Not only can interaction with a horse be a fun experience or a great pastime, but it can also be very therapeutic. Horse interactions for the purposes of therapy are known professionally as Equine Assisted Therapy. Interaction with horses can be very rewarding emotionally, mentally and physically. One need not be able to speak to derive pleasure from interacting with horses. Similarly, cognitive skills do not also play a huge role for someone to enjoy this activity. Furthermore, because a horse’s movement is similar to a person’s, people with physical disabilities hindering them from walking may see improvement in their balance, muscle regeneration and their ability to be flexible. Emotionally it has been noted that people who have experienced tragic episodes in life such as a taxing illness like cancer can find interactions with horses cathartic. On the same note, people suffering from esteem issues may greatly increase their confidence by mastering horse riding. There are different categories of horse interaction for therapy, and the article gives more information on each.

Horseback Riding for Therapy

Horseback riding can be a beneficial experience not only in the field of recreational activities and sports but also in the areas of health. As a form of therapy, horseback riding can be beneficial as physical, emotional and mental therapy. In fact, thousands of people struggling in these areas benefit therapeutically from riding horses. It has been shown a horses movement when being ridden can help with a physical disability as it is similar to a man’s. Basically, it may help strengthen the muscles needed to balance, and to walk. For therapeutic purposes, horseback riding may be done with assistance from a Certified Instructor. People recovering from surgery have testified that horseback riding assisted them in their journey to walk. Mentally, horseback riding can improve cognitive ability. In illnesses affecting co-ordination such as multiple sclerosis, horseback riding may prove to be beneficial. One such person from the organization Astride with Pride (an organization that specializes in this form of therapy) testified that horseback riding helped her day to day struggles arising from multiple sclerosis. Emotionally, horseback riding is being used as a cathartic process, for people who have experienced tragedy.

Hippotherapy

Hippotherapy is different from horseback riding. Whereas horseback riding primarily involves the teaching of horse riding skills to persons with disabilities, Hippotherapy is an actual treatment method used by physicians. Hippotherapy is classified as neuromuscular therapy because it is believed that it can enhance posture and coordination of people with neuromuscular disabilities. Hippotherapy has been written about since early Greek Civilizations. In fact, the Greek Physician Hippocrates is recorded to have noted it in 400 B.C. Be that as it may, this form of therapy did not gain prominence until the mid-20th century when physicians started using it to people with mental disabilities. It can prove to be a more effective form of therapy than other conventional forms.

Equine-assisted Psychotherapy

Using horses psychological issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder has been done since time immemorial. It is only now regaining its prominence in the modern world of psychotherapy. Its effectiveness has not gone unnoticed. During Obama’s presidency, special funds were specifically allocated for this form of therapy, to assist in the rehabilitation of soldiers. Equine-assisted psychotherapy involves the use of a horse, a certified instructor as well as a therapist together in order to achieve a patient’s psychotherapy goals. It is an incredible alternative to conventional psychiatry. Among its many uses, Equine-assisted psychotherapy can be used for people with anger management issues, relationship issues, for those who have lost a loved one, depression and anxiety. Studies show that short-term results are instant. A Certified Instructor at the International Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship noted that he witnessed this form of therapy repairing a father and child bond.

Horses as Agents for Therapy

The large unobtrusive presence can be very calming. Moreover, horses are dynamic creatures, with unique characters, a quality that can assist with emotional awareness of psychotherapy patients. Similarly, they are social creatures living in a herd. Watching horses in their natural social setting can be a great teaching aid for important social skills. Lastly, because they offer a great form of distraction, they may be a great way for therapists to get their clients to open up.

One of Yoga’s goals is to help you be more in tune with your natural surroundings. It is no wonder why Yoga retreats are becoming so popular. Yoga retreats help one to connect with nature in a way that your local studio may not be able to. They also give you a chance to avoid technology for a while, thus making you more in tune with yourself. Moreover, being out in nature can help you introspect and deal with issues that may otherwise be hidden. Planning a Yoga retreat may be tedious, but may also be the key to an amazing and fulfilling retreat experience. This article provides information on how to plan your yoga retreat and also provides a sample schedule inspired by activities at Stowe Mountain Ranch.

Brainstorm the Location

You do not have to have a specific area in mind. All this step requires from you is that you get some time to visualize your ideal location for the retreat. If it helps, you can even jot down some notes highlighting your thoughts. Some of the factors that you may want to consider while doing this are the following. Think of whether the location you have in mind is conducive for a yoga getaway-after all this is not just any retreat but a yoga retreat. While ideal yoga retreats may be subjective, most people agree that a peaceful, scenic location detached from the hustle and bustle of everyday city life, would be ideal. Consider an area like Stowe, Vermont for example- a scenic, picturesque location. Accessibility should also be taken into consideration. You want your logistics to be as stress-free as possible. While this is in no way a strict requirement, it does help if the location of your retreat has yoga facilities, or is yoga-centric. Moreover, consider the costs.

