All this month, almost two years since we lost our beloved first author Sally Swift, we are remembering her contribution to the world of riding horses, and teaching people to ride. In celebration of her life and work, Sally’s best-selling books–CENTERED RIDING and CENTERED RIDING 2–and DVDs CENTERED RIDING PART ONE and PART TWO are on sale at the TSB bookstore through the end of March.
We’ve shared stories from TSB staff members of their experiences with Sally and her books–now it is time to hear from a few of our other authors who had the opportunity to know Sally and work with her through the years. This week Wendy Murdoch–author of the best-selling 50 5-MINUTE FIXES TO IMPROVE YOUR RIDING and the RIDE LIKE A NATURAL DVDs–looks back on meeting Sally Swift and discovering how Sally’s unique way of teaching riding could help improve her own position in the saddle, as well as how she taught others.
“I grew up in New England but had not heard of Sally Swift until I left. In 1984, while attending graduate school in Lexington, Kentucky, a horse flipped over backward and rolled over me, breaking my left hip socket and pelvis. A friend gave me a copy of the TTEAM newsletter (from the offices of Linda Tellington-Jones) while I was in the hospital. I was immediately interested in learning the TTEAM method. I attended my first TTEAM clinic in 1985 at Ellie Jensen’s in Wisconsin, and all the people there were talking about Centered Riding.
“I met Sally in 1986 at another TTEAM clinic held by Kim Walnes on a cold, snowy February day. I was doing tail slides on a horse. A little, gray-haired older woman was watching. She commented on how the movement was going through the entire horse. That little, gray-haired woman was Sally Swift. Sally spent some time at the clinic, and I was fascinated by her teaching. Again I wanted to learn more.
“In August of that year I attended a Centered Riding Instructor’s course in Fort Collins, Colorado. This was the first time I rode for Sally. I was still struggling with my riding since the accident in 1984. During a mounted lesson Sally came over to me and put her hand on my injured leg. I can’t describe the feeling. Suddenly someone understood what I had been through and my struggle to ride again. Her touch was overwhelming. After another lesson (“Comparable Parts”), I had to go sit in the bleachers for the rest of the day. The feelings and changes were so powerful that I was completely washed out…and I was totally hooked on Sally.
“No journey is linear and neither was mine. Over the next six years our paths crossed at Sally’s clinics, through other people she had trained, and when I traveled to teach TTEAM at Lucile Bump’s in Brattleboro, Vermont. Sally would come and watch me teach. I knew Sally took apprentices with her when she traveled, but I was struggling to make a living and wasn’t sure how I could apprentice for three months and pay my bills. Sally had back surgery and did not travel for about a year. During that time I expressed the desire to apprentice with her.
“As luck would have it Sally had an opening for the spring of 1992, and she accepted my application for apprenticeship. I jumped at the chance and then had to figure out the logistics. I did some creative financing and found clients that would pre-purchase lessons following the completion of my apprenticeship. In addition a few clients gave me outright donations. In March 1992 I drove up to Sally’s in Brattleboro and began working with her for what was to be her last full-time apprenticeship.
“My apprenticeship took me from Vermont to Massachusetts, Michigan, California, and Oregon. We spent a lot of time in Chicago O’Hare Airport. It was clear to me that this was Sally’s last big tour. Her brain was sharp but her body struggled with the rigors of traveling. Everywhere we went there was an outpouring of love for Sally. Many of her students realized this was her last trip and were anxious to be around her one last time to express that love and admiration. She had touched so many people’s lives, just as she had mine.
“Sally’s influence on riding cannot be measured. How many lives has she changed by her touch, her images, and her words? There is no way to know. I do know that she had a profound influence on my life. I thought I would ‘never teach riding’ and only wanted to work with the horses. But Sally’s way of teaching through joy, laughter, and an understanding of the basics changed that. I have added my own interests and education to my teaching, particularly anatomy and the Feldenkrais® Method, which incorporates and expands on Sally’s ideas. However, the kernels of universal truth that she put down so simply in her first book, Centered Riding, are ever-present.
“Sally has profoundly changed the way riding is taught around the world and for this I am truly grateful. Thank you Sally.”