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Posts Tagged ‘Centered Riding books’

All this month we’ve been “Remembering Sally Swift” and all her book CENTERED RIDING did for the world of riding horses and teaching people to ride. In celebration of her life and work, we are offering 15% off her books–CENTERED RIDING and CENTERED RIDING 2–and DVDs 1 and 2, through the end of March at the TSB bookstore.

We’ll begin this week with some thoughts from TSB author Peggy Cummings, whose new book CONNECT WITH YOUR HORSE FROM THE GROUND UP is due out this month.

“Sally used to visit my farm every spring and fall for eight years, 1981-1988.  My family and I always looked forward to her visit because she and her little dog, Joy, were delightful guests. Four of my children rode with her, and she had a nice rapport with all six of my kids.

“When my daughter Lindsay was about seven years old, she would sit and watch Sally teach lessons, and at the end of the day, Lindsay would grab her pony and Sally would spend some time answering questions and giving Lindsay her own special ‘Sally time.’ My son Jeff was in Pony Club, and after he began riding with Sally, he did not want to ride with anyone who taught differently than she did!  He was so fond of Sally that he made two little wooden carvings of Sally and Joy, and they remained above her kitchen sink until she passed.

Sally Swift and Peggy Cummings at Sally's home the year before Sally passed away.

“I first met Sally at a New England Dressage Association instructors’ workshop, where she addressed the importance of the use of the rider’s body on the horse. She also spoke about using visualizations to facilitate teaching.  Just hearing her speak, I knew I needed to pursue her work.

“A few months later, I rode with Sally. She showed me how to soften my body in instead of bracing in the saddle. It was such a ‘collision of realities’ with my bracing patterns that I knew I had found an answer I had been seeking.  That is, I had to stop bracing and allow movement in my body as I rode.  This awareness became the keystone to the development of my own work with horses and riders’ bodies (Connected Riding and Connected Groundwork).

“I devoted eight years to working closely with Sally. One year, I took 12 clinics with her, and eventually I was privileged to be the first Centered Riding instructor to teach workshops for other instructors. I was fortunate to pay Sally a visit and meet with her over her kitchen table the year before she died. We reminisced and still had a wonderful connection, and she thanked me for carrying on her work. She will always remain as a mother to me, and of course, as one of my primary mentors.”

–Peggy Cummings, founder of Connected Riding and Connected Groundwork, and author of CONNECT WITH YOUR HORSE FROM THE GROUND UP

You can pre-order a copy of Peggy’s new book at the TSB bookstore.

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TSB's beloved first author Sally Swift.

All this month we are “Remembering Sally Swift,” Trafalgar Square Books’ beloved first author and the creator of Centered Riding the book, and the now revered organization found in countries all over the world.

How did Sally Swift’s ground-breaking book Centered Riding first come into being? Caroline Robbins, publisher at TSB and Sally’s editor (she handled both Centered Riding and Centered Riding 2) shares her side of the story here, for the first time in a long time:

“Both my husband, Ted, and I were taking lessons from Sally here at the farm,” Caroline remembers  (TSB’s editorial offices are located on the Robbins’ farm in North Pomfret, Vermont—you can read more about it here). “Ted, was a very beginning rider in his late thirties, and as a physician, he had a tendency to ask anatomical questions related to what his body was actually doing in the saddle.

“Ted’s questions led to many a discussion over meals on our back porch—and Sally’s portable ‘skeleton’ (he stars in both her books and DVDs) usually joined us. As we both pressed her for information, the effort eventually led to the revelation that Sally had something about all this ‘written down.’ Needless to say I asked to see it, and a very, very rough manuscript duly was handed over.

“You might think was the end of the story—that the original manuscript was in the hands of a publisher and ‘voila,’ a bestseller was born. But that wasn’t the case, as Sally’s work—her theories, ideas, and visualization techniques—was very much ‘in progress.’ She gave me many additions of various sorts, all scribbled on the backs of envelopes, napkins, or anything she’d had on hand while she was being driven around Vermont or flying somewhere. And of course, all this happened, in the ‘early days’—we still used typewriters, not word processors, so organizing the resulting mass of material was a bear!

