That Magical Connection
Centered Riding is an innovative way of expressing the classical principles of riding, using body awareness, centering, and imagery, developed by Sally Swift. It helps us create better harmony with our horses and isn’t that what we are all looking for? That magical connection!
Centered Riding principles apply equally to all styles and disciplines of riding and teaches a language that allows clearer communication between horse, rider, and instructor. It is based on a knowledge of human and horse anatomy, balance, movement, and on understanding how the mind affects the body and how both affect the horse.
The four basic principles of Centered Riding are:
- “Soft Eyes” or relaxed eyes where we see, or are aware of, everything around us
- “Breathing” means that we are breathing deeply and in rhythm using our diaphragm and ribcage muscles
- “Building Blocks” or “Balance” includes lateral, longitudinal and diagonal balance
- “Centering” comes from the martial arts (Judo, Karate, T’ai Chi etc.) and gives us great strength and power without using muscle strength.
Sally Swift (1913-2009) founder of Centered Riding then added “Grounding” (the sense of being connected to the ground without pushing down into the ground) and “Clear Intent” (seeing in our mind’s eye and believing that the horse will do precisely what we ask him to do).
Sally Swift was also the author of books and videos, which have been translated into fifteen languages and sold worldwide.
When she was seven, Sally Swift was diagnosed with a spinal curvature, scoliosis. It was this and her therapy, which inspired her to develop the concept of greater awareness of the body/mind and their effects on balance, posture and movement, and to expand on it for horse riders everywhere. Little did she know that her technique would become a worldwide phenomenon.
Centered Riding develops improved body awareness for the rider through the use of the exercises both on and off the horse. We often use un-mounted exercises to discover how we habitually move and stand. Maybe walking a circle to the left is harder or easier than walking in a circle to the right.
When you are standing is more of your weight on the front or the back of your foot; is it more to the inside or outside of your foot; is more weight on the left or the right foot? Using various exercises we start to explore what our habitual posture is and learn ways to change it making it easier to be in balance on the horse that is moving beneath us.
Greater Awareness of Body and Mind
Through the rider having a greater awareness of both body and mind, you can allow your horse to move with improved balance and greater freedom – also a goal in classical equitation. The whole philosophy of Centered Riding is based on the fact that even the smallest action from you or your body affects your horse, even the way you breathe.
The changes in you and your horse are astounding, in a very short time. If any part of you is tense, it will relay tension to your horse, and many of us are not aware where or how we are stiff, or that even our emotions can affect our mounts.
We also use imagery in our lessons to help riders learn to feel and figure out the “how” of a correction. Based on Alexander Technique and T’ai Chi as well as good classical training for the horse, Centered Riding helps riders and horses learn more quickly than most traditional riding lessons.
Guest Instructor: Sue Leffler
Sue Leffler Senior Level IV has been our mentor at Hacienda Dos Olivos; her first clinic took place 2012 and was thoroughly enjoyed by all. It is fascinating to find, after years of possibly battling with yourself, or your horse, that he suddenly “softens”, relaxes and moves gracefully beneath you in answer to the slightest aid. And afterwards to enjoy delicious Andalusian cuisine, comfortable accommodation and animated conversation with like-minded riders!
For more information about Centered Riding, visit: www.centeredriding.org