I was one of those kids who started on trails at the local
western stable where you learned to ride by watching cowboys on television.
Staying on the horse while he galloped for the barn was both a thrill and a
sign that meant “yes you could really ride a horse”.
In my twenties I went back to riding, but this time it was
hunter jumper. This time it was all heels down, counting strides, poles, fences
water jumps, different bridles etc. On a good day you didn’t have to do that
boring flat work. Staying on that high strung Thoroughbred while he galloped,
bucked and occasionally dumped you in a corner was both a thrill and a sign that
said “yes now you really can ride a horse” One day there was a
mishap. The stirrup leather came loose and the horse went over the fence and I
went under it. This one really hurt but I got back on, galloped around and
This injury put me out of commission, but I was
determined to get back on a horse. Some one gave me a book called Centered
Riding to read while I was grounded. Another friend told me about The Alexander
Technique a Nobel Prize winning physical therapy that was a significant part in
the development of Centered Riding. Hmmm . . . physical therapy and horses!
That sounded pretty good! I found the phone number of Cindi Leisure, She asked
me about my riding skills, what I had been doing in lessons, what my goals were
and later suggested I come and experience something very different!
What I soon discovered was that I had been riding all those
years based upon my own athleticism-not based upon how to really engage with
the horse, somewhat like surviving on the horse verses riding. Well I never had
a lesson where I wasn’t galloping around Wow…sounds like I really didn’t know
how to correctly ride after all. We spent a lot of time working on the lunge
line, developing an independent seat, balance, security, body mechanics,
getting rid of my hollow back and stiffened arms.
And guess what… I was more secure, more confident, had a
good seat and balance, I very rarely fell off when I continued jumping. Unlike
my jumper friends I could jump without stirrups and canter without them. And on
that boring flat work I was the one who able to get her horse into a soft
working frame, puffed up and stepping out. Cindi gave me the gift of
appreciating when horse and rider when they can work together as a team. She
gave me the balance to be a better and safer rider. I fell in love with the
beauty and sense of accomplishment when things began clicking. Yes, now I
really can ride a horse!
Cindi patiently teaches every detail of Centered Riding and Connected Riding. She is encouraging
and understands well the cycles of learning.
Lessons with her have helped me to become more aware of the importance of detail and that small imperceptible changes
in my position can make a world of difference in the learning of classical riding.
Her knowledge of the Alexander Technique has helped me ride more comfortably and softly, through correct alignment,
tension releasing and balance.
Cindi is very perceptive to any tension in my body and can suggest innumerable ways of releasing it.
She answers my every question thoughtfully and fully and does not mind repeating information until a concept is fully clear.
She understands that each student has different learning styles and always finds a way to explain or demonstrate
techniques in a way that are comprehensible.
Thank-you Cindi, for the through sharing of your knowledge and your sense of humor!
When Cindi initially asked me why I wanted to take
horsemanship and riding lessons, I told her that my goals centered around
learning how to handle and ride a horse correctly and that I wanted to be able
to control and communicate with the horse using my body with the correct aids
so that the horse and I would both be safe, comfortable and enjoy our time
Cindi continues to excel in helping me accomplish all of my
goals and to develop even skills within myself that I never knew existed!
Cindi is truly a dedicated professional. Her background and training are of the
highest caliber. Cindi emphasis the importance of safety and she personally trains and oversees her school horses
which is an added benefit.
Cindi is an excellent instructor who gives clear verbal
instructions, as well as creative visual images and hands on demonstrations.
Some of the important principles to which she has introduced
me to are Ground, Center and Grow. This is the way to bring about a real and very dynamic balance to the rider which
influences the horse to reciprocate.
Cindi has always been very patient, kind, exacting and eager
to share and give me answers to my questions.
Finding and working with her has been a true blessing in my
Although I had ridden and taken lessons with different
instructors for several years, once I began lessons with Cindi, I quickly
realized how little I had previously learned about riding!
Her teaching method corresponds to my philosophy as an educator – if a student is not
understanding and able to apply the teacher’s instructions, then the teacher
needs to find another way to explain it. Cindi is a master at this.
In her infinite patience, she has helped me become a balanced rider who can now generally feel
how the horse is moving so I am able to ride in a way that is in tune with the
Now, I truly understand what ‘Ground, Center, Grow’ means, and its importance to both the
horse and rider. I knew that I needed to use my body to signal what I wanted to
the horse, but had never learned how to do it.
Cindi uses clear visual images to help me understand what I need to do; this is useful to me
because I am a visual learner. She finds ways to explain what works best with
the student’s method of learning. If I do not ‘connect’ with an image, she
continues until she finds one that works for me. Throughout my lessons Cindi
strives to help me understand how the particular exercise we are working on
affects the horse, what the horse’s body is doing, or should be doing, and why
it is relevant. Her questions help me consolidate my knowledge which allows me
to think about and figure out why my actions as a rider help or hinder the
horse to stay balanced and moving freely.
Cindi has both the knowledge and the instructional skills to help me learn what others could
What Riding Lessons Mean To Me
By Kim McCourt, Marriage & Family Therapist
Dressage is teaching me who and what I really am; not what I
think I am. In my lessons, I often think “I can’t do that”. But with the patient and practiced eye of Cindi, I am
guided in gentle steps towards success at something I had no idea that I could
accomplish. I have had many teachers in my lifetime, and Cindi is on the short list. She is kind, clear, visioned, patient, precise, talented, consistent and
strong. She is interested in making riding a healthy event for my body, which she does with her Alexander skills as
well as her many horsemanship skills. Her soft voice asking me to try an
exercise and giving me beautiful metaphors for my mind to hold for that
exercise are precious and invite me to think that I can maybe do that.
I have had an oppositional relationship with impeccability,
thinking that I was incapable of doing anything with impeccability. I have learned that aiming towards high skill
is different than expecting perfection without the preliminary steps. Cindi takes me on a riding journey towards
high skill step by step. Then, sort of magically to me, I am able to do
something that weeks prior, I had said to her “You want me to do that!? You must be kidding!” And she would kindly, softly and firmly say.
“No, I’m not kidding.” In this way she has entrusted in me great respect for what she is asking me to do. If she says that I am capable, I believe her
because she has shown me over and over that I am much more capable than I think
I am. I see in her eyes that she sees something in me that I cannot yet see. So I try and practice with desire to improve and aim towards perhaps
Fear of horses combined with a deep love and desire to be near horses is why I began riding. I wanted to face my fear of these amazing creatures. Every lesson I face my fears. There is always something to surprise me and
some “problem” to solve, as it is all so new. Practicing being calm while not knowing is challenging and also deeply
rewarding. My curiosity and accurate assessment that Cindi is trustworthy are two of the inner tools that help me
face my fears at every lesson. She is consistently kind in her repetition of the instruction or the naming of the
item, that she just told me for the last three months at every lesson. Wow.
Gratitude is deep for the attitudes that Cindi brings to her
skills as an Instructor.