What is “Centered Riding” & how do you get and stay in harmony with your horse?
Being in balance and centered over your horse is one of the major ways to be in harmony with your horse. Sally Swift, the founder of “Centered Riding” has a following of everyday horse people and accomplished equestrians. I’ve been doing “Centered Riding” for the last 20 years and learned what I could from Sally’s books. I’ve never had the opportunity to take instruction and have someone knowledgeable spot me, so I’m only assuming I’m doing it correctly!
If you’re not versed in “Centered Riding” this is a great excerpt from Wendy Murdock’s site (murdockmethod.com) about the subject:
When the pelvis is tipped forward and down (hollow back position) the sacrum points out behind like a duck’s tail. If you are sitting deep on your pockets your sacrum is curled way underneath you. When the pelvis is in a neutral position the sacrum hangs down curving slightly under you and your seat bones point downward.
In order to find your center start with your pelvis in a neutral position. Place the palm of one hand on your abdomen with your thumb on your navel. Place the other hand directly across at about the level of your waistline. Think of your center between your two hands. If you are standing while doing this, notice what happens if you think of your center being closer to your front hand than your back hand. Did you tip forward? Then think of your center lying closer to your back hand. Did you rock back on your heels? Find the place where your Center is between your two hands and you feel your weight evenly distributed over both your feet.
Now begin to walk around the room. Again think of your Center shifting forward and back. What happens to your walk? Then hold your breath or tighten your shoulders. Notice how your Center moves up and the quality of your walk changes. Then allow your Center to drop down into your pelvis and feel the difference. In this exercise you will notice that as you change your balance shifts and the quality of movement changes. Tension in the upper body causes the Center to shift upward. In order to remain deep in the saddle you want to let your Center stay down in your pelvis.
Once your Center is settled down in your pelvis think of it as the place where movement begins. In other words, before you ever move there needs to be a place where the movement initiates. If you start to move by tipping your head forward, you are already falling forward instead of stepping. If you start your movement from your feet then you will have a tendency to fall back with the upper body. If you start your movement from your Center then you will move as a whole, neither falling forward or back as you walk.
When you begin the movement from your Center you will be using more of your seat aids rather than tipping out of balance to cause the horse to move forward. Therefore, the horse will be in a better balance from the very first step. Once your Center remains deep in your pelvis you can begin to bring up the chi force or amount of energy and power. If your Center shifts out of your pelvis you cannot access the power that resides there. However when you can maintain your Center in your pelvis you can increase the amount of energy or chi, rather than relying on your physical strength. You might even say that increasing your life is increasing the flow of energy from your Center upward and forward while decreasing your life can occur by flowing your energy downward into the ground.
How does one begin to get the feeling of power emanating from their Center? Practicing any form of Martial Arts is a big help. All of the Martial Arts base their strength on the concept of the chi force coming from your Center. However, if you aren’t quite up to that, begin by first becoming aware of your Center. Then when you are going to ride a transition, think of the movement starting from Center rather than from your arms or legs. Let your entire body become part of the movement starting from your Center and expanding outward. Notice that the breathing really helps to keep your Center low and properly aligning your body will make it easier to keep your Center down in your pelvis. Observe how much softer your contact is when you come from your Center rather than your arms.