Lately I've been getting excited about riding Starbuck for the first time and have been thinking about how I can improve my riding so that it's a pleasurable experience for her right from the start and also so I can keep my seet and not hang on the reins or grip with my legs for balance while she inevitably bounces around (the less times I can end up on the ground the better, right?). So I reopened a book I bought about a year ago, Centered Riding, and I have to say that after putting some of the techniques into practice in my lesson yesterday, I enjoyed riding more, I felt a much closer connection with Compay, the horse I was riding, and my back feels even better today than it did yesterday before the lesson!
Developed by Sally Swift, a woman who overcame acute scoliosis using the Alexander Technique and horseback riding, the techniques included in Centered Riding use "centering and grounding techniques from the oriental martial arts, along with body awareness, mental imagery and sports psychology. Through increasing body awareness, inhibiting old patterns, and replacing them with a more balanced, free, and coordinated use of self, both horse and rider can move more freely and comfortably, and develop their best performance."
The book abounds with great images to achieve correct postures like imagining that your legs are filled with ice cream that melts out through your heels, that you have a long, heavy dinosaur tail to keep you upright and balanced in your seat, or that your legs are cut off at the knees to keep you from gripping with your calves. It also gives you some great ideas, like riding with one hand extended above your head to better feel and adapt to the horse's movement under your seatbones. This is one of the things I tried yesterday and I loved it, it was like doing pilates on horseback! So here are some links so you can learn more about this system:
- What is Centered Riding?
- Introduction to Centered Riding by Wendy Murdoch
- Centered Riding Clinic with Carol Wilson (Sitting Trot)
- Equine Excellence 2011: Centered Riding Workshop by Peggy Brown