Before she opened Yoga Vermont in 1998, Kathy McNames used to rescue horses. She took a break from that endeavor to open her business, but said it was inevitable she start rescuing again. But this time, she got her yoga studio involved.
“I know it’s a little bit goofy, but it’s really sweet,” said McNames. “But really, the sweetest part of it is telling the stories during class of [a horse] standing in the water trough, or how [another horse] snuck out and was running wild around the front yard. They’re good entertainment and it’s good for people to feel like the yoga studio is more than just a place where you do down dog or handstands. It’s a real community-builder.”
Last fall, Yoga Vermont became a 501c3, and McNames said part of the studio’s mission now includes taking horses from Vermont and keeping them in Vermont.
Even when she was rescuing horses when she was younger, McNames said she always took horses that were older and out of shape. Altogether, the yoga studio has helped 14 horses connect to a good home, and five of those are under Yoga Vermont’s permanent care.
Running a yoga studio and caring for five horses seems like a lot of work, but it’s not just McNames caring for the five horses. As a 501c3, the rescue mission of Yoga Vermont is donation-based. The studio has a jar set up at the front desk where members can contribute money toward the horses. Some members will also meet McNames at the barn to help with chores or do yoga and read to the horses.
Volunteers also come out to clean the paddocks, pet the horses, brush them and take care of chores around the barn.
“We’ve begun to have programs,” said McNames. “Some people come out to the barn and they read. Some people are just learning to read, like 6-year-olds or 7-year-olds, will come out and read the horses books, and then some people come out and they sketch or paint. Some people come out that are afraid of horses and they just stay on the safe side of the fence and observe them and watch them be horses.”
But the real draw is the opportunity to do yoga on the horses. Of course, McNames explained each horse has their own personality and may not like to be sat on a certain way, or shift weight while a member is in warrior pose, but it’s an adventure her members are able to experience.
“You start to learn how the horses are sensing the world,” said McNames. “Like if a horse lifts up its head and looks in a certain direction, you automatically follow the horses’ senses, rather than just your own senses. It’s just kind of all-encompassing and nice. And it’s a huge form of service.”
She said it’s not only been a service to her members, but to the horses as well. McNames usually gets the horses in the pipeline of owner to slaughter house, and many come to her with injuries. But because of the open nature at the barn and the horses’ new ability to live naturally, she believes she’s helped nurse a few back to health.
“People just do what they’re supposed to do,” said McNames. “And sometimes you just don’t know why and it doesn’t make a lot of sense. But if it’s right, then it’s pretty fun. So this is really fun, so it’s got to be right. I think some people like their yoga gentle and their horses a little bit wild. But I like my yoga wild and my horses gentle.”