Tag Archives: Centered Riding

Balance needs 2 out of 3 components

Can You Pass the Test? Dynamic Balance Test

Video by http://www.builtlean.com/

How did you do? I definitely need practice and am a bit wobbly. I didn’t feel particularly unstable riding in my saddle on Twistur at a walk, but I had my eyes open and wasn’t standing on one leg.

Dr. David Thurman, a neurologist for the American Academy of Neurology explains to maintain balance “there are several components of the nervous system, as well as motor or movement functions, that need to be intact.” Maintaining balance we need at least 2 of the 3 components: vision, proprioception and vestibular function. We also need the strength and flexibility to hold ourselves against gravity. “All of these,” Dr. Thurman said, “tend to degrade with age…” Unlike many effects of aging, balance can be improved. “The preponderance of evidence,” Dr. Thurman said, “shows fairly convincingly that strength and balance training can reduce the rate of falls by up to about 50 percent.” (1) This is good news for improving balance for riding too.

I used to have good balance. I have already made improvements in my balance in just the last couple of weeks with practice. I’m finding ways to practice balance during the day. While doing simple daily tasks, I’ll hold up a leg. A short practice multiple times a day is optimal for improving balance. I’ll lift the leg a bit and move it forward, back and to the side as I fill up the horse water or brush my teeth. Holding onto a small tree branch by one of the water buckets provides some stability while allowing more dynamic balancing than a solid object like a chair.

Footnote (1): From “The New York Times” article “Staying on Balance, With the Help of Exercises” by John Hanc Published: 09/15/2010

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Hip flexors

‘Lifeloveandhorses’ blog is about “optimizing health, happiness, and peace” for my horses and myself. Yoga is a good form of exercise to increase strength, stamina, balance and flexibility.


= praise (from root anj meaning honor)
Pronounced: (AHN-jah-nay-ah-sa–na)

Anajaneya pose is a type of lunge that stretches the hip flexor muscles, such as the psoas. The pose is similar to a “runner’s stretch”.

The psoas enable riders to influence their horses with their seats and legs. By mastering the use of these muscles, riders will be able to maintain self carriage, both on and off the horse.

– Tom Nagel, author of “Zen & Horseback Riding

Anterior Hip Muscles diagram

Hip muscles

The psoas is the only muscle in the body that connects the legs to the spine. One action of the psoas is flexing the thighs at the hip enabling us to raise our knees. It assists in thigh rotation and adduction, helps to stabilize the pelvis, move the lower back, and links by connective tissue to the diaphragm.

The iliacus is another hip flexor that connects the legs to the pelvis. It joins into the thigh bones with the same tendon as the psoas muscle and often called the iliopsoas together.

These hip flexor muscles lie deep in the body behind the abdominal and pelvic organs.

Stretching the hip flexors is important for horseback riders, as well as for runners.

Yoga instructor Sage Roundtree describes a Low Lunge exercise.

This is an interesting interactive tool for learning about the human anatomy.

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Filed under Anatomy and Physiology, Human health, Yoga

Neutral Spine Part 2

Correct positioning of your back, starting with your pelvis, is important for your balance, resilience, and comfort.

– Sally Swift in “Centered Riding 2”

Finding Neutral Spine and Neutral Pelvis – Sitting

When you are either arched or slumped – that is, not in Neutral Posture – your back, neck, shoulders, and joints begin to hold tension and may become stiff and painful.

– Peggy Cummings in “Connect with Your Horse from the Ground Up”

Finding Neutral Spine in the saddle

In the 20th century particularly, styles of riding came into fashion which are greatly removed from the nature of riding and from the natural style of riding.

– Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling in “Dancing with Horses: The Art of Body Language”

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4 Basics of Centered Riding

Understanding of human and horse anatomy, balance, movement, and the mind body connection are foundations of Sally Swift’s method. Centered Riding uses centering and grounding techniques from the oriental martial arts, along with body awareness, mental imagery and sports psychology.

Through increasing body awareness, inhibiting old patterns, and replacing them with a more balanced, free, and coordinated use of self, both horse and rider can move more freely and comfortably, and develop their best performance.

The Four Basics of Centered Riding

  • Soft Eyes – Encourage visual and physical awareness, better peripheral vision, and improved “feel.”
  • Breathing – Using the diaphragm and breathing correctly for better posture, relaxation, and energy.
  • Balance or Building Blocks – Aligns the riders body for improved balance, straightness, and ease of movement.
  • Centering – Using the center of balance, movement and control, located deep in the body, gives quiet strength, harmony and power, as in the oriental martial arts.

Sally Swift developed “Centered Riding”.

Available limited preview of book “Centered Riding 2: Further Exploration” on Google Books:

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Sally Swift

I have built up a library of books. These include both of Sally Swift’s books on Centered Riding. If I was going to do lessons or clinics, then a Centered Riding instructor would be on my list.

I’m inspired by Sally Swift. She used body awareness and learning how to change her body to work through a physical disability (scoliosis) using “The Alexander Technique”.

Sally Swift Bio: http://www.centeredriding.org/default.asp?pageid=10021

“At seven years old, a scoliosis appeared which became part of her daily life and was later instrumental in her development of Centered Riding. After the diagnosis and well into her twenties, she worked with Mabel Ellsworth Todd, author of The Thinking Body. Mable Todd was Sally’s first teacher in “body awareness” and encouraged Sally to explore her new “awareness”. This early training was enhanced when Sally began, and continued, to study the Alexander Technique™ and applied it to riding. Sally’s work with the Alexander Technique™ enabled her to discard the back brace she had worn for many years. “

Good review of Sally Swift’s Centered Riding method with the Alexander Technique concepts.

“One of the key concepts in the Alexander Technique is that use informs function, that is, how you do something affects the result. This idea is made even more apparent when you put a rider on a horse. Every little thing a rider does (all the ways she uses her self) affects the horse.”

Centered Riding by Sally Swift (published 1985)
Centered Riding 2: Further Exploration by Sally Swift (published 2002)

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