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Centered Riding

4.43  ·  Rating details ·  1,275 ratings  ·  50 reviews
Widely known for her innovative teaching philosophy stressing body awareness, the value of "soft eyes," proper breathing, centering, and balance, Sally Swift has been a pioneering riding instructor for half a century. In book form for the first time, her methods enable horse and rider to achieve harmony, working together naturally, without pain.

Unlike traditional teachers,
Hardcover, 198 pages
Published January 15th 1985 by St. Martin's Press
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Average rating 4.43  · 
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Jul 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horse
Centered Riding by Sally Swift is one of my very favorite books that I recommend to natural riders. There are so many well explained concepts of helping riders understand the subtle and not so subtle ways to generate the wonderful bonding between a human and a horse. It has been in my library it seems forever and is a must read for those who love horses.

I strongly recommend this especially for new owners who want to make their horse a friend and companion without fear.
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ms. Swift problem solves "the basics" for advanced riders helping them fix those little things that have been holding them back.

Great mental images and training techniques to help figure out where your balance and/or position may be working against you and your horse and how to correct them. I love the summery points at the end of all the training chapters to remind you of what you should take away and the exercises talked about for the chapter! I've already started using some of these for me w

Courtney Maum
Mar 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reading this is like having a therapeutic mind and body massage. The way she writes and the images she uses are totally clarifying-- this is a pleasure to read, not just for horseback riders, but for anyone who wants to be more present in their body.
Sat Kartar Singh
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A must read for all riders.
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
At first glance, when reading about all the imagery Sally Swift uses, my first thought was: ‘How much pot must this woman have smoked to come up with this?’
Imagine your legs are roots of a tree, a rider’s arms should be so long that they can hold the bit with the hands instead of reins…
But by making her explanations so visual, it actually helped going beyond each explanation and creating the perfect mental image for each exercise.
Her teachings are of the most basic nature when you come to think
Persephone Abbott
Nov 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
"Centered Riding" was recommended to me by an Alexander Teacher the first year I took up riding. As I remember I did "look through" it with interest, but was left with an impression that I hadn't really read the book since I had a hard time associating the concepts with physical movements -- having ridden so little. So I took the book up again and discovered that actually I had been using the ideas put forward these past years. What a surprise! Re-reading it was most interesting and I found that ...more
Aly Stratton
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An absolute must for anyone that considers them selves a horse-person I have read it, loaned it, lost, bought it over and again!
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, animals
Amazing book with great tips for a more balanced and centered approach to horse riding! I found the images she used for describing every teaching very useful, and remember them every time I try the exercises with my horses, for example the "stumps" instead of legs, or the string pulling my head up like a marionette. Highly recommended for every equestrian who wants more than just an obedient horse, and actively wants to work on themselves and their own body balance.
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Centered Riding is a book about how to balance yourself on a horse. It is typically recommended for horse riders. I found this book helpful for my riding.
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horsemanship
Centered Riding changed my life completely. I improved my riding and through that my horse got way better. Working on my seat changed everything. Im working on myself now rather than on my horse.
Alana Kekel
Oct 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book has changed my life.

Sally Swift had given riding instruction for many years before her student's finally pushed her to organize her advice and make it a book. Centered Riding is loaded with dozens of fantastic visualizations to help you ride -with- your horse.

Written by someone who has struggled with scoliosis since she was a child, you would think it be interesting that she write a book about riding centered. In reality, working with physical therapists, riding trainers, and understan
Sally Swift developed her method of riding through her own riding experience and the body consciousness she worked hard to attain in her efforts to manage her scoliosis. Her four basics (soft eyes, easy breathing, centering, and building blocks) help riders sink into their seats and stay relaxed and connected to their horses as they ride, which in turn helps their horses carry them with ease. She uses a lot of imagery to help readers visualize what they need to do (for example, “hold your reins ...more
Lara Alavi
The book that I read was Centered Riding by Sally Swift. Sally Swift’s book was designed to teach riders how not to only ride correctly but to also see horseback riding from a new perspective, As she had to due to being born with Scoliosis . A medical condition that affects your body making it difficult to ride horses. Although with physical therapy and using her techniques shown in this book she was able to ride and became extremely good at it. Her way of riding is seeing it not only as yoursel ...more
Jacqui Lafrance
Jul 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jacqui by: Sam and Chris
What an amazing teacher- analogies and metaphors are such strong teaching tools since they draw on the student's prior knowledge and Sally Swift uses these on every page with illustrations. Imagine you are...... suddenly the concept is conceivable and the reader can grasp what she is describing. This is the standard and classic text of dressage riding for riders who read. I am using it to help me remember what I was working with on my horse way back when- it is part of my powering up phase as I ...more
Jan 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is an absolute must read for any rider, but is especially helpful to those of us who are not naturally balance or athletic. Swift's exercises have helped me to become more aware of how I use my body both in and out of the saddle. This has literally changed my way of life for the better! I am more balanced and relaxed and have used many of her centred exercises to relieve myself of stress and tension. This is a must for anyone who rides as well as those looking to understand how to use ...more
Aug 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is exactly what I was looking for! Having already discovered how helpful practicing yoga is, especially on lesson days, I was looking for a way to incorporate breathing and relaxation into my riding, and this is it. Already I have found that soft eyes make a huge difference in the energy required for a rising trot.. so much easier and more relaxed. Centered Riding is monumental and Sally Swift is my new hero. So stoked about this.
MaryEllen Elizabeth Hart
May 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horsemanship

