Horse yoga is the new goat yoga

Hailey Howe

Forget going through your sun salutations on a mat in a sweltering hot studio — try doing a crow pose sitting on a horse amidst the scenery of Bear Creek Stables.

One UT informal class offers horse yoga to students with instructors Linda Dovers and Susie Winfield. For $179, students can participate in the unique yoga course offered at the Bear Creek Stables for an hour on Sunday mornings for four weeks. The new class, which will be taught by both Dovers and Winfield, will have a maximum class size of eight riders. The biggest goal of the class is to foster a bond between the horse and the rider in order to not only enrich the yogi’s practice but also to release stress in less conventional way.

Horse yoga is essentially partners yoga. The rider is paired with a horse to create a partnership for the duration of the class. In the class, the student will cycle through a series of Asanas, or yoga poses, into which they sink their breath. The poses are done either on the horse’s back or standing next to the horse. The in-saddle poses are generally more simpler and focus on hamstring stretches, eagle poses and triangle poses.

The concept of horse yoga was created by Dovers and Winfield as a means of combining two of their greatest passions: horses and yoga. Dovers is the owner of Bear Creek Stables and a teacher for various equestrian-related informal classes for UT students, including Western and English horseback riding. Meanwhile, Winfield works for UT as an event manager in the Cockrell School of Engineering and is a lifelong horseback rider and yoga instructor of 10 years. She has been riding at Bear Creek with Dovers for some time and said that the horse yoga class was a natural combination between Dovers’ experience in horsemanship and her own experience as a yoga instructor.

“We love horses and we love yoga, so we said let’s try to make this happen. Susie has been riding with me out here and so we decided to combine the two,” Dovers said.
Although horses and yoga may not seem like the most likely combination, Winfield argues that the two go hand in hand because both horses and yoga can be therapeutic, and that being around horses is especially beneficial for UT students, who are very busy and stressed.

“We know that people from all walks of life contact Bear Creek Stables to find new opportunities to connect with and experience horses. People are actively wanting to interact with them,” Winfield said. “We all know that for many people being around animals is cathartic, so taking your yoga practice and doing it around a horse just enhances what we are already doing when we are practicing yoga, which is to cultivate strength and peace of body and mind.”     

Dovers explained that this informal class is different because it focuses on the connection between the horse and rider instead of just cultivating the rider’s skills through traditional means.

“One of the key components of being able to cultivate (peace) is to be 100 percent in the moment,” Winfield said. “It’s a living creature that you’re partnered with.”