Patty Swartz (formerly Wissel), was one of the founding members of our WPDA club.
In 1988 she discovered Tai Chi and since 1999 has been teaching this body awareness “exercise.” Patty’s
strong passion for horses with over 20 years riding and teaching has returned her to the barn with a combination of skills:
Tai Chi Ch’uan: “groundwork” for the Equestrian. Recently, she did a workshop at Coventry
Equestrian Center and below is a brief synopsis.
Tai Chi is very similar to the aspects taught in Centered Riding. Throughout
this workshop Patty related all of the movements our bodies did with the position requirements of riding. Like the training
scale in dressage, Tai Chi too has its foundation for learning. One begins with a stance, or basic position, to develop awareness
of where the feet, hips, shoulders and eyes are. She emphasized how much attention riders give to the proper care, health,
saddle fitting, and shoeing of their horses, but what do we do to prepare ourselves to be good riders?
All of the Tai Chi movements focused on total body awareness, balance of one’s
feet, how we bear weight, bend, and move from the joints... all the while we had to make sure our hips and shoulders were
level, our eyes level, head not down or up and, no matter what we did our bodies were to be balanced front and back and side
to side (laterally and longitudinally). Bringing awareness to these areas of our body we practiced “walking on ice”
to completely feel where we put our weight, and how we walked.
In order to walk on ice, one must feel three points on the sole of the foot:
the ball of the big toe, the ball of the little toe and the center of the heel. The eight adult women in this class learned
to walk, imagining that each new step was onto a lake of frozen ice totally aware of the weight being distributed into each
step. We were not allowed to go forward unless our balance and weight were evenly distributed on the sole of one foot. Patty
pointed out that the average person walking just sort of falls into the next step instead of moving with awareness and balance.