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Mary Wanless and Eventers?

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  • Mary Wanless and Eventers?

    I'm in local clinic this weekend with a Mary Wanless (Ride with your Mind) person, and what I'm learning is basically blowing what I thought I know/did away.

    While I think I like some of it, I'm not convinced that this is THE way....

    Do a lot of eventers follow the "Ride With Your Mind" philosophies? Some of it, like NOT keeping your lower leg on the horse, seems...well, counter-intuitive to what I have been taught. The "neutral spine" is very odd, too--I feel like I'm squashed in the saddle, rather than stretching up.

    I'm always trying to improve my dressage...but wondering about how much energy I should spend re-vamping what I thought I knew....
    Last edited by Kairoshorses; Mar. 7, 2009, 10:49 PM. Reason: computo!
    --Becky in TX
    Clinic Blogs and Rolex Blogs
    She who throws dirt is losing ground.

  • #2
    The question I think you might ask yourself is..

    is it working?

    The two things you mention - the leg OFF and then not "stretching up" are probably two of the things that change most peoples riding for the better.

    So.. how are they affecting your horse? Is he/she going better for you when you ride this way?
    "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


    • #3
      Several friends of mine COULD not stand her clinic and thought her method made them stiff and their horses move worse. She also commented on one person's breed of horse and another person's size to their horse (this person hunts this horse 1st flight). Then again other people LOVED her clinic.

      Personally her analogies do not make sense to me.


      • #4
        I've never ridden with Mary nor do I know her principles HOWEVER, this winter here in Aiken, I am l-e-a-r-n-i-n-g to turn my legs to Jello and guess what, my horse LOVES it. It sure makes everything easier for me, too. When I am reminded to soften my leg I find I have it clamped on!
        I *THINK* Mary is the one who, back in the day, had a horse who only would jump the bounce properly if she said to her horse, whilst galloping XC, "Its a bounce!!", in an ever so cheery voice-he'd rock himself back and bounce on through!
        You paid your $ for her clinic, why not try doing what she says!? It might actually work.
        Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.


        • #5
          I think it's helpful to read her books as well. I found her idea (that she first talks about in The Natural Rider) of "plugging in" your seat bones, and of the neutral spine very helpful. There are excellent drawings in the Natural Rider and The Ride with Your Mind books have great photos.

          She mentions in one of her books that she's found that many American riders ride by pushing their shoulders and their butts back and arching their spines (creating a hollow back). So instead you have to tuck your butt underneath you (think pelvic lift or Kegal--sp?--exercise) while lifting the breastbone up.

          Anyway, I've never clinicked with her, although I'd love to.

          Have fun.
          "The formula 'Two and two make five' is not without its attractions." --Dostoevsky


          • #6
            Funny...just talking about this extensively with a friend. Well, not riding in clinics specifically, but I have sometimes ridden with "guest trainers"...you know, ones that I don't normally ride with but have ridden with for help with a specific thing.

            I have had mixed results with those efforts. I guess if it's something I'm pretty good at, and just need some fine tuning, it can be fine. But if it's something I haven't yet mastered (bad word choice for anything horse related) I find it can really do a number on my head. I ride the dressage phase like it's hunter/jumper flatwork, and at my level (BN) that works OK for me. I tried really riding "dressage seat" by taking a "clinic-type" lesson and it did a number on me in all of my riding for a little while. (MY fault, not trainer's) I find when I'm in unfamiliar territory (dressage), while under stress such as competition I have to have really simple things to fall back to. If I have "duelling instructors" in my head at those times it can really confuse me. If I find I'm riding with someone who has some very fundamental differences in riding technique than what I'm used to, unless I feel that I plan on really pursuing that avenue I'm better off sticking with my regular instructor. So that's pretty much what I do now.

            My experience in the clinic environment is that it's not an especially good venue FOR ME.
            I need time to work with a trainer to even see if I "buy in" to what they're saying. And if I don't "buy in" the experience doesn't really carry much value for me.

            I met Michael Page at an Eventing clinic here on LI that I audited. one of his pieces of advice? In Eventing, if you don't trust your trainer 150%, go find another trainer. I did get something out of THAT clinic....

            Tom G.
            HorsePower! www.tcgequine.blogspot.com


            • #7
              Over the years I've come to the conclusion that I need to audit an instructor before clinicing with him or her. I've had too many rides where the style or the approach conflicted with what my current trainer suggested. However, in a clinic I recommend trying anything that you don't think is physically dangerous to see how it works. Sometimes you'll find amazing results.

              I've read Mary Wanless' books and it took me a few reads to feel that I understood what she was teaching. I also took some lessons from a trainer here who teaches using her principles. I did find it helpful but having the background of reading her books and articles was an important component.

              Good luck!
              Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
              EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


              • #8
                I have had the opprotunity to clinic with MW a few times. I was a rider that thought that dressage position was position A, XC Position was Position B and stadium was position C and that they were fairly different. (ok, taking from different coaches can do that to someone who didn't grow up on a horse's back, or maybe its just me).

