Does the idea of doing yoga have you saying, “Namaste in bed”?
What if we told you that you could incorporate your horse into your yoga practice? Or even guide your horse through some “pony yoga” poses?
Keep reading to find out how to be more flexible and relaxed the next time you swing up into the saddle.
Make sure to consult your vet or equine chiropractor before performing any of these stretches on your horse.
Does yoga help horseback riding?
Absolutely! Do you find it difficult to swing up into the saddle? Or maybe your lower back hurts after a particularly bumpy ride. Yoga or basic stretching can help strengthen and tone your already awesome horseback riding muscles.
Being flexible doesn’t mean that you have to be able to touch your toes on a daily basis, it might mean that you can swing up into the saddle easier or come into a posting trot without hating yourself in the morning. Whatever your level of flexibility there is a yoga pose or modified yoga pose that can help with improving your ride.
What stretches can improve your riding, you ask? (will include pictures of myself in each pose)
Here are a couple of our favorites:
Forward fold (lower back)
- Start by standing up straight, feet hips width apart
- Take a deep breath and on your exhale fold forward and place your hands on your knees, shins, or the ground, if you’re more flexible.
- Start by holding this pose for 2 breaths and work your way up till
- Inhale, exhale. Bend your knees and round your back to come out of it.
Butterfly (hip flexor)
- Sit on the floor
- Put your feet together and let your knees drop open.
- If you’re more flexible grab your feet and gently pull yourself forward.
- To modify place your hands on the floor behind you and push yourself forward
- You can also sit against a wall and do this stretch
Pigeon (lower body)
You can do this one on the floor or in a chair.
- Start on the floor, and sit in butterfly pose
- Bring your left leg around so that your knee and shin are flat on the floor straight out behind you
- Don’t forget to breathe
- Start by sitting in a chair
- Cross your ankle over your knee, and lean forward slightly
- Don’t forget to breathe
Even if you just practice deep breathing while on your horse that can help relax your body enough to make a difference in your ride.
How can I do yoga and ride my horse at the same time?
Yoga isn’t just about being flexible and holding poses until your legs are shaking. The primary goal is to engage your breath while relaxing your body. Similarly, horses release tension in a few different ways, one of these is taking a deep breath and relaxing their entire body. Now, I’m not suggesting you start licking and chewing or resting your foot whenever you want to relax; however, reminding yourself to take a deep breath will help you and your horse relax, allowing them to move better through your queues.
Along with deep breaths try doing some basic stretches before you take off on a ride. These stretches might seem a little familiar. Do you remember when you first started riding and your instructor or 4H leader had you do balance exercises before, during, or after your time in the saddle?
Well, here’s a little throwback to the good ‘ol days when you first found your love of horses and spent the entire next day out of the saddle walking bow-legged to school. These stretches will help remind your body that it can be flexible in the saddle and still ride any horse you get thrown on.
Before doing these make sure you have a partner to hold your horse.
When you’re in the saddle:
- Start by having your arms out to the side and bringing one arm up and over your head and having the other hand on your knee so that you are stretching to the side. Take a deep breath or two and then come back to the center.
- Hold your arms out and twist to the right.
- Reach back towards your horse’s tail and bring your other arm up over your head.
- Repeat on the other side
- For the last stretch, take a breath and reach your arms over your head as if you were trying to touch the sky.
3 easy stretches for your horse
Not interested in doing yoga yourself? Why not try a few stretches for your horse? They will love it as much as you do. Start holding each pose for 10 seconds and work your way up slowly so your horse doesn’t feel strained. You should build up each pose according to what your horse’s needs are. When you try these stretches on your horse make sure you have someone else holding them and in an open area.
Stretch your horse’s shoulder and hip
When you do this stretch, do your best to brace their legs so that they can’t pull back. Make sure to take deep breaths too so that your horse understands that they can relax.
Directions for the front legs:
- Start by asking your horse to pick up their foot.
- After they pick it up, put both hands behind their knees.
- Brace their cannon bone against your upper leg
- Slowly pull their leg up and forward
For the back legs:
- Ask your horse to pick up their back leg
- Place your hands on their hock
- Slowly pull their leg forward toward their front leg until it is fully stretched out
Nose to chest
You’ll need a few treats for this stretch. For this one, you’ll be working your horse through it from the ground up. So, take it slowly and keep an eye on your horse for any signs of discomfort.
- Start by holding your treat to the ground between your horse’s hooves
- After they take that treat, hold your second one between their knees
- For the final stretch, take your treat and hold it to their chest.
Stretching neck towards each side
This stretch will require a treat or two. As always, don’t push your horse through this stretch and let them move through it naturally. If your horse tries to move in circles to get the treat, walk them over to a wall or the side of your riding area so they have to stand.
- Start by holding your treat out to their shoulder
- Your horse should try reaching for the treat, hold it there for about 10 seconds and then let them have it.
- This stretch should start at their shoulder and by the time you’re done they should be able to touch their belly
- Repeat on the other side