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Hey Bob,

...I am in southeast W.V. in a very small town that isn't on most maps. There was a post office here, but they have closed it now, so there really isn't anything but a few houses and a few farms. I often wish I had some other people to ride with and exchange ideas and stories....

I would like to ask you a favor. Could you please tell me a book I could get that would help me to become a better rider? I love my horses and they love me and we do well, but I need to learn to go with the flow better. I am going to follow some of your suggestions from your web page that I read, but I may need more help than that and a book might help me. Thanks and have a good day.

- G. T.


It's hard to self-evaluate your own riding, but it can be done. I was a self-taught rider up until a decade or so ago. At that time, I figured it wouldn't hurt me to fine-tune my riding skills by taking a few lessons from a professional instructor. At the conclusion of the first session, she confided to me that she had been concerned about the fact that I was self-taught. Her experience had been that it usually took several months to get enough of the bad habits un-learned so the student would be ready to learn the correct techniques. Somehow - I can only chalk it up to God's grace - I had the right instincts and none of the bad habits she dreaded.

I say this as both an encouragement and a warning. Yes, it is possible to be your own instructor. It's also very rare for someone to do it right.

I'd strongly recommend that you find someone - even a non-rider - to help you. By comparing your riding posture with illustrations in a book, he or she will detect flaws that you would miss. Also, you can have your friend work the longe line while you do various exercises. (An excellent one is riding with your eyes closed while you learn to feel which of the horse's feet is doing what at any given time.)

You may also want to have your friend videotape some of your sessions so you can see yourself through an instructor's eyes. On the other hand, if you've got more money than you know what to do with, you could do like the high-priced riding schools do - and line the walls of your arena with mirrors!

With that background, I'll say that probably the best book on the market for what you want to do is Sally Swift's Centered Riding. I don't agree with all of Sally's philosophies, and she favors English riding, but she has a gift for painting mental pictures that help the rider visualize the correct posture and movements for riding. I find myself frequently using her "hollow legs" and "chain to the breastbone" images.

For your convenience, here's a link to Barnes and Noble that will save you having to hunt for it - and get you a good price to boot.

Centered Riding ISBN:  0312127340
Title:  Centered Riding
Author:  Sally Swift, Jean McFarland (Illustrator), Mike Noble (Photographer) Foreword by Edward E. Emerson
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press, Inc.
Format:  Hardcover, 1st ed., 183pp.

If this doesn't do the job, there's a little Barnes and Noble search box at the bottom of my Trading Post page to help you find other horse-related books.

Happy Riding!

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