Centered Riding is not a style of riding as are hunter seat and western. Rather, it is a way of reeducating a rider's mind and body to achieve greater balance in order to better communicate with the horse. Founder Sally Swift revolutionized riding by showing that good use of the human body makes a world of difference on horseback. Early in her work, she established what she calls the "Four Basics" — centering, breathing, soft eyes, and building blocks — which, together with grounding, are the main tenets of her method. When a rider learns and maintains these basics, then harmony between horse and human is possible.
Why a second book? Centered Riding has continued to evolve, and Swift has developed many new concepts, complete with fresh imagery, which make her approach both rider-friendly and fun.
In addition to these new riding techniques, Sally also concentrates more on the horse than she did in the earlier book, and she explains in great detail how through the use of Centered Riding you can improve your horse's musculature and way of going — and consequently, his comfort and performance. This is the intent of Centered Riding — a successful horse and rider partnership, in which they work efficiently together in joyful harmony.
(hardcover, color photos, line drawings, 272 pgs.)
Excerpt from the book:
As you prepare for your first session of awareness work on the round, stand comfortably with your feet apart. If there are several of you, make a circle, giving yourselves plenty of room. Close your eyes. Mentally search your body from the bottom-up for places that are tightened in an effort to keep you upright. Check your feet, toes, ankles, calves, knees, thighs, and buttocks for any spots of tension. Go on up through your hip joints, loin, stomach, ribs, shoulders, neck, jaw and head. Are you surprised to find a number of places tight for no real reason? Much of this tightness is an unconscious and unnecessary effort to contend with gravity. Gravity is always trying to pull us downward. You can learn to manage the problem of gravity without tension through and understanding of the body and correct balance.
Finding Your Sun
Muscles are long, stringy affairs that stretch from one bone across a joint or space to another bone. Each muscle has a counterpart. As the joint opens or closes, a muscle contracts (thereby shortening and thickening) and its counterpart lengthens. Unless muscles are in use, they should be long, relaxed and just taut enough so that pairs of opposing muscles can balance the joint appropriately. Let us see if you can release your tight spots where your muscles are short and tense and allow them to become longer.
To begin to release some of your overall tension, try putting your fingertip on your sternum (breastbone) in the center of your chest. Now trace your finger about halfway down the length o f your sternum until you find an indentation. With your finger in that indentation, become completely aware of that spot. This awareness will produce a release of tension in all directions. To help establish this awareness you can imagine a sun in that spot. Let your sun send warm rays upward and outward in a broad radius. You should feel a release in your chest and the front of your shoulders as well as your rib cage, abdomen and hip joints. I call this Finding Your Sun. Doing it frequently as your work, both on the ground and on your horse, is a good way to lighten your upper body and encourage forward and upward balance.