Sally Swift to the Rescue!

Is there any one gospel that you go to for all the answers?

Yeah I’ll say it, I go to Centered Riding.

As a teen I rode with several Centered Riding instructors of varying levels, and to suggest that the knowledge I gained was life-altering would not be completely over the top. Life-altering in terms of riding and posture, anyway. I’m not sure that I am more zen in real life.

Yesterday morning, whilst doing my ride prep (think of it as a lesson plan for a horse, something infinitely more entertaining than a schoolchild), I pulled down Centered Riding and flipped to the section on bending. When in doubt, go to the good book.

There is always at least one metaphor or visualization that will make whatever issue you might be having click  into place, and in this case it was the Barber Pole. It is one of the more entertaining illustrations in the book and urges you to “Be a barber pole. Spin clockwise to go right and counter-clockwise to go left.”

Once on Final Call, it only took one bend to realize that I’d been bringing my inside leg back and up in an attempt to shove him over. Resistance, meet horse. Horse, resistance. By sinking down into my heels, playing barber shop – barber pole, I mean pole! – and turning my whole body, I lengthened and softened my inside leg against his girth, and he was happy to bend around it. As much as he was capable of, of course! Let’s not exaggerate this into something it was not.

What was it, really? It was fifteen minutes of good-natured trotting and walking, with some big loopy circles and some nice halts. It was a few kicks here and there when he forgot what my leg meant – if he ever knew. It was a good ride.



Filed under Dressage, Final Call, Training Diary

13 responses to “Sally Swift to the Rescue!

  1. I still wish I was there:)
    I could help, really! I’m great at getting a sun-tan. And I’d adjust your stirrups for ya.

    To Sally Swift, she will always be one of the wonders of the riding world.
    And, no, I still haven’t read her.
    I rode the big bay, He HaD read her:)

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Would you, my dear? I’m quite tragic at adjusting my stirrups from in the saddle. Always have been. A learning block.

      That bay, he was very well-read, wasn’t he? Lovely boy 🙂

  2. I never read many riding books because they always seem so dry but I’ll try this one as it sounds analogyish!

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Suzanne if you want I can delete that comment so no one knows you haven’t read Centered Riding yet LOL

      Go get it immediately. We’ll wait. I’ll just sit here in the corner and look at my copy. 😉

  3. Do you have both of her Centered Riding books? Excellent…excellent.

    I made them required reading when my husband decided he wanted to help train his mare. After reading them he decided it was too much to think about to try to train her. He just wanted to ride. So he left the training up to me, which was the original intent.

    I think Sally not only saved his mare’s poor mind, but saved our marriage as well!

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      If I was perfectly honest and said I only have the first one, would you think less of me? Haha, I never did get the second one, I thought I had everything I needed in the first. I spend most of my life on greenies, to be perfectly honest, and it’s been more than sufficient to get them through first level and out of my life 🙂

  4. I was very surprised when I read that book. I was expecting a dense tome that would be difficult to understand requiring lots of time and effort to read and re-read. So I was pleasantly surprised with the actual content. Now I try to gently hold the birds while dragging my toes through the mud. Such a fun image.

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      It’s the kind of book that you can just open to find whatever you are looking for. There’s no requirement to read it from start to finish. Although if you do, of course, that’s a bonus for you. The teaching elements are much the same. If you look at the front cover, where Sally Swift is demonstrating a position to the rider – I still remember the day I learned to do that move with my abdomen and pelvis! It was a game-changer.

  5. Barb Fulbright

    He’s a good boy! And I like your book selections. Jut got The Fearless Horse and it’s great! Thanks

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      That is really cool! I’m glad I could make a good recommendation for you. The Fearless Horse is tops around here, I use it for horses of all ages and all kinds of training.

  6. I don’t think I ever ride without thinking about the upside-down ice cream cone. Considering that it was a centered riding/therapeutic instructor who made me and the old OTTB into responsible citizens instead of barely-in-control racetrack rejects, that’s probably not a bad thing. I’m not into gimmicks (don’t get me started on the P people!) but Centered Riding isn’t really a gimmick to my mind.

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Hmm that gets me thinking about the P horses that are for sale to Approved Homes Only.
      What if. . .

      “For sale: Quiet, relaxed Thoroughbred gelding, showing Training Level, schooling First Level. Enjoys having his back massaged before riding, about 15 minutes of suppling work with voltes, half voltes, circles and changes of rein with occasional leg yields before hard work. Soft mouth if you remember that you are holding two baby birds in the palm of your hand. Responds well to legs that are dragging in the mud. Very correct trot when you drag the dishrag through the water and let the hind legs swing up high inside the horse. Very easy to train with proper breathing, especially if you imagine that there is a bellows in your lower body. To approved zen home only; water fountain or ocean surf CD required.”

      Might work well in So Cal or So Fla, actually…

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