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Posts Tagged ‘Sally Swift’

GOODHANDS

“That rider has good hands.”

The comment might mean little to those outside the equestrian realm, but within it, we understand it as a compliment. And one of the highest order.

As young riders, we try our darnedest for a somewhat light connection with the school horses and tough little ponies we likely learn on. We know we should be able to turn and stop with almost invisible aids…we’ve been told, and we’ve seen great performances by liberty trainers and dressage riders and accomplished horsemen with that magic touch on a horse. I even vaguely remember reading a story about a fairy with a tiny, mystical mount, and reins of a spider’s thread…and this is what I aspired to, over the years, despite a number of equine partners with less-than-enthusiastic responses.

Certainly, it would seem some people are born with feel and good hands. They get on a horse the first time and just know, innately, how to communicate with the animal beneath them. But the rest of us needn’t feel dismay, as we can improve the sensitive and effective use of our hands. The late great Sally Swift gives us two fun and easy exercises to help in CENTERED RIDING 2, her phenomenal followup to the international bestseller CENTERED RIDING. Here’s my take on both of them:

 

Booze Cruise (My Name for This Exercise, Not Sally’s)

With your fingers around the stems, walk around with two full (right to the top!) wine glasses. Notice how much easier it is not to spill the wine when you are grounded, centered, and soft with your fingers, than when you tighten and hold the glass stems with tense hands. Practice finding a more grounded, centered self that filters out to soft hands. Note: I recommend doing this in a room with tile floor or outside, where spillage isn’t a concern. Bonus: Go ahead and have a drink when you’re done. (And repeat the exercise as often as needed!)

 

bowl

Ball in the Bowl

Take a large mixing bowl and place any small ball (a tennis ball, for example) in it. Walk around holding the bowl loosely with your arms relaxed, your thumbs just under the outside of the rim, and two or three fingers underneath. Experiment with what you need to do to keep the ball “quiet” in the bowl (ie, not rolling around) as you walk. You will quickly discover that you must not try too hard, hold your breath, or keep a tight hold on the bowl with your hands. If you try to keep the bowl still by tightening your hands, the ball will roll around rapidly. Instead, balance your pelvis by softening your hip joints and dropping your sacrum. Ground yourself, use soft eyes, breathe easily, center yourself, and lengthen your spine up and down. You will discover that your hands become very sensitive in the way they carry the bowl, and the ball will be surprisingly quiet inside it. This is the quality of hands that you want when communicating with your horse through the reins. (Photo from CENTERED RIDING 2.)

 

 

CenteredRiding2PB-300For more enlightening exercises for better all-around riding, read Sally Swift’s CENTERED RIDING 2, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

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

 

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Last week, The Guardian released the findings of a new study that finds horses are stressed by tight nosebands.

Last week, The Guardian released the findings of a new study that finds horses are stressed by tight nosebands.

“Researchers studying the physiological impact of nosebands on horses competing in international equestrian competitions including the Olympics are calling for new regulations to reduce potential pain and distress from the equipment,” Nicola Davis reported in The Guardian on May 3, 2016. “The scientists found that horses’ heart rates were raised and they struggled to chew when nosebands were fitted too tightly around the animals’ heads.”

This was just last week.

“Serious concerns have been raised about riding equipment to be used at this year’s Rio Olympics,” wrote James Thomas for ABC Australia on May 10, “with scientists claiming nosebands and double bridles could cause unnecessary pain and suffering to horses during equestrian events.”

The ABC report prompted an immediate response and official statement from Equestrian Australia, released via EquestrianLife.com:

At Equestrian Australia (EA) events full consideration is given to the welfare of the horse. Trained stewards ensure that equipment rules are followed and are responsible for conducting saddlery checks, including checking nosebands and bits of competing horses.

The noseband check includes a physical check by the steward to guarantee that the noseband is fitted properly and is not having an adverse effect on the horse.

The story and its response, with the upcoming Olympic Games in full view, is only now finding headlines.

But it was a full 4 years ago that renowned horse behavior expert and founder of the Tellington Method Linda Tellington-Jones devoted an entire section of her groundbreaking book DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL to the subject of tight nosebands and their detrimental effects. Ahead of her time, as is often the case with her innovative ideas and techniques for bodywork and training, Tellington-Jones brought in expert analysis from two top veterinarians to support her claims that too-tight nosebands are ultimately detrimental to equine performance. Here is an excerpt from her book and key points from Tellington-Jones and two equine veterinarians.

