Horses and yoga!

Tuesday January 24th 2012 02:48:58 PM

An account of the Horses and Yoga Course in June 2011

The course in 2012 runs from 20th June to 24th June, places are booking up already and are strictly limited due to the nature of this very special course.

I have just spent an amazing four days running a course called Connecting with Horses on Clare Island in the very west of Ireland. Each day started at 8am with two hours of yoga practice followed by breakfast before horse work until lunchtime. Virtually all the food at the vegetarian Eco centre is produced on site, is organic and absolutely delicious. Iím not a vegetarian but this food is enough to convince me that leaving meat off my plate would not be a hardship
After lunch we went back out with the horses until about 4.30pm followed by a swim in the crystal clear waters of the sparkling Clew Bay before a meditation session followed by a delicious dinner.
By 9.30pm we were all pretty exhausted, but did we slope off to bed? You must be joking! We took the half hour walk to the village for live music and hot whisky at the local hotel. This island may be in the middle of nowhere but there are people from all over the world both visiting and working here. Among others I met a property developer from Texas whose grandparents had come from the island, an archaeologist who now runs the ferry between the mainland and Clare and a Japanese girl studying to become a yoga teacher. Many well known people have been regular visitors, including Gabriel Byrne and Peter OíToole. Even Keith Richards and Ronnie Woods of The Rolling Stones have played at the hotel on a trip here. The unspoilt, rugged landscape is irresistible.
The walk back in daylight at 11.30pm through ancient hay meadows accompanied by the song of cricket warblers and with mad hares dashing across our path was the stuff that dreams are made of.
I have run this Yoga with Horsemanship course once before on one of my many trips to the island. Last time it was with experienced horse people who did yoga to improve their riding, this time we had yoga people who were looking at horses to improve their yoga. Although they had all ridden a horse at some point in their lives one person had had a traumatic experience and was looking to put his fears to rest.
Nev, although Irish, runs a very high powered advertising company in London and was using yoga to cope with the stresses and strains of his daily life. While on holiday a few years ago he had been talked into going riding, the horse had bolted so understandably he now had a fear of horses. Nev felt that now was the time to lay that fear to rest.
Because these people had so little experience of horses they explored many unconventional ways of feeling comfortable around the small herd on the island. Nev sat on a rock, somewhat nervously, and started his particular style of meditation and breathing. Within minutes two of the most timid horses were standing over him each resting a back leg snoozing peacefully. These two particular horses are usually difficult to catch and move away from groups of people. Another girl propped herself up against a rock in the sun and completely relaxed soon she was joined by a young horse who lay down quietly at her feet. No one on the course had any idea that this was unusual and took it in their stride that this is what horses do.
On the last day Nev climbed gingerly onto the bare back of a pure white Irish draught mare. Breathing deeply he synchronised his breathe with that of the horse and they moved off quietly together. With the backdrop of the shimmering bay and Croagh Patrick beyond it was pure magic.

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