I know some of you are members of the Mountain Region Endurance Riders and receive the newsletter. But for those of you who aren’t I wrote this article which appeared in the MRER newsletter about the Becky Hart Centered Riding Clinic that MRER sponsored and I participated in. Centered riding is like being coached in any sport to be more coordinated and efficient in your movement. Only in riding, we have to coordinate with something else, our horse. For me the aha moment was when I realized the “half halt” was a movement to set up the horse to be in an athletic position to make the next movement that you are asking of it. I would recommend for everyone the experience of a centered riding clinic no matter what your discipline. There are many good books to start with if you are interested. Centered riding books.
The MRER Becky Hart Centered Riding Clinic
What was it all about?
By Randy Winter
For three days a hardy group of almost twenty endurance riders rode not an endurance ride but a clinic given by Becky Hart, three time World Endurance Champion and level three Centered Riding instructor. So what is that all about? Why would endurance riders who love moving swiftly in the open spaces spend three days in a covered arena mostly walking? And why would I call these riders “hardy?”
Yes, we love to ride. Moving down a trail in concert with our horses is what puts a smile on our faces. Three days of learning to be more “centered” with my horse has increased the number of smiles per mile I get riding out on trail. Three days of intense concentration on our bodies affect on our horses, is why I used the word hardy to describe the participants.
Centered Riding has 4+ basic concepts:
We learned to key our bodies into those basics. Each day started with breakfast (all meals were provided) and an off the horse ground school lesson. Then riding one hour in the morning with half the group and auditing the other half as they rode. After lunch we broke into smaller, four horse groups, for another hour of riding. Again auditing others as they rode. Becky reminded us in these sessions to use one or more of these basics and feel the difference in our horses. Sometimes it was like rubbing your head and patting your stomach at the same time. But when your horse felt you do something to its benefit it responded with bigger strides, relaxation and happiness. At dinner it was nice to sit around and discuss not only the day’s sessions but reminisce about all our endurance adventures.
For me, personally, learning to ride the flat of my seat bones (building blocks) and using soft eyes put me more in the center of my horse that allowed communication to flow much more easily through my body. Becky has the ability to be specific with each rider as to their needs. Imperceptible weight shifts now became meaningful to my horse. As I prepared my body to ask for a change in his body it was more easily recognized.
We consider our horses to be athletes. In any sport the athlete puts its body in the best possible position to get the best results. A sprinter crouches before the start of a race. Think about the advantage the crouched sprinter has on one who would stand straight up at the starting line to get ready to sprint.
What about Tim Tebow the next SuperBowl Champion quarterback for the Denver Broncos? (Sorry about that shameless partisanship) His throwing motion has been criticized as too slow. He has worked on his mechanics to fix that.
Have you ever tried throwing a ball with the wrong foot going forward? It doesn’t work as well as when you stride correctly with the opposite foot from the hand you are throwing with.
Well, that’s what the Centered Riding clinic was about. Our horses act like they are throwing off the wrong foot when we are the foot that is out of place. Our horses are awkward in their motion when we are the mechanics that are out of whack. Our horses can’t efficiently move forward when we are not in a correct athletic position to allow them to move athletically.
Now both my horse and I smile when we flow into a trot. We smile when we are set up correctly to float left or right. We smile when a quick shy is a dance move by both of us.
Thank you Sally Swift for having these ideas and applying them to the horse. Thank you Becky Hart for your assertive, gentle and effective teaching. Thank you to Holly et al. for your work putting the clinic together. And finally thank you to all of our horses who really are athletes and really do want to move efficiently with us on their backs.