Horse Care Riding Tips

5 Yoga Poses Equestrians Should Do Before Every Ride

Written by Margaret Burns Vap

Yoga for horse riders 101: These simple stretches will change the way you ride forever.

As equestrians, we’re used to carving out time to care for our horses. Their wellbeing is top priority, and they rely on us day-in and day-out. But, what about your wellbeing?

When we are at our best – mentally and physically – we ride better, treat our horses better, and enjoy our time in and out of the saddle so much more. That’s where yoga comes into play.

This article walks you step-by-step through the top 5 yoga poses for equestrians:

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Whether you’ve been practicing for years or have never set foot on a yoga mat, you’re about to learn how life-changing yoga can be for horse riders of all levels, ages, and disciplines.

Special thanks to Larry Stanley for capturing the beautiful images for this article.

Check out Margaret’s company Big Sky Yoga Retreats for luxury women’s yoga and horseback riding vacations. Use Referral Code “HRcowgirlup” during registration for a special gift upon arrival!

Tree // Balance Pose

This is one of the best beginner yoga poses, and it’s a must-have in every horse rider’s toolbox.

Tree pose is all about balance and staying grounded. (Or, should we say “rooted?”)

If you struggle with tightness through your hips and groin (and what horse rider doesn’t?) then this hip opener is even more beneficial.

Need some help staying steady? This is a great opportunity to hug your horse 🙂


Tree pose helps improve your balance and concentration.


  1. Stand with your feet together, and gaze softly at a fixed point (aka drishti) about 4-5 feet in front of you on the floor.
  2. Shift your weight to the left foot and bend your right knee.
  3. Reach down with your right hand and gently take a hold of the outside of your right foot.
  4. Place your foot on the inside of your thigh above the knee.
  5. Press your hands together at your heart center.
  6. Maintain your drishti gazing point.
  7. If you fall out of the pose at any point, slowly and deliberately go through the process again.
  8. Stay in the pose for 30-60 seconds.
  9. Return to standing with your feet together.
  10. Repeat for the same length of time on the other side.

Read Margaret Burns Vap’s Letter to My Rookie Self to see her advice to other rookies and lessons learned along the way. 

Dancer // Balance Pose

One of the most recognizable yoga poses, Dancer is more than your chance to look the part of a real yogini.

This elegant pose helps open up the front of your hips, quads, and lower back.

If you’re just starting out, you may need a little assist from your equine partner for stability. As you get better, you’ll build enough balance to perform this pose without support.


Dancer pose improves balance and opens your hips.


  1. Stand with your feet together.
  2. Reach your left arm up (or onto your horse’s withers).
  3. Turn your right palm out, and reach back for the arch of your right foot.
  4. Push your foot into your hand to send your leg up and back behind you. (Don’t let it go out to the side.)
  5. Use the strength of your leg to push your foot into your hand and get more lift.
  6. Keep your chest lifted and your left arm by your ear, reaching the left hand up.
  7. Hold for 3-5 breaths.
  8. Repeat on the other side.

Want to bring more benefits of yoga to your riding? Check out our article Get Your Asana in the Saddle: 5 Yoga Tips for Equestrians.

Bound Angle // Hip Opener

Bound angle is a pose I think about a lot while on horseback.

Opening the hips allows your heels to drop down in the stirrups and helps you use your inner leg muscles properly.

Plus, open hips are beneficial for more than horseback riding – like releasing tension anytime! The first place we normally think of as holding tension is our neck and shoulders, but the hips also collect a great deal of our stress.

This lovely hip opener helps you stay relaxed, on and off your horse.


Bound angle post helps open your hips and release tension.