Maybe, finally, things will start to change for the good of the horse?

***

It has become commonplace to ride dressage horses with a very tight noseband (cavesson) and girth. Sometimes riders even use mechanical levers to crank the noseband or girth tighter when their own strength fails. This creates a major conundrum. A dressage horse is expected to be flexible and move fluidly, but the tight noseband and girth prevent free movement of the jaw and restrict the ribs. When any joint in the body is restricted, the movement of all joints is affected so that the horse cannot bend, flex, and achieve free-flowing gaits as expected.

In her seminal book CENTERED RIDING, Sally Swift described a simple exercise that illustrates this phenomenon: Take one hand and shake it. Now, continue to shake the hand and tighten one finger. Notice what happens to your hand…and what happens to your breathing. When you tighten one finger, you tighten the other fingers of the hand, as well as your wrist, on up into your arm, eventually limiting your breathing. One tight finger results in the larger part of your body becoming stiff.

For decades I’ve hoped that prominent veterinarians and trainers in the international dressage world would speak out against the practice of cranking nosebands and girths so tight that sometimes I have found my hands are not strong enough to release them. In 2007, 12 years after I had first visited his
farm and worked with him and Goldstern, Klaus Balkenhol taught a clinic during Equitana in Germany in which he recommended that riders loosen the traditionally tight nosebands and girths, mentioning that I had brought the matter of such restrictive tack inhibiting a horse’s freedom of movement to his attention. At the time I was both surprised and elated, hoping that the riding community would prick up their ears and pay attention. Unfortunately, I do not feel that enough change has come to pass in this area, even with the support of such prominent and successful individuals.

It was a number of years ago that veterinarian Dr. Joyce Harman first stated in one of my newsletters that “a comfortable mouth is as important to a horse’s happiness and performance as saddle fit, good shoeing, and tooth care.”

“For years,” she wrote, “in my quest to help riders improve their horses’ comfort and performance, I have asked them to loosen tight nosebands. When one part of the horse is tight, the rest of the horse cannot move freely—just clench your own jaw and feel how far down your back and shoulders the
tension travels.

“The key to understanding the effect of tight nosebands (and bitting, too) extends far beyond the mouth. It begins with the anatomy of the horse’s tongue, head, and neck, and expands to include how the front part of the body affects movement of the whole horse. The tongue lies partly between the
bones of the jaw (bars of the mouth) and above the jaw. Some of the tongue muscles connect to a small set of bones in the throat called the hyoid bones.

LTJnoseband

“Originating from the hyoid bones are two major neck muscles. One attaches to the sternum (sternohyoideus); the other to the inside of the shoulder (omohyoideus). Thus, there is a direct connection from the tongue to the sternum and shoulder along the bottom of the horse’s neck. Consequently, if you have tension in the tongue, you have tension all the way down to the sternum and shoulder along the bottom of the neck, where you actually want suppleness. Once you have tension to the sternum, the horse cannot raise his back and use the commonly cited ‘circle of muscles’ that allow for collection and the self-carriage desired in dressage.

“Small muscles also connect the hyoid bones to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and the poll. The TMJ is an important center for nerves that control the horse’s balance and proprioception. And the poll—its ability to bend and flex—is of central concern to the dressage rider. Because of the small muscles connecting them, there is a very close relationship (which few riders know about) between the horse’s tongue, hyoid bones, TMJ, poll, head, and neck.

“When the horse’s tongue is free and soft, all of this translates into a horse who is better able to move well, with coordination, improved balance, and a significantly lengthened stride.”

Dr. Renee Tucker, a veterinarian certified in equine acupuncture and chiropractic, concurs with Dr. Harman.

“The super-tight noseband,” she says, “what I not-so-fondly refer to as ‘STN,’ not only keeps the horse’s jaw from opening, but in a lot of cases prevents the lower jaw from moving forward and backward. When a horse is flexed at the poll, the lower jaw needs to move forward—just bend your own neck to bring your head toward your chest, and notice how your lower jaw moves forward to accommodate the movement.

“When the lower jaw is prevented from moving forward, the horse’s tongue gets ‘bunched up’ in his mouth. The amount of ‘bunching’ depends on tongue size and the arch above the roof of the mouth (both of which vary from horse to horse). I believe this is why we see many horses with STN trying to stick their tongue out the side of their mouth—there is no room in there! Especially for breathing!

