• Henk Jan Vroom

I help you with my Chinese yoga classes!

In 2019 I had the opportunity to travel to China and teach the riders of the famous Heilan Equestrian club in Xinqiao Town, about 100 km north of Shanghai, for a year. The Heilan Equestrian Club is a massive equestrian property founded by Mr Zhou Jianping, owner of the Heilan Group with approximately 100,000 employees in the textile industry. The park consists of a combination of sports and tourism and has cost a whopping $ 430 million including the adjoining hotel resort. There are more than 400 horses on the terrain and about 100 riders work in a show of international allure. Together with three other Dutch instructors I taught 24 Chinese riders. These riders in turn taught 60 female show riders.

When I arrived in China, I underwent a real culture shock. I had traveled quite a lot, but now I was a resident rather than a traveler and my life and my daily routine became a Chinese life. Besides my three colleagues, there were no other Westerners ("Lao Wai" or 老外) and they spoke hardly any English on the street. Our roman writing was also hard to find, only on the coats of the Chinese are all kinds of strange texts, of which "Bucket" is the most common, which they themselves do not understand. The people are extremely friendly and helpful. Even without knowledge of the language we could communicate quite well. Now after a year I know a few words to get around a bit, but that was different then. I was also introduced to the delicious Chinese kitchen. How I miss that! Our trips to Shanghai with its many museums and art galleries were a highlight for me as a lover of modern art.

The level of the European horses and Chinese riders was higher than my expectations. The best combinations competed at the Small Tour level. I was amazed to discover that these riders had all started riding relatively recently. They had all been textile workers, assigned by their boss to learn to ride a horse. Most had never even seen a horse up close before. The ease with which they learned new exercises was due to the compulsory two-hour daily practice of Tai Ji, originally a Chinese martial art, an art practiced today as an inner art of movement. The riders had incredible body control and agility and could follow my directions with ease. As a result, they learned quickly and were able to develop into a Small Tour rider in 4-6 years.

That got me thinking. Together with my colleagues we took Chinese Yoga class. We considered ourselves to be limber types, but turned out to have quite stiff limbs. The first lessons were quite a challenge, because the yoga teacher was friendly, but also unrelenting. In addition to flexibility, relaxation is also a point of attention in yoga. Without realizing it, we may hold on to certain muscle groups that block the smooth flow of the horse's movement. This causes disturbances in the contact with the bit and the aids do not come through properly. I continued my yoga classes in the Netherlands and through deepening my knowledge I experienced how you can help riders to remove these blockages. An important aid is the awareness of your breathing, which has to drop from the chest to the abdomen. After all, with tense abdominal muscles you do not have the smooth pelvic movement necessary to be "in your horse". Only when you are one with the movement of your horse can you feel how the horse is moving, and you are not dependent on your visual feedback. Watching your horse instead of feeling it is like reading musical notes instead of hearing the music.

It is my mission to teach students to become better in harmony with the movement of their horse and thereby to grow in their performance. I have been schooled in the traditional way in Germany. In addition to my regular training up to and including Prix st Georges level, I also give separate lessons for equestrian posture to riders at all levels that you can use in addition to your current instruction to form even more unity with your horse. During these lessons I determine together with you where your blockages are and we work together to remove them. Book a delightful weekend or a mid-week to practice on one of our schoolmasters this fall!

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