Read this book if you are beginning to develop your equestrian skills and seek a little more theory or background information. Great for Intermediate Riders or Riders learning how to teach riding.

Most of Sally's book is "riding lesson" between hard covers. Sally clearly describes and the rider's "how tos" to effect the rider's (and horse's) balance, motion (forward movement, power "impulsion", rhythm, bending (lateral and vertical flexion), etc.)

Apr 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Sally Swift teaches what you really need to know about riding that no one quite explain. If you are working on improving your seat, and moving up to the next level as a rider, this book is a must read. No one else explains the physicality of riding with the detail and insight that Sally Swift does.

If you are learning dressage, you must read this book.

Sep 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People wanting to ride with their horse, not just on the horse.
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a slightly older book that has timeless wisdom. As a newbie rider, I have found it very helpful in understanding communication with the horse. Not just a how to ride book, but rather it encourages you to understand muscles and movement as well as tension. Very assuring. There is a video, too, and it is helpful as well.
Apr 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My best friend gave me this book knowing I am an English rider/jumper. I was in awe when I realized how much of this I NEED to be doing. I told my trainer I read the book and she said "Wow. It took a book to get that through your thick skull. I've been trying to tell you that FOREVER." I just had to laugh. So see...books can help readers and riders!!!
Sep 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
For visual learners this is a wonderful accompaniment to your centered riding instruction. This is a book that encourages you to clear out your inner garbage and be a partner to your horse. I borrowed this book from the library but intend to purchase a copy as I know I will refer back to it endlessly.
Feb 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
As a beginning rider, most of this book was way beyond me, but I think the first few chapters were very helpful. The main thing I learned was to be considerate of the horse and to stay centered in order to make his job easier.
Michael Oswald
Sep 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Can't say enough positive things about this book. I'm nowhere near ready for half the content, but I read on to see what anecdote the author/instructor would use next to simplify an activity that is much more complicated than I ever imagined.
Cathleen Carstens
Aug 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
My riding has improved immeasurably since using the techniques discussed in "Centered Riding". As a result, I have developed a bond with my horse that goes beyond anything I ever imagined. If you're serious about riding well, you should study "Centered Riding".
Heather Pundt
Oct 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
A good book for any rider. I find that the exercises and visualizations are ones you can come back to for repeated review. This is one a rider can keep in their library as a reference.
Tanya Hill
Feb 12, 2008 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
A great read for anyone learning to ride or to use as a refresher for those more experienced.
Mar 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Excellent descriptions in every way! This book really helped me picture and then apply some very diverse concepts to my riding. I really enjoyed it. My transitions absolutely improved as a result!
May 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone taking riding lessons.
Recommended to Donnamarie by: my trainer!
Best book to read before, during and after riding lessons - especially for beginners.
Mary Paschall
a classic reminder of what we all need to do to ride better
Aug 09, 2008 marked it as to-read
Recommends it for: anyone who loves their sister and horses.
Recommended to Alleycatfan by: Someone not cute but sexy and sophisticated.
Shelves: own
My sister bought this for me years ago when I moved to Colorado to play with horses. So I agree it is one of the best equine books ever.
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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 ...more

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“Remember, the conversation between you and your horse must never be dull or inert. It should be, “Ask, receive, give. Ask, receive, give." Ask with your body and legs; receive through your body into your hands; give primarily with the hands, but also with your body and legs, so that you can ask all over again, receive again, and give again. The give is your thanks. If you don’t give, you must ask harder the next time, and even harder after that, until you end up with a dead or resistant horse. I have heard Major Hans Wikne, coach of the Swedish dressage team and head of the Swedish National School for Instructors, say so many times, “For everything you ask from your horse, your must give back a little more. The give is more important than the take." Riding is much more than a push-me-pull-you between leg and hand.” 1 likes
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