Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Mary Wanless clinic day 1 - learning how to walk again

After reading Megan's incredible write-up of the Mary Wanless clinic she attended earlier this year, I knew I wanted to attend one. Turns out, she comes through Texas a couple of times per year, and I managed to snag a spot in the fall clinic.

Based on Megan's experience, I was a little nervous coming into the clinic, but I REALLY wanted to understand some of the position problems I've been having. There's the left collapsing, the hands, not finding my left seatbone... so many things to work on. Plus, when I look at pictures of myself riding, my leg and seat position just don't look right.

Collapsing left in my torso, no weight in left seatbone, wtf is my left hand even doing...??? (but hey, my horse looks awesome doing half pass despite my worst efforts!)

Leaning back and pulling, two of my most favorite things to do.

The biggest thing about riding with Mary is that you're there to work on YOU, not on the horse. Expect your position to be picked apart (kindly and logically) and then reassembled in new and more effective ways, and it's gonna feel WIERD.

For example, the very first thing she asked me is how much weight I had in each seatbone vs in my pubic bone. Uhhh... I ride with all my weight in my seatbones? So every time I'm going down on his back, 100% of my weight is in the weakest part of his back - not good. Related to this is that I carry most of my weight in my stirrup, so my leg comes forward and braces, which also means my thigh isn't on the horse. And that was just in the first 60 seconds!

The first order of business was to shorten my stirrups two holes (I have half-holes so this isn't as much as it might seem). This put more bend in my knee and somehow allowed my thigh to lie flat. Mary was careful to place my leg just so, moving my thigh muscle out of the way so that everything was in the proper position - including my toe, which I have struggled to get to hang straight FOR YEARS. She then held my belt and showed me how she wanted me to tip my pelvis a bit more back, which allowed me to weight both my seatbones and my pubic bone evenly. Finally, she had me push my collarbone against her hand so I could think about carrying my torso a bit more forward. And then she had me practice that position at a walk.

What I looked like after Mary had worked her magic. Way more bend in my knee, my thigh is actually usable, and I'm not leaning way back with my torso because I actually have weight in the front of the saddle.

Initially, I felt like my torso was so far forward that I was practically in two-point. I struggled not to fall back on only my seatbones with each step. But the longer I rode, the more solidly I felt plugged into the saddle. My left seatbone, which is normally up somewhere around my shoulder, was solidly under me. I felt even everywhere in the saddle. My leg hung comfortably in place, and I could see my toe pointing straight forward (instead of out at a 30 degree angle). When I started asking T for some small walk laterals, I found he was much more willing to shift his haunches around now that I wasn't sitting hard on his back all the time. SUPER AMAZING MAGIC Y'ALL.

I literally spent the entire hour lesson walking and halting on a 20 meter circle and struggled with every step of it.

A crappy still from a video that I pulled off another rider's phone. I know, I'm just walking, but THIS WAS SO HARD.

One of the best things about Mary is that she's great with visualization - but visualization specific to you. To be clear, I've always struggled with visualizations in books, because I'm never quite sure if I'm doing it right. Mary does it completely different - she physically (gently) manipulates your body to exactly where you need to be, then has you describe how it feels, in your own words. It's like your very own customized visualization. In my case I told her I felt like I was leaning so far forward that I was "falling off over his ears" and she kept repeating that to me. Because it was my visualization, I could picture exactly what it meant so I could reproduce that feeling with my body. I thought that was an incredibly powerful technique, and like nothing I've ever encountered before.

The final five minutes of the lesson were spent demonstrating our posting technique, at the halt. Mary's comment, when she saw my posting, was "oh my, we have a lot to work on tomorrow." I laughed, because she wasn't wrong - but ohmygosh, posting correctly is really hard!


  1. I must find a clinic near me. My right seatbone has been MIA for years I think.

  2. That's really cool she reused your own words. I really want to ride with her!

  3. That sounds AMAZING! Super jealous. So glad she was able to help you so much!

  4. She sounds like someone I would really enjoy. Glad to hear you learned something!

  5. I lovelovelove this! That bit about your OWN visualization is so clever! One day. Oooonnnneeee day, I will ride with her.

  6. This sounds like such an amazing idea!

  7. These posts are making me itch for a clinic with her myself... I need help!!! LOL

  8. What an amazing opportunity! I'd love to go to one of her clinics! Trainer neighbour has starting bringing in a Centered Riding clinician, which I've been auditing & it's been so informative to watch all the different pairs, then go home (which is way easier when you just have to walk next door, LOL) & try things out. She does a similar thing where she adjusts people & then asks them what they feel, which I think is a brilliant way to help people process changes. It really is astonishing how much work can be done just walking around, haha!