Make a budget

While Yoga retreats do not have to be expensive, they do come at a cost. Budgeting can be tedious and boring but can put a lot of your plans into perspective. Remember that a retreat is a financial burden. In your budget, you should consider whether there are any preliminary costs to the retreat such as equipment that may need to be bought e.t.c. You should also consider the costs of traveling. As a rule of thumb, you should not spend more money getting to your retreat location than you do on the actual activities at the retreat. In this budget, you should also carefully consider the deposit costs of whichever resort facility you choose for your retreat. Before you commit yourself by posting a depositing ask yourself whether you can afford to lose the deposit if supervening events arise.

Avoid Mission Drift

As mentioned before, always keep in mind that this is not just any retreat, but a yoga retreat. As you plan your activities make sure to include an element of yoga in your plan. Some yoga-centric retreats have packages tailormade for yoga retreat-goers, but if they don’t you can formulate your own plan. However, in as much as it is important to make sure that your retreat is primarily yoga related, it is also important to consider doing some non-yoga activities that may help you explore your location. These will also help you unwind and relieve stress.

Consider Inviting some Friends

While it is completely acceptable to go a self-focused yoga retreat, there are advantages of traveling with friends. Yoga, like a meal, is best enjoyed in the company of others. There is a pleasant effect that arises from sharing yoga with others. It allows you to explore partner yoga and do poses that can only be done in pairs.

Sample of 2-Night Yoga Retreat at Stowe Mountain Ranch

First Day:

•    6:00-7:00 PM Settle in at the Ranch

•    7:00-8:30 PM Have Dinner

•    8:40-9:40 PM Pranayama Session

Second Day:

•    7:00 AM- Have Breakfast

•    8:00-12:00 noon – Introduction to Yoga With Horses

•    12:30-2:30 Have lunch and Socialize

•    3:00 PM – 5:30 PM – Jog and Explore the Ranch

•    6:00-7:30 PM – Have Dinner

•    8:00 PM – 9:15 PM – Acro Yoga Session

Third Day:

•    7:30-8:30AM- Have Breakfast

•    8:30-10:00AM Last Yoga With Horses

•    10:00-12:00 Pack for Departure

•    12:00 Depart

Hiking

Stowe Mountain Ranch is located directly at the base of Vermonts highest peak, MT Mansfield. We are surrounded by over twenty popular mountain hikes including MT. Mansfield, Smugglers Notch, Sterling Pond, The Pinnacle, MT. Elmore, and many others.  We include one guided hike for each yoga retreat in the cost of your participation.

Biking

We are ideally located within Stowe Mountain Resort directly on the mountain road, on or near the most popular road biking and mountain biking routes in Vermont. 

There is beautiful kayaking & canoeing avalailable at the nearby Waterbury Reservoir in Waterbury Vermont from June thu September. This large reservoir is free from all commercial development and all our rivers in Stowe lead into it including the river behind our retreat center. It is also just one mile from the Original Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory……..just thought you might like to know, for after kayaking of course….;-). You would rent canoes & kayaks directly on the reservoir from Umiak Kayak & Canoes. If you would like to canoe down a river Umiak also has canoe excursions going down the Lamoile River beginning in Jeffersonville Vermont. The cost of these activities is not included in the cost of the retreat.

We provide our highly regarded “Yoga With Horses” program at many of the spring/summer/fall yoga retreats conducted here. Our program includes an introduction to natural horsemanship/horse whisper techniques, the integration of yoga positions both on and off the horse and a bareback journey at a walk with our horses into the forest along a river to the beautiful waterfall that adjoins us. We recently added a running with horses component in which we take the horses out on a beautiful 3 mile trail run. Our Yoga with horses program was recently featured at the Wanderlust Yoga Festival, in Cosmopolitan Magazine and in the next month or so in the Huffington Post. Our horses include, among others, “Black Jack” a stunning 17 hand tall all black German hanoverian gelding trained by eight time US Olympian Michael Plumb. We use our horses extensively in our giving back programs including a therapeutic riding program for cancer patients/survivor, our quarterly innercity teen program “Vermont Bound” for The Boys/Girls Clubs of Boston and an annual retreat gift to Yoga Reaches Out/Children’s Hospital of Boston.

We have available 24 sets of modern snowshoes for use by our yoga retreat guests. These typically rent for $25 per pair per day so having our own saves our guests money.

We are ideally located directly across the street from the Stowe Mountain Resort Cross Country Ski Center home of over 40 miles of snowshoeing trails.  Gerry Scott owner of Stowe Mountain Ranch will serve as a guide to groups who are interested in this adventure.  The cost of one guided snowshoe trip using our property snowshoes is included in the cost of your participation.

We love and welcome acro retreat groups at Stowe Mountain Ranch. As owner I am a member of the Boston, New York, Pennsylvania acro yoga Facebook groups. We conduct lots of acro on top of the mountains here, at our rivers, in our studio, on our horse drawn carriages, with our horses and anywhere we can have fun. We just had Rachel and Ulysses Wilson of Om Yoga in Mechanicsburg here for a retreat and many of these pictures include them. They teach at a lot of the acro festivals.

Stowe Mountain Resort in Stowe, Vermont is regularly voted America’s “Best in the east skiing destination”. Stowe Mountain Ranch is ideally located within Stowe Mountain Resort, 400 yards from the closest ski trails.  Downhill skiing is a winter activity from late November to mid-April and retreat attendees are welcome to ski during their free time here.  We are located directly on the free winter shuttle route bringing you to both the ski resort located next to us and to Stowe Village.