First they started cranking up the heat. Then they switched to doing it on paddleboards. This Saturday they're doing it at a rave. But when it comes to yoga, Dr. Hannah Evergreen has them all beat. On Saturday mornings she teaches a small herd of horses (and their owners) how to stretch, breathe rhythmically, and "promote relaxation."
Some of her clients compete in dressage, the equestrian sport also known as "horse ballet." Dressage tests both a horse's training and conditioning, so the yoga thing is actually kind of a natural fit. Plus Evergreen says the owners of the animals are the fanatical type. In other words, the horses do yoga but the people that ride them don't.
Evergreen and her trusty steed.
"A lot of of the people are interested in yoga but they take better care of their horse than themselves," Evergreen says. "They do acupuncture and yoga for their horse but totally neglect their own body."
At the moment none of the owners do poses at the same time as -- or on top of -- their steeds. Evergreen started the classes about six months ago, and the animals are just getting the hang of the exercises. She wants to include the riders eventually, as other yoga whisperers have done.
One book on Amazon describes the horse/human yoga experience as "A New Path for Achieving Union with the Horse." That might sound like something that would happen on a farm in Enumclaw, but Evergreen says it's serious business.
Image Source A man achieving a new union with his filly.
"It's connectivity, the human animal bond," she says. "It's like a dance partner. If you're dancing with someone you really know, and care about, and understand their level of skill and a lot about them, you and that dance partner will take it to a whole nother level."
Though Evergreen says the horses are physically capable of doing basic poses like downward dog, most don't actually contort like swamis. The vet explains it's more of a "stretch exercise routine." Using a clicker, she trains the horses to do more or less natural motions like lifting their legs, bending forward, and stretching their backs. She also coaches the owners to breathe slow and easy because the animals will do the same.
"It's really fun," Evergreen says. "The horses, by the end of the hour, most of the time they're relaxed. They lick and chew and sigh and lower their heads and close their eyes a little bit. It's getting them a good endorphin release."
As far as Evergreen knows, she's the only equine yoga instructor in the state, but she has heard of a guy who does dog yoga. For people who don't own a horse but still want to partake, the vet has some spare mares. She runs a non-profit horse rescue program in addition to her regular practice. And it really does sound relaxing.
"I use aroma therapy," she says. "It's a calming essential herb. It calms the owner and the horse."
Yoga has officially jumped the shark, err, horse.