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 Post subject: Re: Centered Riding
PostPosted: Wed Nov 19, 2008 2:54 am 
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Makana wrote:
Wow, Brenda, thank you for those links and the information from CR2. CR2 sounds like a wonderful book -- I think I may have another Christmas gift idea! ;)

For a very long time, now, I have let my feet fall parallel to the horse. They tend to "lock in" parallel (ankle rolled out), but after a very long time in the saddle, my ankles would get sore and things wouldn't be as good. So today when riding I sought to roll in my ankles just a little, and it was such a lovely feeling! At first, it felt wrong (foot isn't parallel! foot isn't parallel!) but I started to love it. I felt like I was standing around Caspian more than sitting on him, my inner leg and calf fell along his side much more closely, and I could even sit the trot better.

How interesting, and exciting!


As in any exercise that focuses on a single part of the body in riding, it's very important to not lose sight of and a sense of what else goes on.

I've been looking at the video Brenda posted using the trampoline to work on developing a feel for the horse's motion, foot falls, and training your body to recognize and move with them. It's just as valid as the heel down, ankle cocked work, and I'll bet you'll find some pleasant surprises there.

I think with the leg position you are now using you'll find that you can ride for a far longer time with less fatigue as well. And according to the use you put it to, one of the tools for good riding.

You'll likely find, as so many do, that the tiresome instructors demand you get those knees in, and the struggle you once had to keep them in, will now go away, and your knees, along with the rest of your leg, as you describe it, will simply rest where it is supposed to be with no effort.

This position also opens up the hip, as I see in some schools of thought, and frees up the side to side pivot, where the hip can freely follow the horse's hip movement. See if you can relax into that. Combined with the video exercise Brenda posted you should be really rolling along.

My bet? Your "standing around" Caspian can quite easily advance to being within Caspian. It's an interesting feeling, and a huge step forward in riding skill.

For myself (though I'm not good at it any more) it was likely being an growth on the horse, or more positively, Centaur like. Student after student found this to their delight and what was hard to do before, in performance, became so very much easier.

Difficult cross country work, for instance, changed dramatically for the better, and I could tell when they came off a course beaming that it had happened for them. They and the horse, despite how trite it sounds, worked as a single entity.

Don't neglect, and I know you won't, other areas of development of seat and balance.

Have you read Centered Riding? I can't recall if you've said so. Though I read a great many books on riding, and some were great, and some less so, I can't recall one that provided the solid grounding in issues of balance, straightness, learning to relax into the process of riding, etc. than Centered Riding, 1 and two.

Best, Donald

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 Post subject: Re: Centered Riding
PostPosted: Wed Nov 19, 2008 4:14 am 
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Makana wrote:
Wow, Brenda, thank you for those links and the information from CR2. CR2 sounds like a wonderful book -- I think I may have another Christmas gift idea! ;)

For a very long time, now, I have let my feet fall parallel to the horse. They tend to "lock in" parallel (ankle rolled out), but after a very long time in the saddle, my ankles would get sore and things wouldn't be as good. So today when riding I sought to roll in my ankles just a little, and it was such a lovely feeling! At first, it felt wrong (foot isn't parallel! foot isn't parallel!) but I started to love it. I felt like I was standing around Caspian more than sitting on him, my inner leg and calf fell along his side much more closely, and I could even sit the trot better.

How interesting, and exciting!


Hey Hannah!

Yes! I rode like that too, well...probably worse!! And what I found was that with my ankle rolled out, my knees were 'on' and gripping and my thighs were tense, sort of pinching, so I was always lifting out of the saddle, just a little. So of course was not relaxed enough to feel the alternating motion of the horse, the swing of the barrel, lifting of the big muscles if front of his hip on each seat bone, etc. I think when we rotate our ankle in even a bit, it frees up our knee and relaxes each joint on up the limb??? WHAT a relief!!!

The sitting trot is amazing using Sally's ideas! And the response in Jack is even better, and I'm not even that good at it yet!!! I can also use that rolling of the pelvis to gently slow his walk or transition down from his 'jig' when he gets anxious on the trail, without any rein pressure!! I'm amazed!

I think that I could ride like that when I was younger cuz I had the strength and endurance of youth!!! And of course I wish I had learned these things at your age, so you will now have a lifetime to explore and perfect them!!! But I am enjoying the new discovery even tho I know my ol' body is limited, these CR concepts do make it possible for me to ride comfortably!!

I hope you do get CR2! I think you will find it enlightening!

