What is Centered Riding®?

by Centered Riding, Inc.

You have probably heard of Sally Swift and her innovative teaching method, but what is it really? What can it do for you and your riding? To answer the second question first - PLENTY!

Sally Swift, founder of Centered Riding, Inc.

Centered Riding, Sally Swift's trademark teaching method, is a tool for teaching the fundamental elements of good, classical riding - no matter what the discipline. To paraphrase Denny Emerson, teaching the "hard stuff"' is easy, it's teaching the basics well that is difficult and crucial to the development of a rider. Centered Riding is an essential tool to provide a good solid base from which to build.

Centered Riding works by teaching riders to become aware of their unconscious habits and correct them. This allows one to discover a better sense of balance and increased freedom of movement which allows for clearer communication between horse and rider. This helps the rider to experience the feeling of being "one" with the horse.

The foundation of Centered Riding is built upon concepts called "the Four Basics" and grounding. The first of these is "soft eyes". This encourages the rider to open his field of vision, thus increasing awareness not only of his surroundings but also of his horse and his own body. Soft eyes or soft focus also helps to alleviate excess tension in the rider.

The next basic is breathing. Many riders hold their breath or breathe shallowly. This causes excess tension and disturbs the balance of both horse and rider. Correct breathing helps lower the rider's center of gravity and allows both partners to relax and work quietly and responsively.

Senior Instructor Sally Haney, left and Level Anne Kulak, right, doing 'swing your partner', a ground exercise to improve awareness.

Another concept is likened to a stack of children's blocks. This image helps to align the riders body, giving the rider true and consistent balance over the horse's center of gravity. With the rider in true balance the body can move more freely and fluidly.

The last of the "Four Basics" is centering. This takes a rider to their center of control and energy deep in the lower body; it allows the seat to be stable and secure. Centering releases tensions that block a rider's ability to regain balance quickly and prepare for the next movement or exercise.

The final concept of grounding is borrowed from the martial arts, such as T'ai Chi. It is called grounding. Grounding is one's connection with the ground that gives security, energy and power.

The use of the Four Basics and grounding helps both horse and rider at any level and makes the learning process easier. One learns to distinguish muscle tone from excess tension. The softness, essential to learn at first, leads to tremendous power and energy that cannot be attained by effort and muscle only. This is the power evidenced so vividly in the martial arts.

Miss Rodeo NY and Doreen Johnston, Level 1 instructor, giving her a trampoline lesson.

So, how does one learn Centered Riding? It is taught by recognized Centered Riding instructors who have gone through a training program under the guidance of Centered Riding, Inc. Learning Centered Riding entails mounted and unmounted exercises to promote body awareness. Knowledge of human anatomy and movement increase the rider's ability to become aware of their own movement habits. Other tools, such as the Alexander Technique, are used to educate the mind and body toward greater balance and integration with emphasis on posture and movement. Kinesthetic exercises, visual imagery, modeling and theoretical explanations are used in the learning process.

While Centered Riding will help a rider cope with any horse, it is best to learn the techniques on a quiet, well-schooled horse. This will allow the rider to establish the principles in a slow, unhurried process without trauma or fear. The horse helps the rider learn through its motion and responses. Once the principles of Centered Riding are experienced in this manner, they become part of the riders repertoire of skills; the more often practiced, the more ingrained they become. Centered Riding philosophy and techniques help remove fear, conjecture and pressure from both the horse and rider. This freedom carries over into work at higher levels of horsemanship and when working with young or difficult animals.

Centered Driving with Senior Instructor Lucile Bump

Centered Riding offers instructor training and qualifies instructors at different levels according to their Centered Riding experience. After taking the first instructor course, the instructor is a Level I Centered Riding Instructor. After a time and more instruction in Centered Riding principles, instructors can become Level II and III Instructors. Level III Instructors may give open CR clinics due to their experience and training in Centered Riding. Level IV instructors/clinicians train upcoming instructors in addition to giving open clinics. The title Senior Instructor denotes those that apprenticed with Sally Swift.


Centered Riding goes Western! Sally Haney, Level IV Senior instructor, with a western rider at the CR 1997 Annual Education Conference

Centered Riding, Incorporated is a non-profit organization dedicated to maintain, promote and teach Centered Riding, encompassing all disciplines of horsemanship. The organization is run by a Board of Trustees elected from the membership of qualified Centered Riding instructors and Sally Swift. Centered Riding, Inc. has established instructor training programs to train and qualify riding instructors to teach Centered Riding. Instructor training clinics are held worldwide and the list of current Centered Riding instructors is continually increasing. Information on qualified Centered Riding instructors, open Centered Riding Clinics, instructor training clinics or the Centered Riding newsletter can be obtained from writing to Centered Riding, Inc. For a general introduction to Centered Riding, consider attending the International Centered Riding Symposium, November 19-21, 1999. For complete information, contact:




Centered Riding, Inc.

PO Box 438

Flourtown, PA 19031

Voice mail/fax: (215) 848-5487

You can also visit Centered Riding on the web at www.centeredriding.org

See also:

Centered Riding (A Trafalgar Square Farm Book)

by Sally Swift, Jean McFarland (Illustrator), Mike Noble (Photographer)