Horseback riding and yoga may not be an obvious pairing, but spend a few minutes with Excelsior resident Andrew Seifert and you will soon be convinced that these two sports bring out the best in one another. “It’s a natural marriage,” says Seifert of this powerful combination that has brought numerous benefits to students—and horses—through Equinimity, the business that Seifert owns with Jennefer Lear.
Horse yoga, as it’s commonly called, does not mean horses flowing through a series of yoga poses. In reality, it’s yoga for riders, which is specifically tailored to promote strength, intentionality and calm in both the horse and the human. For Seifert, this practice also translates to life outside of the stable or studio. “It feeds the soul,” says Seifert of his yoga practice.
Seifert and Lear share complementary strengths and a rich history, so it’s no surprise that Equinimity is built upon a collective passion, common values and a lifetime of experience. Seifert grew up riding horses and took lessons from Lear’s mother. As an adult, Seifert developed a passion for yoga and became a certified instructor in 2013, but it wasn’t until his daughter started riding horses a few years ago that he realized the compatibility of the two sports.
At about this same time, Lear, a fourth-generation horse trainer, attended her first yoga class and realized that the words and ideas the yoga instructor expressed were the same as in Lear’s riding classes. When Lear and Seifert reconnected and discovered their common interests, they teamed up to form Equinimity. Now they co-teach classes in various stables and studios around the metro area.
An Equinimity class starts with yoga, led by Seifert, and then transitions to a riding session with Lear. Students gather in the front office of the stable, yoga mats in hand. This might appear to be a standard yoga class—some cat and cow poses to warm up the spine, then several sun salutations, followed by balance poses—but Seifert connects each pose to the upcoming ride. “Sink into your hips,” he tells his students as they move into chair pose. “That will help you when you’re in the saddle.” Then, as students find stillness in tree pose, Seifert reminds them, “Think about your foot in a stirrup… tighten up… focus on your breathing.”
After an hour of breathing, balance and strength-building, students transition from yoga to riding clothes and move to the stables to ready the animals for their ride. Twenty minutes later, they appear in the arena, and Lear takes over where Seifert left off. “Big breath as your shoulders come down,” she calls to one student who is trotting around the arena.
Andrew watches his yogis implement the yoga practices of mind, body and spirit in each of their horse rides. “The idea is that we can build a practice, a better connection to the horse,” he explains. He points out a rider’s posture, strength and steady hands as evidence of yoga at work.
“Even for an experienced rider, learning the breathing [is important],” Lear adds. “For kids, helping them find that—being in the moment and slowing down. The horse can tell. They sense that.”
Seifert says that he saw this first-hand in his own daughter’s growth. The time his daughter has spent learning both yoga and riding has allowed her to blossom into a confident and calm young woman. “This is all about getting people in the right mindset,” says Seifert, and he is proud and grateful that these two activities have fostered this mindset in his teenage daughter.
As Seifert and Lear see continued benefits for riders of all ages and backgrounds, they continue to dream about where else they can introduce horse yoga. “As we do it, we want to do more of it,” says Lear. “A marriage of this kind is kind of perfect.”