I wanted to make a blog post for my friends and clients to really explain the concepts of Centered Riding. Centered Riding is the basis of everything I do because it incorporates work both on and off the horse. Centered Riding takes principles from disciplines and body modalities outside of riding and applies it to riding. In other words, it’s a very holistic approach to bettering riding skills, which is what I focus on with my business.
For many years, I took lessons with riding instructors who were very good about telling me what to do, but not necessarily how or why to do it. ‘Use your leg’ or ‘more rein here’ were helpful tips for sure, but it wasn’t until I started my own self study that I realized there were many different interpretations of ‘use your leg.’ Some students thought it meant to use the ankle, some the calf, some squeezed the whole leg, and others pinched at the knee. And how to add leg was another thing that could be interpreted many ways. I have seen students press and hold their leg on while others kick repeatedly. Simply telling a student to ‘add leg’ is a very complicated direction. Not that these people have bad intentions or a lack of knowledge (I have been blessed with excellent teachers throughout my life), but if you cannot explain how to do something, the student will be left to experiment with your cues on their own until they find something they think might work. This can lead to the development of tensions and/or bad habits. Of course, this example of a leg aid is only one of many.
Centered Riding is “a new way of expressing the classical principles of riding, using body awareness, centering, and imagery. Centered Riding answers the question of how when your instructor tells you what to do to communicate with your horse.” In my experience of learning and teaching Centered Riding, many exercises taught on and off the horse use imagery to get your body to cooperate the way it needs to to ride effectively. Imagery is fascinating because it gives the rider a new sense of how their body and aids should feel, giving them a deeper understanding and positive muscle memory, increasing the chances that the student can duplicate the same feel on their own. So instead of telling a student to just add more leg, you will come up with an image and an exercise where they learn to feel what it means to use the leg correctly, and then how to increase the leg aid.
Centered Riding is great for all disciplines, although my primary focus is to use it along with classical dressage. It is a fantastic way to start a young or inexperienced rider, but will also retrain seasoned riders with ‘bad habits.’
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