist who works with people on the autism spectrum, she hopes to become India’s first professionally certified equestrian yoga trainer as well someday.
“I’m from an army background, and exercise has always been an important part of training for us. All our lessons start and end with stretches performed on horseback. I feel this helps the rider sit better in the seat and find their balance better. Horse-riding in itself is a complete workout and yoga is a great supplement to it. I always tell my students to practice yoga at home, but simple stretches on horseback are important as well,” she explains.
According to Singh, Adagio’s horses would adapt well to potential equestrian yoga classes, as they are trained from the very beginning to be in unison with the rider. “But I would like specific training in the field before I introduce the programme at Adagio, because when you’re on horseback you have to be very sure of what you’re doing. You have to be one with your teammate—the horse,” she adds with candour.
Long hailed as highly intuitive animals, horses make ideal companions for yoga. Some yoga practitioners believe this practice deepens the rider’s connection with the horse, as they pick up on the emotional environment, including the rider’s energy. In the west, equestrian yoga instructors teach students to connect to the horse’s breathing, use the animal for stability while doing poses on the ground, and guide advanced students through complicated moves like headstands on horseback.
However, Diya Kapoor, founder of Kriya by Diya, is quick to caution against trying new-fangled yoga fads without proper guidance. Having taught yoga for over 13 years, she says, “Personally I don’t think yoga on horseback is a good idea, because yoga is all about focus. You shouldn’t be thinking about other things while practicing yoga. You need to focus attention on the parts of the body you’re working on. I wouldn’t want to split the attention between doing the yoga posture and trying to balance on the animal.
Plus, riding a horse requires concentration and the animal is unpredictable—both you and the horse need to be safe. Yoga on horseback could possibly lead to injuring yourself or the animal, so I would recommend you try both activities separately!” Singh too believes that able guidance and a slow progression into the practice of equestrian yoga is advisable, and one should not try it on one’s own. Advocate Shriya Misra, a regular at Adagio, sums it up, “I feel yoga on horseback is aimed at people looking for something therapeutic and healthy, not so much an equestrian activity. Having said that, I’d try it if my coach organised it. She knows her horses and her riders best and I trust her with my life.”
Equestrian Yoga Helps you to...
✥ Develop a deeper seat and lower your centre of gravity by opening up your hips and building a stronger core
✥ Open up your shoulders so your arms can move more freely with the reins
✥ Improve your balance, being able to put more equal weight into your sit bones and stirrups
✥ Stay connected in the saddle while looking at that next jump
✥ Use your body, mind, and breath, to build that deep connection and relationship with your equine partner
✥ Be healthy and one with nature
Riding Lessons and Equine Therapy at Adagio Riding Stables
Location: Village Baliyawas, opposite Teri Gram, Gurugram-Faridabad Road, Haryana