                MW was the one who really drove it home that the riders position is basically the same, just the length of leg is different. Even though the clinic I attended was with mostly DQ's, she addressed my question in the non-mounted part of the clinic, and had us all going from dressage to jump position. It was a huge "a-ha" moment for me.

                In a nutshell, (very BIG nutshell that I understand) is that her methods help drive home the point that heps the rider to get the horse's energy going from back to front by the rider carrying her body correctly. that it's not the rider creating the energy, but harnessing the horse's energy to go forward.

                As I said, maybe it was only my problem, but now I can switch to different saddles (and horses) and not be uncomfortable with stirrup length, and get the same results. It actually steadied my leg for jumping too. But, my legs are not clamped on either and I'm much more relaxed on xc because of it .."TOES UP, heels light, make an arrow with the knee" as she likes to say really helped me....
                I love my OTTB! I get my dressage test done faster!


                • #9
                  Mary Wanless

                  I have to admit I have worked with Mary for 7 years now. She comes to my farm 2x/year and I think her work is fantastic stuff.

                  Yes, it may be very different from what you are used to, but different in a very good way. At my first clinic with her I knew I was hearing something very, very different what what I'd seen and heard before. I live in an area jammed packed with Olympians, Grand Prix and FEI level riders, and I've been to a LOT of their clinics. What a bunch of canned, meaningless drivel. I won't mention names, but some of these folks are giving little more than Pony Club type lessons (though they're getting beaucoup $$ for it.)

                  Keep an open mind and give it a try. Also, get a copy of her latest book RWYM Clinic, if you can. Just the explanation of the 'wordscape' vs 'brainscape' can clear up a lot of misunderstandings.

                  Ohh--- Also, DO NOT think "kegel" exercise when trying to activate pelvic floor muscles. You get in big trouble with Mary if you think 'kegel'


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by RiverBendPol View Post
                    I've never ridden with Mary nor do I know her principles HOWEVER, this winter here in Aiken, I am l-e-a-r-n-i-n-g to turn my legs to Jello and guess what, my horse LOVES it. It sure makes everything easier for me, too. When I am reminded to soften my leg I find .

                    Are you riding with Eric Horgan? I have been practicing my jello legs all winter


                    • Original Poster

                      Ha--I was thinking "birthing my child" when the clinician said "bear down"!

                      I DID try to keep an open mind, and I do think I learned some things. I’m having trouble placing them, integrating them—since they don’t all jive with what I know, what I’ve been taught, and, since I DON’T have a lot of experience w/ dressage instructors, what I’ve read. But I'll keep working on them.

                      Now that I’ve had three days of practicing, I think I like the “neutral spine” idea. My horse seemed to go forward a bit more freely, and while I felt like I was collapsing at times, I think I had more power and stability in my core--using not just the front, but all of it. She said that the position would transfer to my forward seat, but I’m having a harder time with that….still, I can tell you that after a lot of trot sets/canter sets all in two point, I know that my lower back hurts….and she said that was from hollowing out my back. So I'm eager to try what she said in my forward saddle.

                      I liked that we focused on turning the withers, and by using our bodies ("planks").

                      Lots of “energy flow” type stuff, which I like, but have a hard time…well, believing/getting. I feel like Mulder in X-Files: I WANT to believe….

                      The hardest thing for me was NOT putting my lower leg on at all, and gripping with/”rolling” my thighs. That seems so much less….secure….than wrapping my whole leg around the horse. I literally felt like I was doing the Charleston!

                      Two recent clinicians (both Olympians/winners at Rolex) told me that I needed to keep my feet more forward in XC….but she was adamant about that being bad. She teaches dressage riders, eventers and jumpers in her native South Africa (again, this was a Wanless Protoge'), but this clinic was just for dressage riders.

                      So all in all, I did get some good things out of the clinic. And I ordered several of the RWYM books online. But I also ordered some Kyra Kirkland stuff.

                      I doubt if I’ll ever be a total Wanless groupie (and I have to say that her devotees are QUITE…well, devoted!), but I do think that I learned some valuable things.
                      --Becky in TX
                      Clinic Blogs and Rolex Blogs
                      She who throws dirt is losing ground.


                      • #12

                        I would ask the Olympians/Rolex'ers why being behind the motion could ever be a good idea
                        "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                        The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


                        • #13
                          The hardest thing for me was NOT putting my lower leg on at all, and gripping with/”rolling” my thighs. That seems so much less….secure….than wrapping my whole leg around the horse.
                          I can't imagine throwing away my lower leg ... it is a very important aid for rythym and impulsion. I don't use it or need it for keeping my balance.


                          • #14
                            Years ago I did a couple of MW clinics. She was excellent.
                            Then I did a clinic with one of her followers - it was dreadful.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by EqTrainer View Post

                              I would ask the Olympians/Rolex'ers why being behind the motion could ever be a good idea
                              Na, this kicks in as soon as you start gallop across country at speed. You can get a way with the hunter rounds through Training level. ; )
                              Horses are amazing athletes and make no mistake -- they are the stars of the show!