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 langua