International Centered Riding® Symposium 2000 – Mind, Body, Horse

Saturday night I drove home from the University of Delaware with a burning desire not just to ride my horses and to ride with more awareness, but to just PET all my animals. Earlier that evening, at the second International Centered Riding Symposium, Linda Tellington-Jones had ended the day's activities with her enlightening and informative presentation and the reading of a beautiful poem that she wrote. The poem was about all the animals and the angels that look out for them. It was very moving, and for some reason, as she read it to us, I just longed to stroke my animals' coats… That poem has stuck with me every day since then.

Linda's presentation, for which she received a standing ovation, was a very special ending to a wonderful day, and as I steered my vehicle homeward, I thought back happily on all I had learned and experienced. I couldn't wait to put it all into practice. I promptly sat up straight - no slouching; it was as though Saundra Code-Cabell had jumped in next to me, repeating to me while I drove, "Either it's up, or it isn't..." She was of course referring to one's spine and I recalled how she slouched and sat up straight in her chair to demonstrate. I engaged cruise control and, with soft eyes on the road, carefully practiced a few of the pelvic clock exercises we had done in her class!

I stopped for gas and heard Nancy Haller's voice saying, "shopping cart…" and practiced an ankle exercise she demonstrated that can be readily practiced anywhere, as she pointed out, even while standing in line at the grocery store. Back in the car I had more fun practicing - breathing, making turns with my body at every turn (though I wouldn't recommend this because the steering gets a little tricky), centering, soft eyes (better keep my surroundings in view), and even grounding. I saw no reason not to try some of the things I had learned, while seated, while driving and while stopped at traffic lights. Unmounted riding exercises can be done almost anywhere! I knew if I got sleepy I could recharge with TTouch and activate all four of my brain waves. I even pictured Melinda Artz and Lil Lack doing the fluid T'ai Chi and Yoga movements and wondered briefly if there might be a way … hmmm, better not try them in the car!

The entire weekend was a tremendous success. Upwards of a hundred people attended the event and the list of presenters was a grand one.


On Friday, two workshops were held - one by Anita Curtis, her Animal Communication Workshop, "How to Hear the Animals", and another by Dr. Janet Edgette, "Get as Nervous as You Like - the Power of Permission in Sport Psychology". Attendees commented that they really enjoyed the workshops. Several people were very excited after Anita's class; they were amazed and delighted to be able to talk to their animals.

Debby Hadden and Gail M. Field moderated the "Idea Exchange", which was a discussion on how to teach, the philosophy of teaching, ways of teaching various subjects, and honoring your various learning and teaching styles. Also a general Centered Riding®, Inc., meeting was held.

A scrumptious dinner was accompanied by two intuitive presentations from Anita Curtis and Dr. Janet Edgette. Anita's "What Your Horse Can Tell You" explained that animals do talk and they do have things to say, and we can learn a lot from them. Dr. Janet Edgette's discussion on "Control of What? Self-Deception and Our Illusions of Control" was very enlightening, even though Janet was speaking with a broken rib! She spoke about fear and that it is all right to feel fear and anxiety, that one should acknowledge them, listen to them and work through them rather than try to suppress them and risk getting hurt or have them burst out of you at the wrong moment.


Saturday began with a breakfast buffet while Gail Emerson informed us about "How to Identify Dental and Bit Fit Problems", as well as proper dental care and maintenance (including feeding practices), and their effects on the function of the jaw and the performance of the horse (including how and why the flash nosebands can indeed have unfavorable effects). Gail shared various experiences and helpful bits of information, and answered questions.

After breakfast we all diverged into various rooms for the day's sessions, with a break at noon for another fabulous meal while we viewed (and participated in) a video sent by Sally Swift, the founder and creator of Centered Riding. The video had been made just days before when Sally learned she would not be able to attend in person. In the video, she spoke to us and instructed us as if she were present, and she was her usual entertaining self. She received a standing ovation, even though she was on screen!

Linda Tellington-Jones packed the room and everybody participated in TTouch, realizing first-hand its benefits and the amazing things about this simple touch that have been scientifically proven. These revolutionary touches can help calm a horse, restore his awareness and confidence, and ease pain, fear, or tension. We discovered how this simple method of healing, training, and communication can be accomplished by horsemen of all levels.

Melani Alexander Fuchs demonstrated the various ways one can benefit from Tram-Pole-Line exercises. This system of exercises (on a mini-trampoline with upright pole and a line) designed by Melani helps riders find balance in motion, release habitual patterns of response to motion, relax, and release tension throughout the body. She coached the participants, who became more aware of their bodies, and explained how it all applies to riding. Melani presented a brief introduction to work with the pole as well as advanced Tram-Pole-Line work.

ICRS attendees enjoy theTram-Pole-Line exercises, choreographed and taught by Melani Alexander-Fuchs.

Saundra Code-Cabell shared her knowledge and expertise of the Alexander technique (a method of re-educating the mind and body towards greater balance and integration with special reference to posture and movement), the Feldenkrais method (movement re-education), and classical dressage applied to riding. Several participants even benefited from some hands-on bodywork by Saundra.

Saundra Code-Cabell performs bodywork on a participant.

Melinda Artz and Lil Lack led the class in suppling exercises for riders. Maintaining suppleness and sensitivity throughout the body can be a challenge to a rider, and T'ai Chi and Yoga can be practiced to gain new self-awareness and balance that can readily be applied to riding. Melinda and Lil combined classical traditions of movement from both East and West to generate, balance, and refine the shared energy of rider and horse. Exercises that correct, maintain, or enhance the rider's skills will directly benefit the horse.

