//Centered riding – An innovative method
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Centered riding – An innovative method

Centered riding – An innovative method for horseback riding

Horseback riding as a sport entails a high level of demand on the part of the rider. Well, the most ideal thing is that they have a minimum of physical conditions to achieve the objectives that they propose in the world of equestrian competitions. For this reason, we are going to address the issue of Centered riding.

Centered Riding Concept

Centered Riding is a respectful and creative method that helps the rider communicate better with their horse through increased body awareness. This teaching method treats the classical principles of horsemanship in a different way, whatever the discipline with a body awareness and a very creative metaphorical language

The creator of this wonderful method, Sally Swift, marked a before and after since she presented her first book in 1985.

Applying the Centered Riding Method enhances the benefits of horseback riding.

What is the new paradigm of Centered Riding?

In her 1985 book “Centered RidingSally Swift proposes a new paradigm for achieving the best results in horseback riding. From the connection between horse and rider, Sally Swift posits that the rider’s balance and relaxation are essential for a more effective horsemanship.

Since horses are particularly sensitive beings, the stresses during riding are transmitted to the horse. In this way, the horse absorbs the rider’s stresses. This situation can lead the horse to failures or behaviors that are dangerous for the horse and the rider.

For this reason, Centered Riding focuses on the connection between rider and horse through a balanced and mindful posture.

This methodology shifts the focus from physical and mental training from the horse to the rider.

Before Sally Swift, dressage was the focus of attention for physical preparation. In many cases, this exposed the horses to mistreatment when the horse’s rebellion was not understood.

The submission of the horse in many cases was not enough without the physical and mental conditions of the rider, but this was not understood.

With Sally Swift, the focus shifts to the rider. The aim is for the rider to develop the mental and physical conditions to be able to be relaxed when riding a horse.

But what are the pillars of the “Centered Riding” method? The pillars of Centered Riding are: Body awareness, balance, center of gravity, relaxation and fluidity. Below, we’ll take a closer look at each of these points.

Basics of Centered Riding

To achieve the proper rider-horse connection, a conscious and balanced posture must be achieved. We will achieve this through the following elements:

  1. Body Awareness: Centered Riding begins with a deep awareness of the rider’s own body. This involves understanding how position, muscle tension, and breathing affect communication with the horse.
  2. Balance: Swift emphasized the importance of finding a natural, fluid balance in the rider’s seat. This involves distributing the weight evenly, without unnecessary tension, to allow clearer communication with the horse.
  3. Center of Gravity: Great importance is given to the rider’s center of gravity, which is located in the abdomen area. Keeping this center of gravity stable and connected to the horse’s movement is essential for effective riding.
  4. Relaxation and Flow: Focused Riding promotes both physical and mental relaxation. Excessive tension can interfere with communication with the horse and create blockages in the rider’s body. The fluidity in the movements allows for a more harmonious connection with the horse.
  5. Visualization and Imagery: Swift also incorporated visualization and imagery techniques to help riders improve their horsemanship. This involves imagining specific sensations in the body and visualizing the type of movement desired to create a stronger connection with the horse.

Fundamental Techniques of Centered Riding

The goal of these techniques is to achieve greater body awareness and balance. Below we show you the initial techniques for Centered Riding.

Body centering: We must find our center of gravity to be able to handle it. We achieve this by locating and knowing our centers of movement, control, and balance. It is located between the abdomen and the lower back. This allows us to perform the movements minimizing the energy we use and maintaining relaxation, very much in line with oriental martial arts.

Breathing: By using the diaphragm well, we achieve a better posture, as well as being more energetic and relaxed. This relaxation and diaphragmatic breathing will help us relax the horse.

Gentle look or Soft-eyes: Visual and physical awareness is encouraged, which helps us to be aware of our surroundings, improve our peripheral vision, and the connection with our senses.

Balance: The correct alignment of the body when on the horse’s saddle, accommodating the position of the saddle and reins, improves balance, straightness and facilitates movement, reducing tensions.

In her second book “Centered Riding 2: Further exploration” Sally Swift added the concept of “Grounding“. This connection is achieved through awareness of contact with the horse through our hip bones. Our cadence and rhythm help us keep up and achieve more balance and stability.

Purpose of Centered Riding

Focused Riding is a teaching from an initiation level to an Olympic level, to enjoy a smooth and respectful riding between rider and horse. This method mixes the exercises and thoughts of methods such as the Alexander Technique and martial arts such as Tai Chi and Quigong, to increase balance and coordination of the mind and body.

We mostly use our bodies in a way that is normal and familiar to us, but the reality may be that we move crooked, rigid and out of balance. Unconsciously, we take these habits with us to horseback riding and many times they get worse when we start asking the horse for things.

Centered Riding Method
Centered Riding Method

Horse-rider communication

Horses react to our tensions and the force we apply. Our imbalances, tensions and lack of rectitude can lead to a blockage of communication between horse and rider. For this reason, Centered Riding teaches us what our own anatomy looks like. It also helps us discover how we function in motion, opening up new possibilities in horseback riding.

This method requires the rider to be willing to work with themselves. And don’t just blame the horse when something doesn’t go his way. When the rider learns to feel the horse and listen to its responses, that’s when we really create calmer and more confident horses. In addition, lack of balance and strains can even cause injury, both to the horse and the rider.

Basic Principles of Centered Riding

As for the basic principles, the founder of this method laid the whole foundation for balanced horsemanship. In addition, he identified these principles: centering, breathing, soft eyes, and building cubes, grounding.

There is no rule that says you have to start in a specific order when learning the basics. On the contrary, depending on each case, one principle may be necessary in order to learn another. Still, it may be advisable to start with centering before you start practicing the other principles. They all work together and if the rider loses one, tensions are created. That is why we work a lot on this base when we start learning Centered Riding.