“The joint with the most proprioceptive nerves in the horse’s entire body is the TMJ. When the horse’s lower jaw cannot move, it cannot, therefore, ‘transmit’ accurate positioning data to the horse’s body, which results in poor movement and performance.

“A tight noseband means the horse cannot breathe, cannot flex at the poll comfortably, and doesn’t know where he is in space. I feel justified in saying that this is not desirable when trying to attain optimal performance from any horse, and is especially problematic in the case of the dressage horse.”

***

“Finally, this important issue of tight nosebands is being more publicly and scientifically addressed,” says Tellington-Jones in response to the recent veterinary study and articles in both mainstream and equestrian media. “Tight nosebands cause unimaginable pain, and as I explained in my book, it is a fact that restricting the movement of any joint in the body inhibits and effects ALL joints. Therefore tight nosebands actually inhibit movement.”

It seems that now, with the whole world about to watch the 2016 Olympic Games, we should be able to finally demand more conscientious, fair, compassionate treatment of the elite equine athletes who will accompany their riders to Rio. Are we not outraged to discover human athletes suffering psychologically and physically at their hands of their trainers in pursuit of a medal?

 

Dressage-w-MBS-300DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

Click HERE for to download a free chapter or to order.

 

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

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I remember the first time I read the description of the ideal body for riding horses—it said something about long legs and a short waist, and may have specified “slender”—and how I immediately analyzed my own physical attributes to determine whether or not I qualified as perfectly formed for my chosen pursuit. I failed in some way, of course, because there are few women out there who would likely honestly report always being satisfied with their bodies.

“The list of what plagues women about their bodies is long—and quite enough to wear us out,” writes Melinda Folse in her brand new book RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN. “Chances are, if you’re a woman, there has been a time (for some of us, that would be ‘always’) in which you questioned your size, shape, body type, the length of your legs, or the thickness of your thighs. It might even be safe to say that most of us, at one time or another, have thought we’re too fat, too skinny (yes, I’ve heard they’re out there), too tall, too short, too muscular, too…oh, whatever else you can think of.”

That’s right: our state of dissatisfaction isn’t even just about weight, although that is perhaps the most common issue battled, inside and out. It’s about shape. It’s about proportion. It’s about not meeting an ideal, albeit an ideal that may not be worthy of the kind of sacrifices we’re willing to make to achieve it.

“Life is short. Life with horses is a gift we ought not waste over worries about our size, our shape, or how we look when we ride,” says Folse, who also wrote the bestseller THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES. “But honestly friends, once we have a solid assessment about who we are—and what can and can’t be changed—we can acquire an assortment of tools and develop strategies for making the most of what we have, taking advantage of opportunities that come our way, and reaching the potential that is unique to each one of us.”

RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN intends to do just that: empower riders everywhere to find ways to feel good about themselves in and out of the saddle. Less about losing weight or getting fit (although there are plenty of helpful ideas for both), Folse’s book taps neuroscience, mindfulness, and fitness realities to reveal why happiness in our bodies is not only possible—it may be far easier than we think.

RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

 

CLICK HERE to order now and save 30% in TSB’s 30th Anniversary Sitewide Sale! Sale ends tomorrow (December 3, 2015), so hurry!

 

RT3 Here

 

Don’t miss Melinda Folse’s “Life with Horses” blog on Equisearch.com: CLICK HERE to read her CENTERED RIDING “aha” moment!

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs for 30 years, is a small business located on a farm in rural Vermont.

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Susan Gordon is a lifelong horsewoman and trainer, and co-author of the new book THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN with one of the pioneers of the integrative approach to veterinary medicine, Dr. Allen Schoen. On this 30th day of the month of November, Gordon helps us say a final few words about the 30th Anniversary of the publication of TSB’s first horse book: CENTERED RIDING.

“It was really ahead of its time,” Gordon says about CENTERED RIDING. Listen to her other thoughts on CENTERED RIDING and Sally Swift, the innovative mind behind the book and the movement, in this short video clip:

 

 

At TSB, we’re saying a final “Hurrah!” to our 30th Anniversary by offering 30% off our bestselling horse books and DVDs, now through December 3, 2015. Don’t miss this chance for great deals in our sitewide sale, plus get FREE SHIPPING in the US!

