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Sally Swift

Sally Swift, founder of Centered Riding® Inc., was born in 1913 and grew up in Hingham, Massachusetts, just south of Boston. Sally died on April 2, 2009, less than three weeks away from her 96th birthday, due to complications of pneumonia.  She left behind two cousins who may be contacted for more information about the family history - Ann Gardiner and Elizabeth Haskell.

At seven years old, a scoliosis appeared which became part of her daily life and was later instrumental in her development of Centered Riding. After the diagnosis and well into her twenties, she worked with Mabel Ellsworth Todd, author of The Thinking Body. Mable Todd was Sally’s first teacher in "body awareness” and encouraged Sally to explore her new "awareness”. This early training was enhanced when Sally began, and continued, to study the Alexander Technique™ and applied it to riding. Sally’s work with the Alexander Technique™ enabled her to discard the back brace she had worn for many years. The Alexander Technique™ is a method of re-educating the mind and body towards greater balance and integration with special reference to posture and movement. The Technique did not change any of her basic principles but added significantly to the depth and subtlety of her teaching. Sally worked with areas of the body rather than with specific muscles and used a balanced approach, teaching to both sides of the brain.

Sally was home schooled until 7th grade by her loving mother and then attended Milton Academy in Milton Massachusetts for her 7th through 12th grade education.  After graduating high school, Sally studied with Phyllis Linnington in England and Colonel Guirey of the Boots and Saddle Riding School in New York City and also taught riding at various private schools. 

Although discouraged by Mabel Todd from going on to college, Sally was determined to change her career, since at that time riding was only taught by "hard-boiled spinsters" or grooms with no education.  Not wanting to be viewed as a "hard-boiled spinster" and having the benefit of a wonderful early education, Sally decided to attend the University of Massachusetts from 1943 to 1945 and then transferred to Cornell University.  She graduated from Cornell University in 1947 with a B.S. in agriculture.  She worked for 21 years at the Holstein Association of America located in Brattleboro, Vermont, retiring in 1975.  During those years, Sally was active in the Brattleboro Riding Club and the Brattleboro Dressage Show.  Under her leadership, the Brattleboro Riding Club Horse Show grew to be the largest single day horse show in the United States.

Upon her retirement from the American Holstein Association, Sally began teaching riding to a few friends and used concepts of her work with Mabel Todd to develop the Four Basics of Centered Riding.  Sally charged $10 per lesson or $50 per day. This was the beginning of Centered Riding®. Sally never advertised her work; her teaching reputation simply spread by word of mouth.  Before long, she was going up and down the East coast with her teachings.  In the early 1980’s, when Sally was in her early seventies, she began traveling to other locations in the U.S. and Canada, Australia and Europe.  As she developed her techniques and taught people about the Four Basics of Centered Riding, the demand for Centered Riding clinics and Instructor clinics blossomed and has since become a worldwide organization with members all across the United States, Canada, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, and Switzerland.  Clinics are now beginning to be held in France and Japan, and interest in Centered Riding has been expressed in Argentina, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Mexico, South Africa, among other places.

Sally Swift’s book Centered Riding, now a classic, was published in 1985 and celebrated its twentieth year in print in 2005. It's been translated into fifteen languages (in 2008, Korean became the fifteenth language) and has sold over 800,000 copies worldwide. In 1986, Sally produced two videos Centered Riding: Tape 1 and Centered Riding: Tape 2, which are readily available now in both VHS and DVD formats. A second book, Centered Riding 2: Further Exploration was published in 2002 and is following in its predecessor's footsteps with nine foreign language editions and 100,000 copies sold worldwide. The books and videos are available in many tack shops or can be ordered by contacting the Centered Riding Office.

Centered Riding, Inc.
One Regency Drive | Bloomfield, CT  06002            
860-243-9501 / Fax 860-286-0787

The Instructor Program which Sally developed is now taught by the Level IV Instructors who apprenticed directly with Sally (1986 - 1991) or with Level IV instructors who have apprenticed with those directly taught by Sally. See the Instructors' Page for more information about Centered Riding® Instructors and how to become one.

Recognized for her influence in riding, Sally Swift received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Riding Instructor Certification program in 1997 and in 2006, at the age of 93, Sally was inducted into the United States Dressage Foundation’s Hall of Fame, an honor reserved for those persons who have had a major impact on horseback riding.  In June of 2008, she was presented with the seventh annual Equine Industry Vision Award by Pfizer Animal Health and American Horse Publications, an award that recognizes innovation, ingenuity and service across the entire equine market.   In January of 2010, Sally Swift was posthumously awarded the United States Equestrian Federation Pegasus Award, a very prestigious award recognizing an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the equestrian sport.

Sally always had young people in her life and remained young in her thinking all her life.  Sally could relate to anyone, and despite her fame, breadth of knowledge and accomplishments, greeted all who journeyed down her path with warmth and humbleness.  She never elevated herself above others, but opened her heart with acceptance and friendship.  All who came to know Sally personally or came to "know her” through her work, felt as though they had lost a dear friend.  This is the enduring gift Sally Swift left for the many people who knew and loved her. 

Centered Riding is the enduring gift she left for the world.

Sally Swift - Personal Stories

Item Name Posted By Date Posted
About Sally Swift PDF (712.79 KB) Administration 9/27/2019
Sally Speaks - A History of my Family PDF (109.46 KB) Administration 5/1/2014
Sally Speaks - A Special Love PDF (120.11 KB) Administration 5/1/2014
Sally Speaks - Growing Up Sally Swift PDF (94.71 KB) Administration 5/1/2014
Sally Speaks - Holiday Wishes PDF (79.53 KB) Administration 5/1/2014
Sally Speaks - How CR Crossed the Atlantic Ocean PDF (116.97 KB) Administration 5/1/2014
Sally Speaks - How Scoliosis Lead to CR PDF (99.47 KB) Administration 5/1/2014
Sally Speaks - My Wishes for the New Year PDF (95.97 KB) Administration 5/1/2014
Sally Speaks - Taking on Apprentices PDF (97.14 KB) Administration 5/1/2014
Sally Speaks - The Very Early Years of CR PDF (85.56 KB) Administration 5/1/2014
Sally Speaks - What CR Means to Me PDF (75.61 KB) Administration 5/1/2014
Sally Speaks - Why I am Thankful PDF (74.81 KB) Administration 5/1/2014