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Jennifer Forsberg Meyer is Senior Editor at Horse&Rider Magazine and co-author of TSB’s Reining Essentials with Cowgirl Hall of Fame Inductee Sandy Collier. She wrote key articles about CENTERED RIDING and Sally Swift’s teaching in 1998 and 2000, and here shares her “Lightbulb Moment” in honor of TSB’s 30-year celebration:

 

“Oops!” My face reddened as I toppled gently forward, landing awkwardly on my horse’s neck. The mare was at a standstill, fortunately, and I was only following directions to grip with my knees while bending at the waist and attempting to touch my horse’s ears with both hands. As a lifelong rider, I knew I wasn’t supposed to grip with my knees, but until attending this Sally Swift clinic in May of 1998, I’d never understood why not.

A moment earlier, under Swift’s direction, I’d been able to grasp those ears easily while inclining securely forward. “Keep your knees relaxed, keep your lower legs under you, and your calves resting on your horse’s sides,” Sally had said, and it worked.

She reinforced this “grounding” in the saddle throughout the two days of lectures, demonstrations, and mounted and unmounted work. I had traveled from California to Brattleboro, Vermont, to attend the clinic as a journalist and participant. My article, “Getting Centered,” appeared in the December 1998 issue of Horse&Rider. I followed that with a profile of her, “Sally Swift Shows Us The Way,” in 2000.

Sally was 85 at the time of the clinic. Frail and stooped, she moved slowly, leaning heavily on two canes. The instant she opened her mouth, however, she morphed from little old lady to general-in-command—her voice and demeanor were that compelling.

One of many important things she taught us at the clinic was how to find our true center of balance, energy, and body control, deep within our abdomens. The concept is central not only to riding but also to martial arts (such as t’ai chi ch’uan), performing arts (ballet), and other sports (skiing and tennis). The ultimate lifelong learner, Sally had discovered these and other key insights—which were to revolutionize riding instruction—during what ordinary folk would call retirement.

By the clinic’s end, I couldn’t wait to get home and try Sally’s methods on my own gelding. And, just as she’d promised, her techniques meshed seamlessly with my own riding instructor’s approach. They simply gave me insights for getting tab A into slot B. I’d heard the whats of riding all my life. Now, finally, I had a line on how.

 

Share your own CENTERED RIDING memories and “aha” moments online and tag them #CenteredRiding30! And remember, all CENTERED RIDING books and DVDs are 30% off, the entire month of November.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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Photo by Gabriele Boiselle from Building a Life Together--You and Your Horse by Frederic Pignon and Magali Delgado

Photo by Gabriele Boiselle from Building a Life Together–You and Your Horse by Frederic Pignon and Magali Delgado

The sun changes this time of year…the light feels softer, pensive, less insistent. In many places this signals a shift of routine with our horses as competitive seasons wind up and our partners get a few weeks of well-deserved turnout before the frosts hit the late summer grass and fallen leaves hide any remaining morsels beyond reach of all but the most insistent grazers.

It is a good time for deep breaths, deep thought, and a few reminders of what this horse thing is all about. Here then are three messages from TSB authors to carry with you to the barn this week:

 

“On numerous occasions I have been confronted with the intelligence of horses in the course of their training. They rewarded the patience with which I tried to understand their characters by giving their best, just as they manifested their unwillingness when I demanded too much or had been unjust or too fast in their training. These are the moments of truth when the rider has to pause and reconsider his line of conduct. Whenever there are disagreements, it is best to seek the fault in oneself.”

–Alois Podhajsky, My Horses, My Teachers

 

“The art of training young horses is learning how to be fresh every day and not let their problems overwhelm your own spirit. Good training exalts the horse and the rider. When you realize how lucky you are to live the life of a horseman, there is nothing about the lifestyle that should be constantly depressing. Any authentic life will have some rough patches…You cannot control fate, you can only control your reaction to it. Training horses gives you chances to practice this every day.”

–Paul Belasik, Nature, Nurture, and Horses

 

“Everyone wants instant results but horses have their own rhythm, closer to nature, and at variance with any ideas involving deadlines, profitability, or even over-enthusiastic pressure toward some goal. Whether it concerns a horse being prepared for a show, or someone who has invested in a Grand Prix horse, or just an amateur rider with one hour per week to spare, there is only one rhythm to work to and that belongs to the horse.”

–Frederic Pignon, Building a Life Together–You and Your Horse

 

Find more horse wisdom from Trafalgar Square Books in our online bookstore–CLICK HERE TO VISIT NOW.

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