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs for 30 years, is a small business located on a farm in rural Vermont.

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Susanne von Dietze, author of BALANCE IN MOVEMENT (now available again!) and RIDER & HORSE BACK TO BACK, is an internationally respected and highly sought-after riding coach and clinician. Her first experiences with CENTERED RIDING were possible because of the book’s worldwide distribution—it has been translated into 16 languages! Here she shares how she was introduced to the book and the effect it had on the trajectory of her career:

“I had a very special childhood, growing up in Germany with my father, an ex-cavalry officer, and my mother, a physiotherapist and athletics teacher. Both were riding instructors, as well. We always had horses and I learned how to ride before I learned how to walk.

“My parents started therapeutic riding in Germany, and both thought the riders seat was of prime importance for good riding. Longe lessons and seat corrections were a daily part of my training.

CENTERED RIDING by Sally Swift has been published in 16 languages.

CENTERED RIDING by Sally Swift has been published in 16 languages.

“My mother collected all the books she could find about the rider’s seat, and I have her First Edition of the German Translation of CENTERED RIDING. The pictures in this book have always been fascinating to me and helped me develop my own understanding and improve my teaching over the years. When I was asked by the German Federation (FN) to write a book about the rider’s seat (which became BALANCE IN MOVEMENT) I reread CENTERED RIDING and again was deeply inspired by Sally Swift.

“It was a very, very special honor for me to be invited to a NARHA (North American Riding for Handicapped Association) event in Boston in what I think it was 1999. There I had a presentation and a practical demonstration, and Sally Swift was giving a lecture, too. I will never forget how she was standing the whole time, supported on her little stick, and kept all of us busy with our full attention on her for over an hour in the aisleway of some stable! When she rested afterward, I was invited to meet her. She knew my book and had seen my presentation, and she congratulated me on what she thought was an important work. Her praise and acceptance of my work was one of the most important critiques in my life.

“Sally Swift has deeply affected me, not only with her fabulous concepts, but with her whole personality. In November 2015 I have the honor to be the Keynote Speaker at the Centered Riding Conference in the Netherlands, and will do my utmost to remember this great lady with all my respect.”

TSB has celebrated the 30th anniversary of publishing our first horse book CENTERED RIDING throughout the month of November. We’re excited to now cap it off with a special HorseandRiderBooks.com Sitewide Sale! CLICK HERE to shop now and get 30% off any of our bestselling books and DVDs (some exclusions may apply) for a limited time!

 

30%offsitewide

 

Discounts will show at checkout. Plus, you’ll get FREE SHIPPING in the US! Don’t miss this terrific opportunity to get incredible equestrian books and DVDs, and support a small business.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs for 30 years, is a small business located on a farm in rural Vermont.

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“It’s awesome to recognize it has been 30 years since Trafalgar Square Books (www.horseandriderbooks.com) published CENTERED RIDING,” says Dr. Beth Glosten, dressage rider, certified Pilates instructor, and author of THE RIDING DOCTOR. Dr. Glosten discovered Sally Swift’s groundbreaking work when she first tried to get back into riding following medical school and the early stages of her career. Here’s a short video where she tells why CENTERED RIDING was important to her:

 

Trafalgar Square Books has been celebrating 30 years of publishing all month, as November marks the 30th anniversary of the publication of our very first horse book: CENTERED RIDING. Share your CENTERED RIDING memories and “aha” moments online and tag them #CenteredRiding30!

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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Last week, TSB author and acclaimed dancer and choreographer Paula Josa-Jones explained how CENTERED RIDING transformed how she thought about and felt her body while on horseback. Another of our authors comes from a professional dance background: Janice Dulak, dressage rider and Pilates instructor, and author of PILATES FOR THE DRESSAGE RIDER and NINE PILATES ESSENTIALS FOR THE BALANCED RIDER. Dulak says that Sally Swift’s ideas were part of the inspiration behind her own book and DVDs.

“As a professional dancer, I studied the Alexander Technique for years,” she explains. “The work enhanced my technique and allowed for a freedom of movement that changed how I danced. In becoming a rider, movement became new again, and challenging in a way that I hadn’t imagined. When Sally’s book was published, it was a breakthrough moment—for all riders. Understanding that one could translate this method to riding was brilliant…and in part, an inspiration for my work, PILATES FOR THE DRESSAGE RIDER! Thank you, Sally Swift!”

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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