For every move a horse makes, there is a perfect position of balance for the rider. The position is one in which the rider takes no energy away from the horse. This “position of balance” offers two other extremely important benefits. The first is security (rider safety). The second is the ability to help the horse do its job more efficiently and effectively using the “language of the aids,” to direct, teach and help.
In over forty-five years of experience and exploration in both Europe and America, I have never found a better system for the instruction of adults in the skills required to enjoy mounted time with horses, than Sally Swift’s Centered Riding. This system is second only to a well educated instructor.
Humans have interacted with horses for thousands of years. The horse’s role has been and still is, extremely diverse. The horse has served as slave (“beasts of burden”), tool (transportation, farming, ranching, war, physical rehabilitation and education), entertainment (sporting events, racing, polo, circus, etc.), competitive partner (showing) companion animal (pleasure riding) and sacred guide (interspecies communication and interaction).
No matter where you begin your journey of the horse, you are very likely to find yourself exploring this one-of-a-kind creature in more than one of its roles. The number and quality of the tools you’ll need to make yourself and the horse comfortable and/or successful vary greatly between these roles. A beast of burden needs only to be subdued and that can be done in multiple ways depending on your needs and your circumstances; some approaches are cruel, some kind. If the only goal is the job, the cruel and the kind have similar levels of short term productivity, especially if the horse is thought of as a “disposable” commodity.
A good “tool” generally takes some knowledge and expense to construct or acquire. A quality tool requires care and thoughtful maintenance. Master craftsman prize their tools.
For the serious competitor, finding the right partner requires deliberation and thought. It also often requires experimentation and personal growth. Once these investments of time and money are made, the wise competitor insures long term success by making sure they see to all of the “details,” no matter how small. To do that, our knowledge of the horse must grow and expand.
Even in the companion animal role where the goal is mutual enjoyment in each other’s company, there is still a subtle hierarchy; a prioritizing of needs; mine over yours.
To enter upon an apprenticeship with the horse as our sacred guide, we must release all vestiges of ego; only then can the most elevated journey of discovery begin; one living being to another without rank. In this journey you find a human guide both unnecessary and intrusive; the horse will become your only teacher. But to come to this final place of apprenticeship with the horse, you must be humble and you must prepare yourself. To present yourself to a master before earning the right to learn insures your lessons will be painful and difficult at best and at worst you will fail in your lessons.
I wish all of you who venture upon this road a happy journey. You will not find the end but some of you may find the various destinations through which you pass enjoyable enough to stop and stay awhile before proceeding. If you do no harm, there is no harm in that decision. You are on or about to begin an adventure like no other, with a creature like no other.