When I started to think about a Yoga and Horses retreat I knew that I needed to find someone to work with who possessed more than beautiful horses. That was important of course, but the person working with retreaters also needed to have the skills to safely work with all levels of women equestrians. Driving out to Hippophile Farm for the first time with my daughters I didn't know what to expect. By the time I was exiting the driveway I was so obviously delighted that my seven year old asked me why I was smiling. My answer was easy. It's not everyday you find a immaculate horse farm nestled away on a beautiful Wisconsin island with a knowledgeable and personable horsewoman ready to lead the way. Yep, that is a very rare find.
I was able to get her take on life as a horse expert and what she looks forward to this summer on the Yoga and Horses retreat. Here is our conversation:
Amy: How early in your life did you realize that you had a passion for Horses?
Kristin: I think the first time I realized I had a passion for horses was when my mom sent me to a camp that had horses in 5thgrade There were other activities besides the horses, but all I really wanted to do was be at the barn. I remember a friend that I attended camp with me didn’t seem to have the same enthusiasm. I thought how could she not want to do this as much as I do!!! Then after camp I did not get the opportunity to ride until the next year. It was always in the back of my mind, when would I get to ride a horse again.
My other clue was I asked my parents for a horse every year for my birthday. No matter what age I became.
Amy: What are some of the life skills you have learned over the process of training a horse?
Kristin: The two biggest things I have learned are patience and perseverance. Patience comes when you train any animal to do something. You learn that a partnership with a horse takes times to establish. It takes patience. In order for them to trust you, you need to spend lots of quality time with them. They need to respect you and vice versa in order for them to want to work for you. Horse and rider combinations are not made over night, especially the brilliant ones. When a horse and rider have true partnership you know that patience was used to establish it. Rome was not built in a day!!
Perseverance comes in when the going might get a little tough. Don’t give up. If something isn’t working try something different. If today isn’t the day, tomorrow may be. Just keep trying and learning! No one said it was going to be easy…
Amy: There is a lot written about the horse-human connection. What does that mean to you?
Kristin: This is a complicated question really. For me horses are just beautiful creatures to look at, and I have always been interested in trying to understand their language. The more I ride and train them the more I realize they are the best teachers you can have. They never lie. They don’t know how. They know when we are sad, angry, frustrated, fearful, happy. They are great mirrors of our human emotions.
They bring out the best and the worst in people. They help us understand who we are if we are willing to listen to them. They inspire me to be better for them.
Amy: How would you describe yourself as a teacher?
Kristin: This might be a good question for my students.
I think as a teacher I try to be very enthusiastic and inspiring. I love watching people get it…
I am also patient especially when teaching a new rider. However when I need to be, I can be somewhat demanding. If I feel a student needs a little push I will push, to help them realize that they CAN do it.
Safety is a big part of my teaching. I always teach with the horse and riders safety in mind. No ifs ands or buts about it.
Amy: What techniques do you use with someone who is new to the horse world?
Kristin: The first thing you need to do is access how fearful they are.Most people new to horses harbor some sort of apprehension or fear, generally because they know nothing about them. So my job is to try to help them to become comfortable and learn to relax around them. The easiest way to help them is to have very well schooled trustworthy lesson horse to teach them on.
A good horse can go a long way in helping a new rider gain confidence. We all have heard stories of people having bad experiences on horses that were not suited for them. This is how they become fearful of all horses. It is up to me to help them have a good experience. Gradually they will gain confidence, and learn to enjoy their time around horses.
Amy: What is it about the mind body connection of yoga that also relates to a human spending time with a horse?
Kristin: As it relates to learning the skills to ride a horse, yoga is all about balance, relaxation, and being present in the moment. So is learning to ride.
When riding we teach our bodies to stay in a balanced position over our seat bones on top of the horse. We use our core muscles to keep ourselves essentially in the saddle. We learn to relax and breathe while riding so as not to make our mounts tense. Because trust me, what we are doing on top of them they feel and will react to. If your riding tense, they may become tense. Like I said they are great teachers, they do not lie.
If we can teach our mind & bodies with the techniques we use in yoga, keeping a clear and focused attitude, staying relaxed and balanced, using breathing techniques to be aware of our bodies and how we are using them, we can use these same techniques on horseback. Thus helping our horses with the job we are asking them to do, be it dressage, jumping or a nice pleasant trail ride.
After starting yoga myself, I can tell you that I have learned to be more relaxed & aware of my position while riding. It has helped me be more mindful of my horse, and more pleased with the results I am getting while riding.. My horses appreciate it… they love it when I am in the present!
Amy: Please add any additional thoughts on our retreat partnership.
Kristin: I am so looking forward to the opportunity to work with Amy on the Yoga & Horses Retreat. Her expertise in the teaching of yoga will only enhance the time we will be spending on horseback. I hope it will be a mind opening experience for everyone who attends. Namaste
Madeline Island Yoga Retreats will host two Yoga and Horses retreats in August. Join us August 19-23,2012 or August 26-30, 2012. Space is limited so consider reserving your spot soon.