The Art of Natural Dressage

Centered Riding
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Author:  horsefever [ Mon Aug 23, 2010 5:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Centered Riding

thank you so much Donald for your encouragement. Yes, I have the two books and I believe I have two videos. I love the way you describe how to sit on the horse. Yes, I am frightened of falling. People have told me that eventually, if I ride at all, I will fall. But I don't know what the feeling is. One time I did throw myself off Magik and that was because he was walking and he wasn't stopping when I asked. I fell in the sand and I could see him laughing at me when I was on the ground, crying out of frustration. He stopped right beside me and put his head to mine. It is funny today but wasn't when it happened.

I do want to ride Magik and I will read your post over and over to encourage me to get back on (especially since the days are cooler now so more comfortable for everyone).

Thanks again, you are my horse hero :cheers:

Author:  horsefever [ Thu Jun 02, 2011 9:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Centered Riding

I have found someone who can help me with my riding. She is willing to read up on Centered Riding and she is so understanding towards horses. the only problem is that she does not understand english so I have to translate all the books. But that's ok, that way, I will understand more what I'm reading.

First lesson tuesday, May 31st 2011:

Since Magik hadn't been ridden for about 2 years (I rode him maybe twice last year for about 15 minutes besides the one-hour lesson with the Centered Riding instructor) so we decided to simply start the relationship with Claudine on the ground and then saddle him and if all went well, she would mount. We used my Parelli hackamore, Parelli airpad and my Tucker endurance saddle which weighs about 22 lbs (instead of the Parelli saddle which weighs about 45 lbs).

From the ground, she practiced some of the Parelli games but without the carrot stick, only arm movement. She asked for a back-up, turn hinds left and right and turn front left and right. After these, Magik was following her in the round pen.

Saddling didn't go as well as when I do it since I don't have to halter him. With Claudine, he would move, maybe because of the flies or maybe because he didn't want the saddle on him, not sure. But we did place the airpaid and the saddle on his back and he did not react.

She got on very delicately and he didn't move. All went so well. He did resist sometimes when asked to move in certain directions but we think it's because he didn't understand what she was asking. Once he understood, he was so kind and went along with her. Of course she used negative reinforcement but it wasn't phase 3 or 4 and he didn't seem to be offended. She rode maybe 15 minutes, only at walk.

When she got off, we loosened the girth and then started scratching him everywhere. He seemed so happy. He would scratch his face on our bodies and he seemed very happy. He even put his his face on her shoulder (something I had taught him to do when playing).

So I was very happy with my first lesson. I didn't ride but I saw his personality shine even when ridden. So that helps my confidence.


1-Clauding will ride him abit longer.
2- if he is fine, I will get on but I will not move (no walking)
3-I will do some exercises for balance (soft eyes, breathing, find my center)
4- Practice difference exercises (lifting legs, lifting arms, etc)

Author:  Donald Redux [ Fri Jun 03, 2011 4:12 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Centered Riding

I think it wonderful that you have someone to teach who is so interested in doing what you ask for. Hopefully she will enjoy and incorporate Sally Swifts work for you.

I hope you keep us posted here on how things are going.


Author:  horsefever [ Tue Jun 07, 2011 9:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Centered Riding

Second class on sunday, June 5th:

I saddled Magik before Claudine arrived. He was so willing and I had no trouble at all. I walked around the round pen with him waiting for Claudine to arrive and he followed me. I'm trying to give him less treats to see if he will still follow me. And he is so that's good.
Claudine arrived and introduced herself to Magik. They mingled for awhile. she mounted and he was alot more responsive than the first lesson. He understood more what she was asking. After about 30 minutes of walking, stopping, turning, right and turning left, she asked for a trot and he understood right away. She is still riding with only the hackamore (no bit) and she is not having any problems.
Aftwards, I mounted without moving. Am I ever stiff!!!!!!!! I need to work on relaxing my legs and every part of my body. According to her, if I don't loosen up, Magik will feel the stiffness in my body and he won't be comfortable. I walked maybe 5 minutes (not even) and that was it. He was great. So now for the last 2 days, I've been stretching my body and doing alot of exercises to speed things up.
Next class, I'm going to continue to do exercises on Magik to relax and then we're going to walk while she is going to trot with him.