  1. Sit down on a lightly padded surface (such as a yoga mat or soft ground).
  2. Reach back to get your rear out and back so you feel the sit bones at the bottom of your pelvis connect to the floor.
  3. Bring the soles of your feet together, about 4-6 inches from the hips. (The more open your hips and knees are, the closer your feet will come in.)
  4. If your knees are not dropping very far, you can place blocks or blankets under them for support.
  5. Interlace your fingers underneath your feet, taking care not to pull the toes up.
  6. Keep a light and relaxed grip.
  7. Tune into your posture; draw your navel in toward your spine to activate your core, and straighten your back.
  8. Relax your shoulders, and lift your chin slightly.
  9. You can stay here or begin to slowly and gently come forward with your upper body.
  10. Keep a straight back and direct your chin toward the floor in front of you.
  11. Work to lengthen your spine. Stop coming forward when your back starts to round.
  12. Hold for 25 slow, deep breaths.
  13. Before getting up, straighten your legs out in front of you for a moment.

Click to read our article about Can You Wear Yoga Pants Horseback Riding for more Cowgirl Yogini insights.

Check out Margaret’s company Big Sky Yoga Retreats for luxury women’s yoga and horseback riding vacations. Use Referral Code “HRcowgirlup” during registration for a special gift upon arrival!

High Crescent // Power Pose

Riding builds plenty of leg muscle, but it can also build up tightness in the front of the hips.

This pose helps increase the range of motion in the hip joints, particularly by stretching out the muscles in the front of the hip. Unlocking this area helps you lengthen your leg position on horseback.

The upper body also gets a revitalizing reach upward to realign the spine and stack your upper body over the hips.

And, yes, you can do this pose in cowgirl boots!


High Crescent is a power pose that improves your leg position in the saddle.


  1. Stand tall with your feet together.
  2. Step your right foot back behind you 3-4 feet, keeping the heel lifted.
  3. Put your hands on your hips and draw your right hip forward and your left hip back, squaring the hips forward.
  4. Feel the stretch through the front of the right hip and the left calf as you extend through your back heel.
  5. The back leg is energized and straight while the front knee bends.
  6. Keep your navel drawing in toward your spine as you lift your arms overhead.
  7. You can bring the palms to touch or imagine you are holding a ball between your hands.
  8. Either way, keep the fingertips reaching high as your hips drop down.
  9. Think about creating space between your vertebrae as the crown of your head lengthens up.
  10. If you would like to challenge your balance, take your gaze up toward your hands.
  11. Hold for 5 deep breaths and repeat on the other side.

Love yoga and horses? Check out our 5 Best Yoga Stretches for Horse Riders.

Warrior II // Power Pose

Rounding out our top five yoga poses for horse riders, Warrior II is a power pose in every sense of the word.

Opening the hips outward (vs. squared forward in High Crescent) releases stress held in your inner groin and thigh muscles, encouraging them to widen and drape more easily over your horse’s back.

Added bonus: This pose strengthens the arms as they reach away from one another and opens the front of the chest.


Warrior II post fills you with power and opens the hips.


  1. Stand tall with your feet together.
  2. Step your right foot back behind you about 4 feet, turning the back heel down and angling the toes forward about 45 degrees.
  3. Bend your front knee to come into a lunge position, taking care not to let the knee come out over the toes. If this happens, you need to widen your stance.
  4. Keep the back leg straight and strong.
  5. Take your arms out to the sides at shoulder height.
  6. Think about reaching the fingertips away from one another and keeping strong energy flowing through the arms while you reach.
  7. Make sure your shoulders relax down the back (vs. tensing them up toward the ears).
  8. Gaze softly out over your front fingertips.
  9. Let the hips be heavy, and continue to let them drop down until your front thigh is parallel to the ground.
  10. Hold for 5 deep breaths and repeat on the other side.

Reach, Stretch & Breathe

Yoga is for everyone, but it’s especially well suited to horseback riders. Exercises that help us increase our flexibility, focus, strength, balance, and comfort help our horses, too.

Read more about yoga and horses on my Big Sky Yoga Retreats Blog. Use Referral Code “HRcowgirlup” during registration for a special gift upon arrival!

I hope you enjoy making these core poses part of your pre- and post-ride routine!

Yeehaw & Namaste,


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About the author


Margaret Burns Vap

I'm the Founder and Boss Mare at Big Sky Yoga Retreats, a Montana-based yoga and horseback riding retreat company. I've been teaching yoga for decades, including at the studio I formerly owned in Washington D.C. Now, I spend my time caring for my herd of three geldings at home in Montana.