I knew I would love horseback yoga. Why wouldn’t I? It’s the combination of two of my favourite things. What I didn’t expect was the power it would have on my friend, Sarah.
Earlier that day, before the yoga, I’d been out with Sarah on a ride. She hadn’t ridden a horse since she was a tiny girl and was so scared of even getting on her horse that she got off again straight after. After cajoling her with promises of ‘just walking’ and ‘it will be fun, promise’, she eventually got back on. But during the ride, although she told me continuously just how much she loved horses, she still couldn’t get over the fear she felt just from being on top of them.
‘I think it might be irrational,’ she said. ‘Something deep inside. I don’t like having this feeling at all, I don’t understand why I’m so scared.’
When we returned to the Rancho, Sarah still felt so jittery that we decided that one of Jenny’s famous relaxing yoga sessions could be in order. But when we told Jenny about what had happened on the ride and why exactly we needed some relaxing yoga to sort us out, she had a better idea.
‘I have a surprise for you,’ she said. She led us back down to the horses and pulled out Calypso and Gasperin, calling to the wranglers to brush them thoroughly as she did so. ‘Horseback yoga, Ladies!’
I thought Sarah might run straight to the consoling sips of a few shots of tequila. But, to her credit, she nodded slowly, tried a smile, and said, ‘I actually think that might be good for me.’
Jenny beamed back. ‘Of course, my love! That’s why I suggested it!’
What followed can only be described as a kind of magic. From the moment Jenny hoisted Sarah aboard Calypso’s wide and experienced horse-yoga back, Sarah changed: her shoulders drew downwards, she relaxed into the movement of the horse, she … smiled. After a few deep breaths and salutes to the sun, I even heard Sarah laugh.
‘It’s really special,’ she said. ‘I feel so much closer to the horse now. I feel like I understand it.’
I nodded in agreement. Being able to do poses such as cobra and cat pose on top of a horse truly did feel special.
‘Now fold down and hang against the horse’s neck,’ said Jenny. ‘See if you can breathe in time with him.’
So I lay against Gasperin’s neck and breathed deeply. He smelt like grass and dust and miles run quick. He smelt like the best aftershave in the world. I shut my eyes and meditated. I could have slept like that, I think.
After the yoga, we rode our horses around the ring using only a halter and lead rope, and Sarah was not scared at all. Instead, she beamed. So did I.
What Jenny does at the Rancho with her horseback yoga sessions is truly special and unique. I’ve not come across it anywhere else in the world. It may even be my favourite thing I’ve ever done at the Rancho (and that’s saying something, given how much there is to do here!). Being able to work with the horses in this close, intimate, trusting way really is a privilege – if you get the chance, you simply must try it too!