Melinda Artz proves a point.

Wendy Murdoch demonstrated exercises for stability, balance and coordination, using the Physio-Ball. The participants took turns riding the balls – posting, cantering, half-halting, and more – to experience the feel and to gain body awareness and balance, and also took turns observing and evaluating others' body positions.

Participants ride the physioballs while Wendy Murdoch teaches.

Nancy Haller's "Feldenkrais for Riders' Ankles" had stockinged-feet participants laughing and walking about while learning exercises for that very important ankle joint… the rider's gyroscope and key to the body's correct function when riding.

Robin Brueckmann spoke about "Learning Styles", and the learning process as applied to riding. The discussion covered learning to ride and learning to teach riding, including identifying how one can best learn, retain, and retrieve riding skills and knowledge. Learning is a process, and can be fun for both horse and rider.

Gail Field presented "Unmounted Skills", involving the participants in exercises to help make a smooth and subtle contact with the horse through improved use of the arms, shoulders and hands. She explained how Centered Riding principles can help riders find rhythm while riding and jumping. Gail specializes in working with timid or fearful adults, as well as teaching Pony Club, dressage, continuing education courses in horse care, and riding instructor preparation.

I was fortunate to be able to go from room to room and visit all of these sessions; I gained some very useful information. What was really wonderful was the amount of active participation in all of the rooms. There was a lot of activity with minimal lecturing.


Sunday's activities were held at the lovely L.G. Equestrian Center, LLC, in Port Deposit, MD. The indoor arena was a welcome shelter from the cold, and hot beverages helped take the nip out of the morning. Fruits, bagels and more fed the masses.

Starting things off, Linda Tellington-Jones demonstrated TTouch, ear TTouch, and TTeam on a horse, including how she works through girthing sensitivity. Linda also discussed the effect a tight noseband has on the horse's jaw movement and how it in turn negatively affects the horse's movement. She then demonstrated the use of a 'promise' wrap (promise for engagement) on a 'disconnected' mare, ultimately riding the horse in it. Seeing the horses change – watching them understand and respond to Linda's teaching, with increased awareness and acceptance – was very gratifying and inspiring.

Linda Tellington-Jones prepares to ride using the promise wrap.

Among the morning's demonstrations were Melinda Artz and Lil Lack helping two riders implement T'ai Chi and Yoga techniques to become more relaxed, flexible and confident in the saddle while being lunged. The riders performed various exercises with their arms, experimented with eye focus, balance, and flexibility of various parts. Robin Brueckmann and Saundra Code-Cabell taught Centered Riding Basics to two riders each in separate lessons. Saundra used Feldenkrais and Alexander techniques to supplement her lessons and Robin taught the Four Basics.

Jan Snodgrass impressed us all with Harry Who?, jumping splendidly with a neck ring, and NO bridle. Not just a few small jumps on a short course, but good-sized narrow jumps, and quite a few of them. Jan and Harry Who? cantered over them all, around and through, and between and in and out, jumping them all over and over again without a knockdown or refusal. The two were as one, and the performance was wonderfully entertaining.

Jan Snodgrass on Harry Who? jumping bridleless.    Photo by Aggie O'Brien

Robin Brueckmann topped the weekend off when she rode Bordeaux. Together they performed a spectacular Grand Prix Freestyle without the use of stirrups and WITHOUT a bridle. Every maneuver was captivating; the two were an incredible team. The victory gallop and halt were most impressive too!

Robin Brueckmann and Bordeaux - Grand Prix Freestyle dressage performance, without the use of bridle and stirrups.

The entire weekend was educational, entertaining, enlightening, inspiring, and gratifying, and most of all it left me feeling much more centered. Though the theme of Centered Riding was inherent in the sessions, I learned many refreshing new things from many new areas, giving me a clearer and rounder perspective of riding and horsemanship.

Everybody enthusiastically participated in the activities and their efforts brought forth visible improvement. The presenters had a great deal to share with everyone and they imparted their knowledge and experience in very effective ways. Most of the attendees were already quite familiar with Centered Riding and/or are Centered Riding instructors of various levels, yet they all gained new awareness and enjoyed learning more from what was presented. The interaction among the presenters and the attendees made for a warm, friendly atmosphere and great camaraderie.

It was expressed by many that it was disappointing that not every class could be attended by all. Some classes were held more than once, and some were comprised of beginner and advanced activities, but the nature of the classes and the most appropriate class sizes were what determined the scheduling of classes. Having to choose which courses to attend was indeed a tough decision for everyone.

The meals were scrumptious and the choices were healthy. It was nice being in a beautiful, professional facility, complete with banquet-room breakfast, lunch and dinner, and separate rooms for each of the presentations, all conveniently under one roof. We never had to leave the building on that cold Saturday! The rooms in which the presentations and classes were held were very comfortable and (except for one) were an adequate size.

The L.G. Equestrian Center in Maryland was a lovely, well-kept farm with a comfortable indoor. It was easily accessible with plenty of room for parking. Chairs were set up for the attendees, and tables were provided for the displaying of items for sale and for the food. The delicious hot soups and sandwiches were the perfect lunch for a chilly day.

I think that those who planned and executed the 2000 Centered Riding Symposium did a great job. I also think that the planners had better get started on the 2001 ICRS now, because judging from the response and enthusiasm about ICRS 2000, ICRS 2001 will surely draw a huge crowd. And let's hope Sally can make it next year!