Memories of Sally Swift
EQUUS Dec 2015 cover
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Sally on Douchka - 1930s
A Horse's Tribute to Sally Swift
The horses of the world would like to come forth to honor our dear departed friend Sally Swift. A strong New England horsewoman, Sally lived a good life and ran a long, strong race. Her Centered Riding teaching technique has been a breakthrough worldwide, improving the lives of horses and their humans. Sally showed riders and trainers how to put their attention on themselves, before they put all of their attention on riding and training their horses.
We horses have worked for centuries for mankind. Some of us run fast, jump high, pull heavy loads, thrill the show ring crowds, herd cattle, follow the hounds, cover miles of trails, softly carry special riders, bravely patrol busy streets, and quietly listen to our humans' hearts and dreams. Sometimes however, our riders and trainers fail to understand our cautious and alert nature, our extreme sensitivity, our strength and speed, and our great primeval concern over maintaining our balance. There are some humans who have only seen us as beasts of burden, or as pieces of sports equipment, and think only of taming us, using us, or training us to do their bidding.
Sally Swift, through Centered Riding, understood us and helped people learn to "speak horse" to us through the balanced use of their bodies, their breathing and their centers. Sally showed riders how their minds affected their bodies and how their minds and their bodies affected the horse's body. What had so often been unclear to us horses, and sometimes even frightened us, became easy to understand as our riders began to realize that often their bodies would actually tell us the exact opposite of what their brains, their spurs and their hands expected us to do. We horses clearly understand Centered Riders.
Sally was a gifted and generous teacher who skillfully guided riders and trainers around the world in an approach to teaching and working with horses in a humane, compassionate way, while at the same time incorporating the age old classical techniques that made the lives and training of horses better. Sally's hands, voice and her clear intent calmed, balanced and empowered horses and humans alike.
Sally Swift leaves this world a better place with the legacy of her books, teaching and exercises, and with a network of over 700 teachers of Centered Riding worldwide who offer the riders of the world techniques for working to balance and educate themselves in order to communicate and work with their horses. Thank you, Sally, from the horses of the world for making our riders and our lives better. You are a treasure and you ran an incredible race for us.
By Peggy Brown
Level IV Clinician, © 2009
Sally Swift's Lasting Legacy
hat I will always remember most about Sally Swift is her kindness, clarity and positive approach to teaching and to life. When she came into a room, everyone lighted up and wanted to sit next to her. When I first rode with her in a clinic, Sally created such an atmosphere of encouragement and learning that the clinic audience broke into spontaneous applause whenever a rider would do something right. At a time when riding instruction too often involved severe criticism, shouting and pressure, Sally used to ask everyone to "send their critics away" for the duration of the clinic. She taught riders—and teachers—to be aware of themselves, their horses and their students, to stop and wait for the process, and to allow positive changes to happen in their body, mind and horse. She brought grace and harmony to the relationship between horses and riders, teachers and students.
The horses knew it, too. When Sally taught, part of her apprentices’ job was to keep horses from coming too close and perhaps knocking her down. During the course of a lesson, horses would inch closer and closer to Sally, and eventually they would be standing around her with their muzzles near her face. I feel privileged to have known Sally when she was still riding, and I’ll always carry the memory of her riding Black Velvet at a smooth, energetic trot, with both of them practically floating over the ground.
Sally had gifted hands. She could bring a person’s balance, centering and awareness to a new level through her clarity, patience, and touch. She has helped so many people find the road to personal growth, help with body issues, and a way of being that goes far beyond riding. She would plant a seed of change and step back and allow the person to grow and develop in their own way, and often the results were life-changing.
Most of all, Sally Swift taught teachers. She would teach anybody, young or old, beginner or Olympian, but she particularly liked to teach teachers because they passed what they learned from her on to their students. Sally was extremely generous in sharing her work and acting as a mentor and master teacher, not only to her apprentices, but to anyone who wanted to learn what she had to teach. Through sharing her work and helping so many instructors learn and grow, Sally’s work has brought about profound changes in the teaching of horsemanship, and has touched the minds, hearts and horses of thousands of riders who may never have met her, but who continue to benefit from her ideas. Sally created a ripple that has become a wave, and that wave will continue on to reach many other shores for long after her lifetime.
It is said, “A person lives on while their name is still spoken.” Sally Swift’s memory will continue through those she touched personally, her unique work, and all who continue to benefit from her gifts to us now and in the future.
Level IV (Advanced ) Centered Riding Instructor
Sally Swift’s Apprentice in l989