“As our riding lessons went on, many questions continued to be asked, and much new material was generated and the book began to take real shape—this was a process that lasted many years. Eventually, we all came to the conclusion that the material was ready for viewing, and nervously, I decided to print a very limited number of books—about 3,000 I think (at the time TSB was a book distributor and not an actual publisher, so this was a real jump into uncharted waters for me).

“And well, the rest is history. Sally’s enthusiasm was completely infectious and there was no way anybody could ignore it. We got swept up on the Centered Riding train—in a very big way, as it turned out.“

When Caroline says “a very big way,” she is referencing the fact that since that initial run of 3,000 copies or so, Centered Riding has sold more than 800,000 copies worldwide, and Trafalgar Square Books (formerly Trafalgar Square Publishing) has published more than 350 books and DVDs. Certainly, we can say that Sally Swift started her own legacy, but in a very significant way, she was the start of Trafalgar Square’s, as well.

Sally’s books and DVDs are on sale all this month on TSB’s bookstore website. Join us in celebrating this very special lady and all she did for riding and teaching riding, the world over.

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In 1987, when riding and teaching icon Sally Swift’s classic book CENTERED RIDING was published by Trafalgar Square Books, I was 10 years old and crazy about horses. There’s nothing much different about that fact–there were of course thousands upon thousands of horse-crazy 10-year-olds in different places around the globe that year. But that was also my first Christmas in Vermont–the rural locale to which my family had recently relocated and Sally’s home state–and it was the Christmas I received not one but TWO horse books as gifts from different benevolent relatives. Both were copies of CENTERED RIDING.

What could a 10-year-old want with two copies of the same book? And an instructional book (rather than a story book) at that? It has been just over 20 years but I remember rather studiously going through the pages, in a horse-geeky kind of way, and thinking about the images before me. It isn’t the words that I remember as much as the art–which of course was hailed at its time as ground-breaking, and the book was noted as one of the first “horse books” to use illustration in such a manner. I put one copy on my bookshelf in my room, and took the other to the barn–where I could get to it easily and where it still remains next to my childhood ribbons and trophies to this day.

Even at that age, Sally’s Four Basics made sense to me. I can actually feel what it was like to trot around the tiny paddock behind the barn on my old pony, looking around me with “soft eyes.” While for me riding had never been just drill after drill in an arena, and had yet to yield to the competitiveness that would introduce pressure and anxiety to my experience in the saddle, it still amazes me how one woman’s ideas could inspire a young equestrian to reach deeper and seek some sort of “connection” with her mount, rather than simply thrills and gratification.

I can honestly say that I think the way I thought about horses, cared for them, and rode them thereafter developed from the strong roots the concepts in CENTERED RIDING planted when I was 10 years old. Riding will never be about gloss and surface for me–it will always be grounded in a sort of sensible equestrian spirituality, if you will. I am thankful to Sally for giving my passion for horses real meaning.

It seems only fitting that when, after graduating from college and striking out on my own in the world, I returned to the Vermont town I grew up in, and quite by chance, got a job at the publishing company that brought us CENTERED RIDING so many years ago. I’ve been at Trafalgar Square Books for almost 10 years now, and my role here gave me the opportunity to meet Sally several times before her passing in 2009. She was a bright star, a quick wit, and an earnest and steady defender of the horse. I feel blessed to have learned from her books, her expressions, and her ever-fascinating conversation.

All this month we will be Remembering Sally with thoughts on her life and work from her publisher and editor, Caroline Robbins, TSB staff, and some of the TSB authors who knew her. We also invite you to share your own memories of Sally and her books on our Facebook page.

Sally’s best-selling books–CENTERED RIDING and CENTERED RIDING 2–and DVDs 1 and 2 are available at 15% off (plus free shipping) from our bookstore all month long.

Rebecca Didier, Senior Editor

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