Brenda

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 Post subject: Re: Centered Riding
PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 4:17 am 
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Quote:
Have you read Centered Riding? I can't recall if you've said so. Though I read a great many books on riding, and some were great, and some less so, I can't recall one that provided the solid grounding in issues of balance, straightness, learning to relax into the process of riding, etc. than Centered Riding, 1 and two.


Yes, I have read CR1 from cover to cover, as well as hopped around in different spots. I have lots of highlighting in it! :smile: I have never read CR2 nor seen the videos, but want to. In a way, all of the information is very overwhelming, but I have just started not to be too worried when I feel overwhelmed. I just slowly pick at what I understand and the rest falls into place. Soon the 4 Basics will become second nature, and I'll be able to flow into the other huge amounts of information that Sally Swift gives. It will come, I must be patient...

And then of course there is Heather Moffett and Mary Wanless and Sylvia Loch if I get bored...!!! :) :)

Quote:
This position also opens up the hip, as I see in some schools of thought, and frees up the side to side pivot, where the hip can freely follow the horse's hip movement. See if you can relax into that.


How interesting! I think I found the same thing, I just didn't recognize it until you said something. Why is that? Is it because your legs are in a more natural position that allows the hips to "pedal" better and so on?

And one more question. :smile: Is it very significant where and at what angle your foot is in the stirrup? I believe Sally Swift talks about having the stirrup in some sort of sweet spot (the sensitive spot just behind the ball of your foot?) and the stirrup at an angle to your foot, George Morris wants your foot to the outside of the iron, etc. Not that there is a Right and a Wrong, but is there a Preferred and an Unhelpful?? :) :)

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 Post subject: Re: Centered Riding
PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 6:02 am 
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Makana wrote:
...

And one more question. :smile: Is it very significant where and at what angle your foot is in the stirrup? I believe Sally Swift talks about having the stirrup in some sort of sweet spot (the sensitive spot just behind the ball of your foot?) and the stirrup at an angle to your foot, George Morris wants your foot to the outside of the iron, etc. Not that there is a Right and a Wrong, but is there a Preferred and an Unhelpful?? :) :)


Yes, it is very significant. You are partially standing even when doing flat work. When I was able to get a student to integrate that idea their riding took off.

Yes, I recall Ms Swift's description of the sweet spot, but I must have lost some of it. I don't recall the stirrup angle to your foot comment. Unless you mean a 90 degree angle. Logically I would think she might say that. Other angles? Mmmm...I don't think so, but I have been wrong before.

I know too little to comment about George Morris' foot to stirrup placement. Though I'd like to hear the rationale for it as you describe it.

I think there is a right and wrong placement. But that does not mean there is a universal right place, and wrong place. It simply means the for the select job, with the
particular horse, and particular rider, particular tack, placement varies.

"Right" in Western might be only half right in Jumping, while it might be decidedly wrong in dressage.

What one rider's conformation might demand, another's would possibly preclude.

I do though have a general rule for forward seat, sometimes referred to as hunt seat.

Just about the sweet spot Ms Swift describes in CR2, but with the ankle cocked to the median. I don't believe she describes it, and I don't believe she advocates it, though in other places where she talks about toe angle to leg it would be hard not to roll the ankle in. Your leg may differ, but if I have my knees bent (which she does mention) with my feet under my hip/shoulder/ear, and pronate, turn my toes slightly outward, my ankles simply roll inward.

It's a quite natural feeling, very relaxed, and brings my thighs, knees, and calf inward too. With little strain or stress. Though it would be even less so were I sitting a horse.

It may be, as in another comment of her's on the Forward Seat via Caprilli, today it's just so accepted people no longer to bother making a special note of it. "Forward Seat" is simply how we ride to jumps and galloping cross country, and the cocked ankle, as far as I know, has always been a part of Forward Seat.

I cannot say exactly how Ms Swift might view this. Nor can I know, unless I asked her.

I can only give you my opinion of what I think works. Not a definitive right or wrong position in the stirrup. Though I'm more than happy to support my opinion with anatomical drawings that show the workings of the ankle, and it's tendons, ligaments, bones, and muscles.

My students had that well known "aha!" experience when they could actually see, with skin stripped way, the relationship of the parts. We had to use text books. Thank goodness for the Internet, eh?

Take the heel bone, for instance. It is decidedly NOT the shape one thinks it is. Nor is it aligned front to rear as we might guess it is. Very peculiar, the foot, and even more so the ankle. Wonderfully built to do what it does, IF we have proper foot placement.

And that, of course, is very much true in riding.

Here are some things to look at when you consider "correct," placement of the foot in the stirrup.
http://www.northcoastfootcare.com/footcare-info/foot-anatomy.html

Image

Following copyright rules of fair use note that I have not duplicated the entire page, but instead have placed only a single photo of many, and direct you to that page with a clickable URL above.

