Yoga and Horsemanship Course 2013

Friday April 19th 2013 09:47:06 AM

The course in 2013 runs from 21st June to 25th June, places are booking up already and are strictly limited due to the nature of this very special course.

The Path of Horsemanship, a 4 day course on Clare Island with Vanessa Bee, Ciara Cullen and Christophe Mouze
21st June - 25th of June 2012

Four days of learning how to use your mind, body and breath to influence the horse on the ground or when riding to enhance your equine relationship. This transformative course is suitable for novices right through to sportsman who wish to increase their winning edge.

What is the path of horsemanship?

Horses, being prey animals, live entirely in the present. For them, being fully aware of their surroundings is a matter of life and death. To match their incredible sensitivity and communicate effectively with them in a way that they naturally understand, we have to develop an awareness that matches theirs. We have to train our bodies, developing feel, timing and balance, so that we can move as precisely and gracefully as they do. We have to train our breath, so we can breathe with them, gaining their respect and trust. We have to train our minds to be able to deal with them with calmness, fairness and equanimity. This is the path of horsemanship.

This path led one of America's top clinicians and horsemanship writers, Mark Rashid, to take up Aikido, and now, having gained an Aikido black belt, he runs Aikido for Horsemen workshops. Another follower of this path, Chris Irwin, writes in his "Dancing with Your Dark Horse" book on the subject of martial arts and horsemanship: �Both offer mental and spiritual discipline. Both offer a way to unite body and mind. And both offer a spiritual path as well." Indeed, combining horsemanship with some form of body centred self development technique is an increasingly popular idea amongst Natural horsemanship circles.
At Macalla farm, we have been running yoga courses for many years, and three years ago, started combining yoga and Positive horsemanship in a course aimed at horse people who want to improve their connection with horses.
Yoga complements the work we do with horses in many ways.
First, through the practice of Surya Namaskar (sun salutation) and asanas (postures), we learn how to relax and become more aware of our bodies, and how we move them. Because horses are master at reading body language, being more attuned with our own bodies is essential to improve our communication with them, whether we are on the ground or in the saddle, and some point, training our bodies becomes essential to improve our horsemanship. Klaus Ferdinan Hempfling, a master in the art of communicating with horses using body language puts it in these terms in his "Dancing with horses" DVD: "This means that you, of course, need an at least partially schooled, trained, soft, elastic body which can very precisely convey the body signals coming from within to the horse." Regular yoga practice also helps to build and maintain fitness for riding, and some yoga postures are very beneficial to improve your seat.
On another, more subtle level, through the practice of pranayama (yogic breathing), we learn how to relax and become more aware of our breathing, and the horses certainly notice! Horses are very aware of their handlers or riders breathing, and we have found that using yogic breathing techniques when handling horses helps them to relax and trust us. Yogic breathing also increases concentration, and with better focus, communication with the horses becomes clearer and easier.
Frederic Pignon, a founder of the famous Cavalia equine show, and one of France' leading horse trainers, writes on the subject of breathing and concentration in his book "Galloping to freedom":
"... I often use breathing to relax both the horse and myself and to develop concentration. I breathe out in a way the horse can understand and copy... All my horses learn to do this...." .
Finally, through the practice of meditation, we learn to devellop a non reactive mind. Horses are acutely aware of the emotional state of their handler. More than two thousand years ago, Xenophon advised horsemen to �Never deal with a horse when you are in a fit of passion. A fit of passion is a thing that has no foresight in it, and so we often have to rue the day when we gave way to it�. Because horses are flight animals, their main emotion is fear, which is extreme case can completely overwhelm them to the point where they become blind and oblivious to physical pain. The antidote to fear is trust, but how can a worried horse trust a handler who is in an heightened emotional state of anger or fear? Being in control of our emotions is essential to build trust with horses, and particularly when training them or otherwise putting them through new situations. In these situations, our own confidence, calm and emotional balance makes all the difference. This is perhaps the most difficult part of the path, as controlling our mind is even more difficult than controlling our bodies and breath, but this is without a doubt the most important step.

The path of horsemanship is a path of transformation. Transforming our relationship with horses takes courage and practice. The reward, of course, is true partnership.

To find out more about the teachers, the stunning venue and the course please go to:

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