Can't wait!!!

Author:  Donald Redux [ Wed Jun 08, 2011 5:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Centered Riding

The next step from Sally Swift's work (may you ride in comfort for eternity with the equine friends you have helped) is to consider the individual horse and the individual rider and their unique characteristics. Ms Swift suffered from a body shape disorder and it brought her to the study she later shared with us all.

It is not toes out, or knees in or any other posture of part or whole - those are just patterns for understanding what is happening. It is knowing the horse's anatomy generally, and that of the human too, but beyond that, our own and our own horse's particular anatomy and 'way of going.'

I tell my students that in all things they should seek to be generous with the horse. For if they will do this the horse is more than likely to be generous with their energy and compliance.

In so many ways this comes from Sally Swift. She was, in the end, generous to the horse when she taught the rider. What may come as a surprise to many is that what she taught was, for the most part, known for centuries. Said in various ways, still the same thing.

When I was young and learning to ride we called it "balanced," riding, always seeking the center of the horse to connect with our own center. We did, as far back as the 1960s, and likely earlier, gymnastics and balancing work. I taught in the 60's, and my students learned to ride backwards, to vault off the horse, to ride in two point over obstacles, even to ride laying back over the horses' hindquarters to learn to feel the dynamics of the horse under way, and how to move with the horse's rhythm in all gaits.

If one is to learn to ride the horse they are given to ride then they too, as Sally and the rest of us did, must study for ourselves how we move and how the horse moves until we have an integrated personal awareness and understanding of these things. One is either a passenger, or a student. The former doesn't learn much.

Author:  Morgan [ Wed Jun 08, 2011 8:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Centered Riding

Aftwards, I mounted without moving. Am I ever stiff!!!!!!!! I need to work on relaxing my legs and every part of my body. According to her, if I don't loosen up, Magik will feel the stiffness in my body and he won't be comfortable. I walked maybe 5 minutes (not even) and that was it. He was great. So now for the last 2 days, I've been stretching my body and doing alot of exercises to speed things up.
Next class, I'm going to continue to do exercises on Magik to relax and then we're going to walk while she is going to trot with him.

Can't wait!!!

Well done Jocelyn! :applause: Although you don't need me to tell you that, seems you got your own reward. :funny: So happy that you are back in the saddle!

Author:  Josepha [ Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:03 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Centered Riding

that sounds like an excellent instructor! :applause:

Author:  horsefever [ Fri Dec 16, 2011 3:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Centered Riding

I saw a video just recently where the rider indicated that the best cue to use to help your horse change gaits is with your weight.
Question (hope it doesn't sound stupid but I don't quite understand :blush: )
How can our weight influence the horse to stop and walk? Can I interprete this as being the weight distribution on the horse? If so, can anyone explain it. I am reading Sally Swift's Centered Riding Book 1. But all I've read so far is the building blocks which doesn't really explain how to distribute your weight at a halt. I know some have said to relax your whole body when asking to stop. So I assume, this is when my total weight will be on his back (thus putting all my weight at the same place). And when asking to walk, my hips do move but does that change my weight distribution?
thanks for all the help (I need it!!!) :D

Author:  Josepha [ Fri Dec 16, 2011 12:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Centered Riding

You can not become more heavy or light indeed. It is about the laws of physics.
If you are with the movement of your horse, you are easy for the horse to take with him. But if you do not move with the horse, you become a dead load so to speak, heavy to carry and interfering with the horses longissimus dorsi movement.
So, you move with the horse to maintain his speed of gait, speed your own movement up to speed up the movement of the gait, slow your movenent down to slow the movement of the gait and stop moving to halt.