Who would have believed that the heel bone, in a foot oriented straight forward from the body, would be more aligned with the little toe. I believe this is why we, in normal treading, tend to slightly pronate.

As for this heel, not only do you point it downward when you drop your heel, but it's ASKING to be pointed outward. And that is done by cocking the ankle. Looking closely I find it quite easy to see why I find it such a relaxed position. The ankle is made for it.

The finer ligaments that we tear when we sprain, are protected in an ankle in position, and the heavier calf muscle and hamstring take up the shock.

You'll have to look at other pictures n the page to see these things more clearly.

Donald

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 Post subject: Re: Centered Riding
PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 9:17 am 
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Hey Donald:

You wrote:
Quote:
Your leg may differ, but if I have my knees bent (which she does mention) with my feet under my hip/shoulder/ear, and pronate, turn my toes slightly outward, my ankles simply roll inward.

It's a quite natural feeling, very relaxed, and brings my thighs, knees, and calf inward too. With little strain or stress. Though it would be even less so were I sitting a horse.


I guess we're going to agree to disagree on this! :smile:

My concern with this has less to do with riding technique and more to do with body alignment and ligament/joint health, especially for a young rider like Hannah who already has some alignment issues that suggest overpronation in her ankles while walking.

In all of my training, the kind of pronation Donald describes was seen as a strain on the ankles and ultimately the knees -- something that good teachers and the sports physiology people who worked with the dance companies I danced with worked hard to make sure people didn't do. (I can't tell you how many hours I spent walking around dance studios working on this alignment and walking through the foot correctly! Endless! :smile: But it did keep me dancing for 25 years without injury...)

Hannah, I would experiment with what feels comfortable for you.

I'd also pay attention, particularly since you've got a tendency to walk splay footed, to whether you're consistently over stretching those interior ligaments and overpronating when you're walking. I'd also check your arches -- are they fairly well arched or are they fairly low? One of the things that walking this way can cause is fallen arches.

If you're used to this, it's going to feel comfortable, but it can cause you problems down the road.

If you try walking with correct alignment (again, so your hip, knee, and the foot is aligned so a plumb line would fall from the center of your hip joint to about the center of your knee (this depends a bit on whether you're naturally knock kneed (like me!) or bow legged or fairly straight -- you can use a piece of string and look at yourself in a full length mirror -- bare legs are best so you can really see them! ;) ) and then your foot facing forward, heel aligned between your second and third toes), you may feel like you're a bit pigeon toed at first -- but again, it's better for your ankles, feet, and knees in the long run.

And I'd experiment with finding a similar alignment while you're riding. Rolling your feet in (which is what many riding teachers suggest, so your toes are pointed a bit in from the angle of turnout in your knee and especially as they come over the horse brings you to the opposite of pronation -- supination -- toes come in and ankle rolls too far over on itself (outwards). I argued strenuously with my trainer about this until she gave up... 8)

There's a great picture of this on the website Donald pointed to:
http://www.northcoastfootcare.com/footc ... anics.html

Biomechanically, without thinking about the horse for a moment, but just about our bodies, I believe that it is best to keep that same sense of alignment working so our ankles are in neutral position rather than rolled in or out, especially for extended periods of time. For me, this is the most important -- using a technique regularly that flies in the face of what I understand as good alignment isn't helpful.

Of the two, I think supination is infinitely worse, and it's bothered me since I began riding again as an adult how common it seems to be, particularly in dressage training. And I totally get what Donald is talking about with that sense of stability (I'm trying to think of a word other than brace, because it so obviously isn't a frozen "braced" position, but still fluid and flexible) when you have need of a heightened stability -- jumping, or riding out a spook.

Do you have a yoga ball, Hannah? It might be a really interesting exercise for you to experiment, again, in front of a mirror, to see where your feet/ankles are landing as you rotate and flex them -- where are they when they feel rolled out? And where are they when they feel rolled in? It's entirely possible that what feels rolled in at this point to you is pretty close to neutral, if you've been taught to follow the contours of the horse's body with your foot and ankle.

And also look at the angle of your hip and knee -- as I said in an earlier post, I believe it's MUCH easier to relax your hip and knee and leg when you're allowing yourself a natural turnout rotation in your hip as you're sitting on the horse, rather than trying to keep your knees and toes completely forward.

Okay, I've babbled on long enough. I really don't mean to be argumentative with you Donald, but I spent so many years working on alignment that it's something that I feel very passionate about! The vast majority of dancers I knew who had shortened careers got injured because of ongoing alignment issues -- very rarely a traumatic injury.

