Recently, I had an unexpected opportunity to spend two days at a yoga retreat center in Vermont with about 20 other yoga teachers from the East Coast. The Stowe Mountain Ranch Yoga Retreat Center is particularly known for its “Yoga With Horses Program” put together by Stowe “Namaste Cowboy” Gerry Scott, a creative, energetic, professional equestrian who also practices yoga. I was excited but as I set out, one friend’s skepticism rang in my ears: “Yoga I get. Horses I get. Yoga and horses? I don’t get it.”
I didn’t really get it, either. All I knew was that I needed a get away. I’d been feeling sick and stressed out, over-worked and unsure of my path. Still, it seemed a little crazy and even my children (three young adult males), were wary. “Horses are unpredictable!” one warned, “Wear a helmet and watch your feet!” My God, they were beginning to sound like me! Nevertheless, off I trotted on the nearly six-hour journey from New Jersey to the land of maple syrup, Ben & Jerry’s and Bernie Sanders (with my dear friend Dee, also a yoga teacher).
A little about the place: Nestled in the Green Mountains at the base of Mount Mansfield (the Trapp Family Lodge is nearby), this 10-plus bedroom retreat center is in a breathtakingly scenic spot. There’s an Indian teepee on the grounds with a rushing stream below, scores of classic Vermont antiques in the rooms (think snowshoes and trunks), four beautiful horses, two yellow labs (as in the doggie kind), even some wild turkeys. The horses aren’t kept somewhere down the road. Nay, the stables are just a few yards from the ranch house and a spacious 33-mat deck where morning and evening yoga classes are conducted. As we rested in Savasana one evening and the teacher called out, “Sigh and let it all go,” Cherie, a Clydesdale Thoroughbred Cross, chimed in with a lovely whinny. Clearly, horses and yoga went hoof and hand here.
The evening of our arrival, we had a “meet and greet” with each other and with the animals. I hadn’t fed a horse in many years so I was a little rusty; their mere size was daunting. But as they nibbled feed from our open palms, we did let go of some of that initial worry. I wasn’t the only participant who hadn’t ridden in a while; one yogi had never even been on a horse in his life. Continue reading >>