Long gone are the days of shipping a horse to the glue factory if he’s injured or hurt.

Gloria with Max/submitted photo

Gloria with Max/submitted photos

We can call Tucsonan Gloria Hester instead.

Hester, 42, has turned her passion into her life’s work by healing horses – and people –with yoga and other techniques.

No, the horses will not hop on a yoga mat and start doing backbends or downward facing dog poses. But they do respond to Hester’s healing, which combines her knowledge of yoga, horses and Hanna Somatics.

Before we delve further into what Hanna Somatics is, let’s check out what it does.

One of her clients, a gelding, could barley move his neck after a traumatic accident 12 years ago. His neck was so bent out of shape that it actually got in the way of his front legs when he tried to walk.

“He, sadly, now seemed to move like a ‘stick horse,’” Hester said. “His owner cared very much for him and hated to see him suffer.

“Not only was his movement impaired, but the light was gone from his eyes and he no longer cared to interact with people.”

Submitted photo

"Horse movements do not look like traditional hatha yoga poses. The word yoga means 'to yoke' or 'unite.' If yoga is a practice of consciousness, (and I believe it is), then in that sense, the horse is definitely practicing 'yoga' in the truest sense of the word."

Enter Hester and friend who gave the horse and owner some Hanna Somatic magic.

“During the session, the horse began to interact more with us, to move more freely and the light came back into his eyes,” she said.

“Afterward, he walked around with his buddies, head low to the ground, swaying his head from side to side, exploring and enjoying the newfound freedom of movement in his head and neck.  He was just enjoying being in his body again.

“His owner cried.  We all did.

“That is one of the things I see time and time again with this work – the ability to just enjoy being in one’s body again – both for horses and humans.”

Developed by the late Thomas Hanna and developed for horses by Hester’s mentor and teacher Eleanor Ciswell Hanna, Hanna Somatics is sensory motor relearning program. Folks – and horses – are taught to let go of patterns that are detrimental to our health and well being.

One is the fight-or-flight response, also known as the “call to action,” such as when a horse lifts his head as someone walks towards it. Hester said a life of this repetitive “call to action” can actually result in a swayback horse.

A number of exercises are also introduced through Hester’s workshops and retreats – some that really make an impression.

One of Hester’s favorite clients is gelding named Spider Man, who went through a retreat with her last year.

She happened to visit Spider Man’s ranch a week after the retreat to work with one of the owners other horses. While Hester and her friends were leaving, Spider Man was in a trailer, waiting to go to a roping event when he got Hester’s attention.

Submitted photo

Gloria’s work today was inspired by two past horses (not pictured): Tiny, a 17-hand-tall walking horse gelding, and her beloved childhood Scout, a pinto pony.

“He turned and looked right at me, and very carefully proceeded to practice his Equine Hanna Somatic movements,” Hester said. “He was looking at me the whole time, as if to say ‘See? I remember. I can do this. And look how good I am at it.’  And he was.

“Spider Man methodically showed us every move he remembered from the week before.

“He is amazing and very intelligent, as they all are.”

Spider Man’s owners, Alonzo and Irene, said they saw a vast difference in him after the retreat. “He is so much more relaxed and into his body after the work. He really seems to enjoy his roping sessions more now. It is like he is dancing.”

Hester added, “The horse has so much to teach us. They respond to every breath we take and the quality of it.”

Born in Alabama, Hester moved southwest two years ago. “I immediately fell in love with Tucson. I especially love the spirit of the horses and the people.”

Her mom is a horse trainer who even rode her Tennessee Walking horse up through her ninth month of pregnancy with Gloria. “It’s a testament to their gentleness – although I know they would not recommend that today.”

Gloria never got into the show ring scene, although she was immersed in it, and instead preferred trail riding in the woods and summers swimming with the horses in the nearby Tennessee River.

“My passions are traveling and educating horses and humans to bring more joy and to improve their quality of life while on the earth. Corny but true. It is my hope that this work will create more compassion for ourselves and others.”

Gloria with her horse Bella. She has a second horse, Leo/submitted photo

Gloria with her horse Bella. She has a second horse, Leo

What else does Gloria want readers to know?

Just that there is hope if you (or your horse) have pain in the body. I do not have all the answers, no one does.  But I would want your readers to know that often times pain is the result of involuntary, unconscious patterns of contraction in the body that can be corrected. Limitation of movement and pain do not have to be a constant in your life. Freedom of movement can be.

I have lots of friends that study different disciplines and all of them have something to offer.

Seek out a qualified yoga teacher, body worker or Hanna Somatic Educator.


Hester’s next Equine Hanna Somantics workshop series is Feb 19 to 21 at Rancho La Reforma in Rio Rico. Bring your own horse or ride one of theirs. Hester will also be conducting a pilot study at this series to show how horses benefit humans.

Her next restorative yoga workshops (for humans) are Feb. 18 and Feb. 22, 6 to 9 p.m., also at Rancho La Reforma in Rio Rico.

For more info on workshops, call Irene Ortiz at 377-0774 or Kathy Edds at 275-2689.

Learn more about Gloria at GloriaHesterYoga.com



Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and TucsonCitizen.com Ryngmaster whose dogs gladly do downward facing dog every time she breaks out the yoga mat. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at RynRules.com and Rynski.Etsy.com. E-mail rynski@tucsoncitizen.com.

logoWhat do you think?

Have you tried alternative healing on any of your pets?

Are you a fan of yoga and/or Hanna Somatics?