We have a story coming up with Mary Wanless soon, and I wanted to make her acquaintance when she was in my area teaching a clinic. That opportunity came last week when she arrived at Great Strides in Damascus, Maryland. As you may know, Mary is all about biomechanics of the horse and rider. She is a no-nonsense lady with endless energy. A group of 20 or so riders and enthusiasts watched as Mary instructed. Her routine seemed to be to have two riders in a one-hour lesson. She worked with one while the other rider went to the other end of the arena to work with a Wanless trainer – somene well-versed in Mary’s program.
To get the most from the lesson, you need to read Mary’s two books and know her special vocabulary:
To “bear down,” means something like pressing your tummy muscles against the wall of your back, then push in a forward direction. (Don’t quote me on this as I am a Wanless neophyte.)
The “box” is your torso, and on it goes.
She talks in images:
“Use your chest muscles as if you are riding into a strong wind.”
“Push into your shins.”
“Water through the hoses.”
“Reach back to find the engine.”
Then there is the “slingshot” and the “suction”, which, I think, means drawing the horse up and back.
Think of your back supported with metal rods, she says, which help stabilize your mid section. She talks of sucking up particles with a vacuum and “thighs like windshield wipers” and “conveyor belts.”
She talks about the rider’s knees being connected to a bar at the horse’s tummy. “Lift your knees to lift the tummy”.
“Think of going forward in terms of a 20, 40 or 100-watt light bulb,” she says. All this gave me a lot to think about and many great ideas for our Solutions page.
During a break, we sat outside and Mary taught us an isometric exercise that she also explains in her article. I have that on video to go with the article in the August issue. I hope you’ll enjoy seeing Mary in action. She says that her legacy will be these new exercises she is developing to help riders with their body awareness, which will develop them into better riders.
We all need to improve our seats, so I hope you take advantage of this remarkably innovative teacher the next time she comes to your neighborhood.