I'll shut up now! :blush: ;)

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 Post subject: Re: Centered Riding
PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 4:31 pm 
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Hey, not problem, Leigh. This is how issues get examined and attention paid to important questions.

We have different perspectives.

I would not, for instance, consider urging anyone with alignment problems to simply ignore those and go with a particular position. People need to be responsible for themselves and consider more than just the easiest solutions.

I too feel passionate about my opinion on a safer riding position, yet :kiss: we certainly don't need to be argumentative. Just continue to be as objective as we can aside from our passion.

You've seen injuries among dancers, while I've never seen them among riders, (using the method I mention) each of us concerned about ankle position.

There is likely something significant in the difference that I know I'll keep searching for, as I would not want to be promoting something that is a proven cause of injury in riders. Even if I've never personally seen it.

Anything that pertains to riding that addresses this foot ankle position I eagerly welcome. I just haven't found very much that directly examines the position. Sadly.

I simply see it being used universally in jumping.

And though I can produce no statistics, because the data has not been collected, to my knowledge, that shows more injuries for one position than another. I have, for that argument, only my personal observations over the years of which riders cover the course without incident and which are involved in falls. And a weak ankle position (not the one I suggest) seems to be involved in a great many falls.

I am excited by finding, on my return to the horseworld, that research of all kinds has been increasing. Probably due to the increase in ownership, with the natural proliferation of horse related businesses funding academic research.

Either something has been done on human rider biomechanics has been done on this, or it hasn't, but I look forward to finding it one day.

I know you'll stay in the game and keep swinging to keep me on my toes and striving to be objective. I need help. That's for sure.

Donald :friends:

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 Post subject: Re: Centered Riding
PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 4:54 pm 
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Leigh wrote:
H
There's a great picture of this on the website Donald pointed to:
http://www.northcoastfootcare.com/footc ... anics.html


Hi Leigh!

Those are great photos and descriptions! Thanks!

So my question about this ankle/foot topic, using the terms on that site is this:

We would like a bit of ABDUCTION but not PRONATION??? So our foot remain resting sort of level in the stirrup, or heels dropping with our weight, but our toes just fan out a bit, leaving our ankle to stay 'hanging' from the rest of the leg above it, instead of twisting?? IOW, is it the twisting of the ankle that is potentially harmful??

Very interesting, love having the dance knowledge applied here..

Brenda

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 Post subject: Re: Centered Riding
PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 5:29 pm 
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Re: feet/stirrups

My instructor has gone over this with me but I will draw form CR2 for a more detailed description.

Sally discusses the importance of finding 'the Bubbling Spring' (acupuncture term) on the sole of your foot, located about 2-3 inches behind the big joint of the second toe in a soft part of the foot, so not on the ball, just behind it. (p38 CR2 with photos) The stirrup iron should be placed under this spot, called 'the Bubbling Spring', and more:

Sally writes:

The outside edge of the stirrup iron should be aligned with, but not touching, the base of the little toe. The bottom of the stirrup should be perpendicular to the horses body. Your toes will be slightly turned out, so the bottom of the stirrup iron will cross your foot diagonally just behind the ball of your foot. Your foot should lie parallel to the ground, resting easily, not pressing on the stirrup. To avoid pressing too hard on the stirrup, it is important to allow your ankles and knees to softly flex. In this way, your feet remain under your center, and essentially horizontal to the ground, as you horse moves.

I do hope that these discussions will motivate those of you that are interested in CR to take the plunge and buy the CR2 book if you haven't already! Mine was only $25 US, and for me was worth every penny!

Brenda

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 Post subject: Re: Centered Riding
PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 5:37 pm 
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More on heels, ankles, stirrups, balance, etc.:

Sally writes:

Placing the foot in the stirrup so that some part of the stirrup tread supports the Bubbling Spring helps you feel where your feet are and allows your weight to sink past your knees and be received by your stirrups, ankles, and feet. It is more useful to think of allowing your weight to sink in to your feet than to drive your heels down. Forcibly driving your heels down locks your ankle joints, robbing you of these important springs and shock absorbers. The forcing also often causes a rider to jam her heels forward, which puts her leg too far forward with resulting loss of balance.


Also, the accompanying sketches, diagrams, and photos in CR2 are invaluable!!

Brenda

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 Post subject: Re: Centered Riding
PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 11:48 pm 
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Hey Brenda!

Your question:
Quote:
So my question about this ankle/foot topic, using the terms on that site is this:

We would like a bit of ABDUCTION but not PRONATION??? So our foot remain resting sort of level in the stirrup, or heels dropping with our weight, but our toes just fan out a bit, leaving our ankle to stay 'hanging' from the rest of the leg above it, instead of twisting?? IOW, is it the twisting of the ankle that is potentially harmful??


