Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider

Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Centered Riding Lesson

I was so excited after the Centered Riding Introductory Clinic at my barn in March, that I knew that I wanted to learn more about Centered Riding! I had bought Sally Swift’s book a long time ago and had read it, but had forgotten about it. I dug the book back out to re-read. Now I need to get Centered Riding 2!

After thinking about the difference that I felt that this style of riding would make in my life, I signed up for another Centered Riding Clinic, this time in Kansas! I know that something has clicked in me to make me realize that this style of riding is going to make me a better rider and a better instructor. Realizing this, I decided to sign up for the Centered Riding Instructors Course in June and August in Colorado!

With just an introductory course, an open clinic, and now a private lesson under my belt, I already feel more relaxed. I feel like a light bulb has gone on in my life. I feel like what I am searching for, I have found. At least I have found the beginning, as from what I have already learned of Centered Riding, it is an ongoing journey! A journey of knowledge, of continuing education, of lessons and clinics, both participating in and giving, and of helping people!!!

I loved my private lesson. I could focus on what Finny and I needed, not only to compete at our CTR the very same weekend, but to become a better team. I want each of us to be willing partners. Each of us needs to learn to relax in our own way. Soft eyes and breathing deep within the body is a start. Understanding how the body responds when we think or move a certain way is a start. Having my body consciously make an effort to change what I am doing to have Finny react in a positive, relaxing way is a start, and to accomplish this is the ultimate goal!

When the lesson first starts, I walk the arena, allowing relaxation to come to my body and to Finny, while Carol observes. We work on what is needed at the moment. One or two things at a time, not 20. As we work on one area, other areas just fall into place.

“Walk in the Following Seat” is an exercise to feel the seat bones. You should feel the backward peddling of the seat bones. First at the walk, and then at the trot. Smaller circles and larger circles, depending on how fast you want the horse to go. You can slow the movement of the horse by peddling your seat bones, and your center, backwards.

I have a hard time with upper body sway going downhill at the CTRs. Carol had me on the mini trampoline at the clinic, walking in place. This is the same sensation as what my feet would be doing as I walked downhill on the trail. At this lesson, we worked on “Dancing Knees”. As we walk and trot, I focused on the movement of my knees. I felt my knees rise and fall in time with each foot fall.

I worked on the “3 Seats at the Trot”, the 2 point, sitting and posting the trot. From 2 point for a few strides, to sitting for a few strides, to rising into the post for a few strides, then repeating the transitions. If your feet are grounded, this should be easy transitions. I will work on getting the transitions every 2 strides.

I have a lot of log obstacles at the CTR’s. I worked on using my “Center” for leg yields. I did a few arena exercises, moving to and from the wall, using leg yields in both directions. I would first ask with my center and my seat bones, then add my leg cues. As I became more in rhythm with my horse, the yields became easier and effortless. As I moved up to a log to work on the side pass, I stayed focused on the end result - where I was going to - with soft eyes! As I took the focus away from the log directly beneath my leg, and looked at the log at the end, and stayed aware of the whole area with soft eyes, Finny moved across the log at ease in a very pretty side pass!

We are getting it! I want him to be relaxed when he is asked to work an obstacle. I want him not to be so worried, or anxious about what lays ahead. It will be all right! But how do you translate that feeling to the horse? I started breathing deeper, and blowing out on the exhale, to let me horse feel the movement of the breath.

I find that it is the understanding and realization of what my body is doing as I work on the exercises that I fully want to comprehend. How does my hips move, what are my knees doing, are my shoulders up and back, where are my feet? Is my horse responding? What is my center telling me? I want to know what my soul is telling me also. Is this right for me? Do I feel centered? Do I feel at peace?

Come along on this journey with me! I am excited and I know you would be, too!


Jana Sheeder said...

Wow! What a wonderful blog. I'd never heard of Centered Riding, and I understand completely! Excellent explanations. I take riding lessons and 1/4 lease a horse, so I'm going to try this. Thank you!! Jana Sheeder ... @yacht_charters and @dogparkmiami (on twitter)

Brenda said...

Thanks, Jana. That is great that you can lease a horse and do lessons. Centered Riding was started by Sally Swify when she was in her 60's! She just passed away at the age of 96! After a lifetime of experiences, she put her knowledge into a book, and started teaching how to use your body and your center for a more relaxed ride, and horse! If you can find someone that uses this concept in their lessons, you will love it! thanks for your reply! Brenda

Anonymous said...

Hi Brenda,
I'm a level 1 CR instructor from Kentucky (formerly from Michigan). I love your's exactly how I felt when I took my first clinic back in 2000! Not only has CR change the way I ride and my communication with my horse, but it has helped me as a person. All of us have various parts of our bodies that are unbalanced and we're not all built evenly (conformation). CR has helped me walk straighter, sit without slouching, lift things, and go about my day more in balance. It's almost a "curse". I can't do anything without thinking about CR and using Sally's techniques. It's a life-changing experience. One wouldn't think that of a "hoseback riding" clinic. Sally has touched many of us even if we've never met her. She's done a world of good out there, and her passing will affect many. Keep writing and teaching CR and spreading the techniques. Our horses and our bodies will both benefit.

Brenda said...

Anonymous, that is what I want too... I want it to change my life to give me more communications with all horses, yet come into my life to allow me, as a person, to be more "grounded". To become more relaxed and centered within myself. I know how you feel about making sure our bodies are how they should be. It was amazing how sore I was when I changed and lifted my shoulders opened. I would have loved to met Sally. She has touched many lives in wonderful ways! Thank you for your words of encouragement! Sometimes I think I am doing this more for me than for my students!!!

Jennifer said...

I'm looking for a centered riding instructor in KY, preferably in the Lexington area. Please email me if you have any information. Thanks.

Horses Are Our Lives said...

Jennifer, check out the website,
You should find a list of instructors, or some of the clinicians from KY or neighboring states, should be able to help you with finding an instructor in KY.


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