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Endurance and Trail Riders Get Centered


Endurance and Trail Riders Get Centered
By Nancy Brannon
Trail riding enthusiast Terry Silver is a fan of Centered Riding, especially the way Jane Crowley teaches. Terry arranged for another visit from Crowley to the Moscow, TN area Memorial Day weekend for a two-day clinic, with thanks to the generosity of Bob Martin for the use of his indoor arena at Split Tree Farm. This weekend Crowley worked mainly with trail riders and endurance riders, helping them reform their posture and position to ease the load on their horses’ backs. Sunday May 27 was spent watching riders on their horses and then re-positioning them in a balanced, centered frame. Monday’s sessions were spent on ground work, with riders practicing exercises off horseback to get them in better posture, balance, and centered. Then when they remount, they will be in better position in the saddle.
The first thing you see on Jane Crowley’s website is a quote from Xenophon: “Anything forced and misunderstood can never be beautiful.”  The quote captures the essence of her teaching and training philosophy. “Do less (as a rider) and get more (from the horse). I get riders to focus on their body – getting it in balance, centered – and let the horse do what he does best. People come to me with complaints: ‘my horse won’t do such and such (fill in the blank); or my horse runs away.’ Fix the rider and the horse fixes himself. It’s such fun to see the transformation! Then the riders say they have the best horse in the world! It’s all about being balanced over your horse and riding with your horse,” she emphasized.

 “It’s about releasing your muscles. You don’t ride with your muscles,” Crowley explained. “You ride with balance. And when you ride with balance, horses have a new expression in their ride! You take responsibility for how your ride the horse, and the horse says ‘thank you.’ The horse wants the rider to go with him in balance, not to have to drag him along. So think less, do more. Remember – you’re not a human doing; you’re a human being. It’s all about balance over your feet.”

There are five basics with which she helps all riders: breathing, soft eyes, centering, then building blocks and grounding. Her approach with riders starts with breathing and teaching them how to breathe deeply. “Breathe from the lower abdomen; let it fill out.” This helps riders initially become more attuned to their horses, and riders are often surprised to see how horses mimic the rider. When the rider’s breathing becomes deeper and more relaxed, so does the horse’s breathing. They become lighter and carry the rider with more ease.

Then she shows riders how to balance their legs under their body. One rider she told to “loosen the knee, lighten in your stirrup. Loosen your hip joint, your knee and ankle joints.” This rider had a lot of weight in the stirrup, shoving the heel down, which was resulting in pushing his weight backwards in the saddle and his feet forward. She showed the rider how to find his center of balance, and how the find the horse’s center of balance. When the rider’s joints are nimble and the rider is centered, the rider can then flow with the horse and allow the horse freedom of movement. “Focus on breathing, use soft eyes. As you walk, your hips go forward and back,” she told the rider. “Feel your knees drop.” The horses really appreciate the new way of riding and show it immediately.  So even if the rider is not totally convinced of this new feeling, the horse will show them that it is indeed working!

On collection: “Collection comes from the back not the front. The horse has to use his whole body, round up his back, then reach down toward the bit. Just taking the reins to create flexion can make the horse hollow his back and shorten his stride,” she explained.

For over 30 years Crowley has been helping horses and riders become partners on the ground as well as in the saddle.  She is passionate about seeing the positive change in the horse. In her long experience, she has had the opportunity to learn from the world’s top trainers: Sally Swift (since 1983), Susan Harris, Lendon Grey, Tad Coffin, Denny Emerson, George Morris, Buck Brannaman, Clinton Anderson, Sam Powell, to name only a few. Crowley believes that you never stop learning; that the more tools you have in your “tool bag,” the more successful you become. From her years of classical dressage training and natural horsemanship studies, Crowley shares various teaching techniques to achieve respect, freedom of movement, and self-carriage for both horse and rider. Her goal is safe, happy horses and riders.

Jane Crowley Training is located on 110 beautiful, rolling acres in Middle Tennessee, south of Nashville in Spring Hill, TN.  For more information, visit

On her website you’ll find more profound quotes to train by:

"Brutality begins where knowledge ends. Ignorance and compulsion appear simultaneously."
~ Charles de Kunffy

“If you are going to teach a horse something and have a good relationship, you don't make him learn it - you let him learn it.”
~ Ray Hunt

“A horse will never tire of a rider who possesses both tact and sensitivity, because he will never be pushed beyond his possibilities.”
~ Nuno Oliveira

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