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How Centred Riding can help all horse riders

October 22, 1998/div>

Centered Riding was developed by American Sally Swift, who was diagnosed with a lateral curvature of the spine at the age of eight.


Wendy Murdoch
In order to live a pain-free life, Sally Swift dedicated a large part of her life to studying anatomy and movement. She also rode horses from an early age and soon realised that the work she had been doing on the ground also applied to riding.

It is not a style of riding, but a way of teaching riding without the pain, frustration, and confusion so many people feel when being taught the traditional way.

Her book, titled Centered Riding, has become one of the biggest selling equestrian books world-wide, and an organisation of the same name has been formed to promote and teach Centered Riding.

Level 1 instructor Sam Atkins, of Christchurch, has found that no other riding course caters "to everyone."

"Basically, anyone can benefit from it."

Atkins had a long history with traditional riding methods until turning to Centered Riding. She had trained with Reiner Klimke dressage student Hans Jurgen Meyer in Germany, and with Jenny Lorriston-Clarke in England.

She completed New Zealand's first CR course in 1989. After turning to Centered Riding, she found she could apply parts of what she had learned traditionally and combine it with CR, to produce a beautiful picture - "horse happy and enjoying it."

Centered Riding helps riders:

  • develop an understanding of how they habitually use themselves, and that by being observant and aware they can change patterns;
    learn to overcome instinct - which includes learning to allow instead of make;
  • become aware of their use of self and how they influence their horses' body parts using their own bodies;
  • develop and understand the muscles needed for riding, and refines the mechanics so that only the muscles needed for a task are engaged.

    In humans, instinctive behaviour is to grab, and in horses instinctive behaviour is to flee. If riders develop an awareness of their body and the muscles involved in various tasks, they can learn to inhibit their old ineffective responses.

    Good training is about teaching horses to think and be aware instead of going immediately to the flee response.

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