News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 2, 2013

Yoga on horses? It’s not a stretch

Brian Boyce
The Tribune-Star

ST. MARY-OF-THE-WOODS — Horsing around with yoga is more than a stretch for some equine enthusiasts.

The Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College indoor show arena contained a crowd of nearly 30 on Friday as it hosted an exhibition of yoga performed on horseback. Author Blair McKissok also serves as one of the school’s equine coaches, and she explained prior to Friday afternoon’s demonstration that yoga with horses is an activity growing in national popularity.

“It’s something you just gotta see,” she said as six participating students rode into the arena for the session.

Tara Lane, employer relations coordinator for the school, said the exhibition was hosted as part of an equine career fair introducing students to potential employers. The college serves about 50 equine studies majors, plus dozens more with minors, she said. Recent graduates have been recruited by federal agencies including the U.S. Customs Department as well as the U.S. Border Patrol. Both the Boy and Girl Scouts of America, small farms, and Indiana’s state racing commission also come to school looking for horse specialists, she said.

“It’s an emerging field,” she said, adding this year marks the school’s fourth such fair, sponsored in conjunction with the Indiana Horse Council.

McKissok, author of “Equiyo,” said practicing yoga on horses offers numerous benefits. In addition to providing exercise for the rider, it likewise helps the animal maintain its flexibility while stretching. But more importantly, it strengthens the emotional bond between rider and horse, increases awareness between the two, and is good training in general.

“I’ve been doing yoga on horseback about five years now,” she said, explaining she first got into yoga while pregnant with her first child 12 years ago.

Pairing the work with horses with yoga only makes sense, she added.

“Horses are different every single day,” she said, explaining that, like humans, the animals respond to their environment with positive and negative attitudes. Yoga is a fun activity the two can share as they learn to work together.

Yoga, she said, was developed centuries ago by monks who wanted to strengthen their muscles for the time and positions required for meditation. Participants in Friday’s exercise stepped their horses through a number of different positions

Connie Tarplee said she drove all the way from Danville, Ill., to watch the demonstration.

“This will be really great for me and my horse,” she said, adding she’s been riding nearly 60 years. “It’s good to see different holistic activities to do with horses.”

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or brian.boyce@tribstar.com.