Some things survive centuries for a reason … they remain useful and relevant through the times. They become classics that inspire generation after generation and even though they get modified here and there to fit the times, the ancient form remains in the spirit of the art. T’ai Chi Ch’uan is a martial art, a physical practice, and meditation from ancient China that has flourished there to this day and has been shared from Asian masters to the west. It popularity has taken root in American culture in the last century. In ancient times the T’ai Chi players were warriors, on horses, both men and women. We wear pants today because of the Chinese women warriors on horseback from those times. Its study is relevant in the equestrian world today.

Chi Gung movements are the simple exercises created out of the forms of T’ai Chi Ch’uan, Yang Style Short Form. Chi Gung exercises are the elements strung together to create the form. They are related not separate entities. When practiced diligently these movements promote relaxation, strength, and vibrant health from within.

The principles of natural movement are intricately woven into the exercises to cultivate softness, enhance awareness, and promote relaxation through imagery, movement, and practice. In dedicated practice you can become relaxed and resilient in body/mind and your spirit will take rise with a happy heart. Dynamic balance and softness fosters feel of another and when you can feel you can listen to the subtle message your horse is returning to you in the artistry of riding. Two bodies in balance are harmonious.

Perfection is a myth. Practice is the key. It is not a matter of doing the exercises perfectly. We practice to become aware, aligned with gravity, and balanced in movement. As we repeat each exercise (like riding a circle) we refine awareness, subtle balance, and relaxed strength. T’ai Chi and dressage are cousins with the same root. Balance, rhythm, timing and feel are the goals of each discipline. How could they not be good for each other?

Many exercises come and go and are just another passing fad that takes rise for awhile and then dies off for lack of spirit or shen. In the last few decades T’ai Chi for equestrians became a fad and then lost interest for the most part and I can tell you it is not from some lack of shen in the classics of T’ai Chi Ch’uan. Most teachings lack knowledge in the practical application of the principles of natural movement coupled with exercises that are not obviously relevant to the discipline of riding. Making those things more assessable will always enhance your riding skills.

T’ai Chi Ch’uan and Chi Gung for Riders is too precious of a classic to let it fade away. It takes dedication, practice, and adherence to the principles, like the principles of classical dressage to actualize results. For some it is well worth the effort. When practiced with an open heart it fortifies the body, keeps the mind agile, and allows the spirit free expression.