From my training, neither abduction nor pronation is a great idea as a basic position -- I think that the rotation can come from the hip, through the knee, and into the ankle.

Turning out this way from the hip is slight -- not even 45 degrees -- maybe more like 20 degrees or so? And I think that small amount of turnout softens and opens the hips and the knees nicely -- and keeps your ankle in the same alignment as the rest of your leg as your toe points outwards slightly! It gets a bit more of your calf muscle onto the sides of the horse, and allows you to use your leg adductors, and ALSO your calves and hamstrings and glutes more completely when you're hugging the horse with your leg.

(I think the traditional knees totally forward position both tightens the hips and reduces your legs full ability to hug -- you're working against the physiology of your leg this way, rather than with it.)

Basically, it's about thinking about your leg as a unit, and trying to keep a clean, unified line in that unit, rather than seeing it as a series of joints that each are doing their own thing...

One of the things I like about what Donald is talking about is that it activates far more of your leg than this traditional knees and toes forward position -- we just have different opinions about its omnipresence, I think! :green: I do think it's a fabulous tool to build to when you need to increase your hug on the horse, I just see it as a souped up version -- for me, it's like putting your car into a higher gear -- it's there when you need the extra power, but not necessarily great for the engine while you're driving around the block... :rofl:

And Donald, all I can say to you is this: :kiss: :love:

:D

Leigh

PS: Ooh, I meant to mention that I've found an interesting website by a sports medicine guy who works both with ballet dancers and Olympic equestrrians: http://www.esportsmedicine.org/equestrian/

I haven't had time to wander around the whole site yet, but he might be someone that is worth talking to about these alignment questions...

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 Post subject: Re: Centered Riding
PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 12:37 am 
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Thanks Leigh!

I think I am beginning to see what you mean?? If you let you knee relax and fall away from the saddle, thereby opening your hips?, then your toe will I think turn out slightly but your ankle will stay aligned with the leg above it, neither abducting nor pronating???

I'll have to go out an experiment, if the temps ever get above freezing again!!

Brenda

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 Post subject: Re: Centered Riding
PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 1:29 am 
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Brenda wrote:
Thanks Leigh!

I think I am beginning to see what you mean?? If you let you knee relax and fall away from the saddle, thereby opening your hips?, then your toe will I think turn out slightly but your ankle will stay aligned with the leg above it, neither abducting nor pronating???

I'll have to go out an experiment, if the temps ever get above freezing again!!

Brenda


That's it exactly! :)

Let me know what you think once the weather cooperates and you've had a chance to play with it a little...after 10 years in CA, I forget how truly miserable that 40 degrees and raining weather can be back there...oof! (Though a hundred degrees and zero humidity does bring its own misery...I feel like a desiccated lizard! :green: My kingdom for some moisture!)

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 Post subject: Re: Centered Riding
PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 2:46 am 
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Thank you so much, Donald, and Leigh!

I liked seeing the picture of the foot and bones of the foot, Donald, thank you. And as far as George Morris' thoughts go, I think he wanted the foot towards the outside of the iron for added security?

And Leigh, yes, I do have a yoga ball. What a wonderful idea to check my position on it! I never thought of that!

And now I feel terribly awful for having such a short response to such long and detailed posts... but I really don't have much more to say or add... Thank you all again!! :friends:

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 Post subject: Re: Centered Riding
PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 3:05 am 
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Makana wrote:
Thank you so much, Donald, and Leigh!

I liked seeing the picture of the foot and bones of the foot, Donald, thank you. And as far as George Morris' thoughts go, I think he wanted the foot towards the outside of the iron for added security?

And Leigh, yes, I do have a yoga ball. What a wonderful idea to check my position on it! I never thought of that!

And now I feel terribly awful for having such a short response to such long and detailed posts... but I really don't have much more to say or add... Thank you all again!! :friends:


You know, Shakespeare said, "Brevity is the soul of wit."

So you win! :D

:friends:

Leigh

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 Post subject: Re: Centered Riding
PostPosted: Mon Jun 28, 2010 2:49 am 
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Just a note to say that I started reading the Centered Riding book (1) after seeing the video, and as people have already mentioned, this is so great. I just started the 4 basic points and even though I saw this on the video, after reading it, I understood more especially about the breathing. I'm now concentrating on my breathing all the time, I even fall asleep better when I'm concentrating on my breathing. Can't wait to continue reading and trying this when on my horse, Magik.

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