Riding with Chi

DVD: Riding with Chi: Your Pathway to Energy Mastery

Mark Russell, author of Lessons in Lightness: The Art of Educating the Horse (foreword by Bettina Drummond), which received critical acclaim when published in 2004, teams up with dressage instructor Patricia Norcia and tai chi master David Ritchie to release a unique DVD called Riding with Chi: Your Pathway to Energy Mastery.
Russell has always advocated tai chi to his students: “Both horse and rider benefit from the rider’s practice of tai chi; the mind/body connection fostered by tai chi not only improves the rider’s position in the saddle, but it also enhances the communication between horse and rider through the controlled exchange of energy—or chi.” Norcia was introduced to tai chi as a student at the Yale School for Drama and went on to teach breathing techniques to singers and dancers at major universities. She says, “The benefits can be felt the very next time you get in the saddle…it’s very powerful.”
The trio discusses and demonstrates how to lower breathing, increase relaxation, improve spinal alignment, and enhance one’s powers of visualization and balance…all elements of efficient energy flow or what many equestrians refer to as “awareness of self.” Norcia notes that the horse’s natural rhythm is slower than ours and credits tai chi’s focus on balanced slow movement as the link that connects the energies of the horse and rider, ultimately uniting them to move as one.
Riders learn several easy-to-follow tai chi and qi gong (chee kung) routines that really develop a posture that stays with you 24/7 and becomes part of who you are. This program will appeal to riders at all levels and all disciplines, because energy mastery has no static bar for achievement; it is a path to follow.

From the DVD cover:

The Chinese character chi represents the life-process or energy flow that sustains all living things. In Chinese culture, the practice of Tai Chi and Qi Gong (chee kung) evolved, in part, as a way of enhancing the flow of chi within the human body. In Riding with Chi, the elements of efficient energy flow—low breathing, relaxation, spinal alignment, and balance—are discussed and demonstrated in terms of these exercises and their application to the rider’s position (Disc 1). Disc 2 teaches several short, easy-to-follow Tai Chi–style and Qi Gong routines. You will learn to relieve facial tension, lower and increase your breath, relax and supple your body, and achieve a stable and balanced position while in motion, as on a horse. Once you learn to feel energy flow within your own body, you will feel it within your horse as well, opening a pathway for extraordinary communication between horse and rider.

Over time, energy mastery will bring grace and sophistication to your riding position as it becomes apparent how a fusion between relaxation and energy flow forms the foundation for balance in motion—for both horse and rider.

Three experts have come together to bring you this unique program: Mark Russell, Patricia Norcia; dressage trainer and instructor of breathing techniques, and David Ritchie. David has operated his own school, Central Connecticut Tai Chi Ch’uan, since 1989.

To order Riding with Chi visit: http://www.advancedequinestudies.com/riding-with-chi



 “A Perfect Pairing: Tai-Chi and Horseback Riding”

Efficient energy flow, low breathing, relaxation, spinal alignment, and balance; broken down in the simplest form, these are the basics behind the concept of “Riding with Chi: Your Pathway to Energy Mastery,” a two hour long, two-disc DVD set produced by Andrea Steele, owner of the award winning Mouse Hole Farm Productions in Durham. Steele, a long time dressage rider, joined renowned horse trainer Mark Russell, Tai-Chi expert and teacher Dave Ritchie and dressage instructor and breathing coach Patricia Norcia to create the DVD set that combines the mind and body awareness essential for horseback riding with Tai- Chi“I truly wish that I had done this years ago,” says Steele who also co-authored, along with Russell, the book “Lessons in Lightness: The Art of Educating the Horse.”

“After the first Tai- Chi class I took I felt my riding improve and I wanted to create these DVDs to share that with others. There were other things on the market that touched on Tai-Chi and riding, but none of them went into the depth I wanted to provide,” explains Steele, who is delighted with the outcome of the  project and encouraged by the outpouring of local talent that came together to help her complete it.

“Riding with Chi” teaches several short, easy-to-follow Tai- Chi style and Qi Gong routines that aim to enhance a riders awareness of being in the moment as well as slowing down, relaxing and breathing to connect and create oneness with their horse. It’s known by riders, psychologists and physical therapists alike that riding, like no other sport or physical activity, has the ability to create a sense of complete well being. It is rhythmic, peaceful (in most cases) and soothing.

Mixing the 4,000 year old healing and martial arts principals of Tai- Chi into the equation teaches riders how to be more subtle, flowing, free, relaxed, connected and effective.By definition Tai-Chi is a Chinese system of physical exercises designed especially for self-defense and meditation. It focuses on being content and in balance, achieving yin and yang. This is accomplished through proper, deep belly or diaphragmatic breathing, which centers the body’s gravity into the pelvic core, releasing tension and aligning the skeleton.

“When an instructor tells a student to breathe while riding, without telling them how to breathe it is not helpful,” Steele explains. “High shallow breathing won’t help, but low breathing like that taught in Tai-Chi, will. Paying attention to your breathing is arguably the most important thing you can do to improve your riding, so it is puzzling why the topic is not more frequently discussed.”

She adds, “The slow deliberative motion of Tai-Chi fosters a meditative oneness between thought and energy flow … not unlike the horse’s mental process. The slowness further serves to align our movement to the natural rhythm of the horse. This builds a communicative bond between horse and rider as the horse perceives the rider as ‘speaking his language.’ Once you learn to feel energy flow within your own body, you will feel it within your horse as well, opening a pathway for extraordinary communication between horse and rider.”

Horses are intuitive animals, “The Art of Riding with Chi,” teaches riders, even before they get into the saddle, to relax and free themselves from all other stresses in life through Tai-Chi. In opening themselves to this concept they are opening themselves to becoming the best riders and partners they can be.

“I hope riders will listen to the discussion on disc one with an open and inquisitive mind and try all the exercises on disc two. Together they form a powerful tool for improving riding. That is why all of us involved with “Riding with Chi,” decided to bring it to the marketplace … to openly discuss energy in terms of Tai-Chi principals and promote all elements necessary to put more riders on a pathway to energy mastery.”

By Karena Garrity, Killingworth-durham-Middlefield Patch June 14th, 2011