It is then all about dossage and timing to not interfere with the movement of the longissimus and keep the natural balance of the horse with stretch on the nuchal ligemant throughout all the transitions to prevent the horse from weighing his shoulders which will lead to health problems.

Next to that, when you stretch one foot into you stirrup more then the other, the weights shifts a bit to one side and the horse will step into that to remain straight underneath you because that will feel more balanced to him (and prey animals are obsessed with keeping balance). La Guérinière calls that aid 'bugeltreten' which would translate to 'step in your stirrup'. This aid is used for turns and lateral work.This is what the 'weight aids' are about.

Hope that helps....

Author:  Josepha [ Fri Dec 16, 2011 12:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Centered Riding

The building blocks Sally talks about are also influencing the way our horse perceives our weight.
When your blocks are levelled up, only then can you follow the movement. Are your building blocks not levelled up, you will always remain behind the movement and hinder the horse and this feel heavy.

Think about the highland games. The lads in kilts carrying an up right tree log. As long as the tree is perfectly vertical, they can carry it, as soon as it tips over a little, it gets to heavy and they need to let it fall (preferably not on top of them). ... re=related

The game of balance and weight in fact :)

Author:  horsefever [ Fri Dec 16, 2011 5:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Centered Riding

thanks so much Josepha. I always wondered about this. I couldn't understand the fact that we can be lighter (in weight) if we could (sure would love to see it on the balance :D )

So as I see it, it means lighter in "movement" which makes complete sense.

As for the video, I have never seen this sport in my life. Very interesting.

I will make sure when I ride that I'm focused on my "lightness".

Have a great day!

Author:  Donald Redux [ Mon Dec 19, 2011 12:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Centered Riding

Beautiful, Josepha. I'm such a Sally Swift (RIP good woman) fan. I sometimes wish she was with me as I work with a student, and sure enough, there she is. Or you. LOL

Author:  Birgit [ Mon Dec 19, 2011 4:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Centered Riding

I had assumed for a long time that I needed to brace a lot of muscles to let my horse know that I want to stop, at least abs, inner thighs etc. Amazingly, I've learned that sometimes just bracing one muscle, even one that does not touch the horse, will get us to subconsciously brace in other parts of our body and the horse will stop or slow down. Just try it, make a fist with one hand (with draped reins) and see if the horse notices. :D It's amazing how many times I've asked my horse to move forward thinking she slowed down on her own when it was really me who had unintentionally asked her to stop or slow down.


Author:  horsefever [ Mon Dec 19, 2011 2:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Centered Riding

Saturday Anne (my instructor) told me my body was swaying from left to right instead of having a movement from front to back. I noticed that this summer when my boyfriend made a video of me riding. I didn't know what I was doing wrong. Now I got it!! It was so true. I thought I had to move with the horse but I was kinda exagerating :blush: Poor Magik.

Now my sister and me are asking this question: when moving (walking) with the horse, do we move one hip at a time or both hips together? I thought it was one hip at a time but my sister says she saw the instructor moving two hips together.

Please help!!!

Author:  Birgit [ Mon Dec 19, 2011 6:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Centered Riding

I think the easiest way to do it right is to not consciously move at all but to relax all your seat muscles (glutes, hamstrings) enough to where you let the horse's movement lift and move your hips one after the other. You should feel a slight circular movement. Whenever you feel your right seatbone and hip lifted you know that the horse's right hind leg is in the air, same with the left side. The same works at the trot but it's easier to learn on a horse that will do a nice western jog and relaxes easily. Your core muscles should be engaged enough during this to maintain your upper body alignment. I remember the visualization of a string that's tied to the back of your head and pulled tight, keeping your upper body upright and that helps, but it's an elastic kind of upright, more like a willow branch than a stick. Your lower body is a lot more like a big sack of sand, soft, draping around the horse.
I've heard riding instructors talk about speeding one's own movement up at the trot to increase the speed of the horse but with a horse that does not have a lot of go I find this counterproductive and more likely to interfere with the horse's relaxed striding out.

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