“Yoga and horses are my two passions, so I was curious about combining the two.”
I’m the barn manager at Wheatland Farm in Purcellville, Virginia. We provide therapeutic riding and other support programs. I’m also a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher (with Yoga Alliance).
I’ve been riding horses all my life. My mother is also a horsewoman, and when I was a toddler she worked for a couple that owned a few hunt horses. In order to exercise the horses, my mom would ride one and pony another behind her with me riding the horse bareback and holding onto a surcingle. We’d go trotting and cantering on the rolling hills here in Virginia’s horse country.
When I was five years old, my mom and I moved to Garrett County, Maryland. She was the Director of the Equestrian Center at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa in nearby Farmington, PA, so I was lucky enough to hang out at the barn on weekends and during the summer. I’d go out trail riding by myself for hours. Those memories of just me and the horse in nature are memories I’ll cherish all my life. Growing up I competed on the local hunter circuit and also trail rode often. I’ve trained numerous horses and ponies and worked in various types of equestrian centers. I’ve also competed in Dressage, Eventing, and Hunter Paces. I was on the Equestrian Team in college. During a semester abroad in Spain, I took lessons on Arabians and PREs (Pura Raza Española or Andalusians). After college I moved to Savannah, Georgia, where I worked at the Equestrian Center at The Ford Plantation. In 2013, I moved back to Virginia, where I’m continuing my yoga and equestrian careers.
I began practicing yoga nine years ago during my first year in college at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. It provided me with amazing stress relief. I felt so good after every class. I wanted to deepen my own practice and begin teaching others, so I decided to go through teacher training, which I completed in May 2015. I started practicing yoga on horseback about four years ago. I lived in Georgia at the time and the yoga studio I went to (Awakening Yoga Studio in Richmond Hill, GA) had a photo contest. I had the idea then to try a few yoga poses on my pony Sugar Maple, who was Snowy’s grandsire (grandfather). Sugar passed away in March of 2014. Anyway, I won the photo contest, and I continued to do yoga on horseback every now and then. I began practicing yoga on horseback more consistently when I moved back to Virginia in 2013.
Yoga and horses are my two passions, so I was curious about combining the two. Yoga is a journey inward, and horses are mirrors for our inner selves, so the two are very complementary. The goal of yoga is to quiet the mind, and the more you quiet the mind, the better you can hear what the horse has to say. The more I practiced yoga with Snowy, the more I realized how much it was affecting our relationship. I’ve had Snowy since he was born (I actually witnessed his birth), so we’ve always been close. I did all of his training myself, using Natural Horsemanship. Practicing yoga with him increased the trust we already had. I also realized that not only did it feel good for me, but it felt good for Snowy, too! It’s similar to a massage or chiropractic session for Snowy (both of which he gets). I never do any poses that cause him harm or discomfort. His wellbeing is my first priority. To practice yoga and horsemanship together has been an amazing spiritual journey for me, especially in how it has affected my relationship with Snowy. Snowy is NOT a prop–he is my PARTNER. As I mentioned, the trust between us has deepened, and we communicate now on an even more subtle level than ever before. I know intuitively that Snowy enjoys our yoga practices, but some tangible ways I (or any observer) can tell he’s enjoying it are that he often licks, chews, and yawns, which are all signals of calm and relaxation in a horse.
The Message of My Story…
Horses are sentient beings who deserve to be treated with kindness and respect and that we humans can learn a lot from horses, other animals, and nature if we just learn how to listen. Horses have taught me countless life lessons and continue to do so. They’ve increased my compassion, empathy, intuition, and my connection to the natural world.
Finally, I wanted to end with a few fun facts about Snowy: He’s a 10-year-old Appaloosa. He’s very extroverted. He loves to make people laugh. In addition to yoga, Snowy also enjoys trail rides and Dressage.