What 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.