Friday, May 1, 2015

Book Review: Centered Riding

  I recently read the book Centered Riding, by Sally Swift. There is a countless amount of books out there that teach you all aspects of horsemanship, from riding a variety of disciplines, to riding exercises, to groundwork, and more, and many of them are great. However, Centered Riding is unique in that it focus completely on body awareness and becoming balanced and centered using right-brain techniques. These techniques can apply to all disciplines and every rider, no matter what the experience level. Even very good riders can benefit from these techniques.

 After introducing the concept of centered riding, the author describes what she calls the four basic: soft eyes, breathing, balancing, and centering. When you have soft eyes, your eyes are relaxed and you are aware of your surroundings. Breathing is another important basic, because tension is often caused by the rider holding his/her breath. Short, shallow breaths can also be a cause of tension, so breathing deeply is important. The third basic principle is balance. As most riders know, sitting straight with the ear, shoulder, hip, and heel aligned creates the most balance. The author describes each part that needs to be in alignment as building blocks. If the blocks are not stacked straightly, they will topple over. A jumping position, of course, is different, but you still must be balanced. For this you want the center of your body(more on that soon) over your heels. The final basic is centering.  Your center of balance is the middle of your body, towards where the pelvis is. Centering is being aware of your center of balance and using it to move more in harmony with the horse. This is, of course, what the whole book is about.
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 Ultimately, centered riding is about being aware of your body and using the four basics to ride well. The author uses imagery and visualization to help the rider achieve this. For example, she writes that a rider's legs should grow down like tree roots, and that the body should grow tall like a tree. Even just being told in a lesson, "Grow tall like a tree and let your legs grow tree roots," helps me to sit straight and let my legs be long with my heels down. There are plenty more helpful mental images found within the book.

 The bottom-line is, I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to improve their riding and take it to a deeper level, no matter what the discipline.


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