Monday, May 30, 2022

Circling Back to Mary Wanless in Cruise’s First Dressage Lesson

This past Saturday we hauled Cruise out to his first dressage lesson.  The instructor, who I’ll call SW, has a facility about an hour away.  Cruise hauled like a trooper, got off the trailer a little up but deal able with and we went to the indoor to start targeting stuff.  I chit chatted with SW while I did some groundwork, which went ok, then tacked him up and put him on the lunge with side reins.  She commented that he got serious as soon as the side reins went on and I lunged him quietly all over her arena, which is I think a standard dressage court.  He was still looking out open doors at horses and trees but was maybe 70-80% focussed on me.  I put on my big girl panties and got on him for about a 20 minute under saddle lesson. 

I really appreciated how low key SW was while I went through my regular routine on the ground and then under saddle.  She talked with me the whole time about my background, what I had done with Cruise so far, and my training methodology.  While I walked around a bit on him, we talked about my familiarity with Mary Wanless concepts.  Then she gave me a few powerful biomechanical corrections at the walk:
*To sit up she had me pretend someone was pushing between my shoulders and I needed to push back.  Immediate vertical upper body.
*To close my back armpits to make my torso even.
*Then to keep from tilting side to side at the walk with my seat she had me think about keeping my cereal box/torso level at the bottom.  Harder, but when I got it Cruise stretched out his neck to the contact.  Hmmmm…
*Then to take a little weight off my stirrups and more into my thigh, she had me relax my leg then pretend I was lifting a beanbag with my toes and then my kneecaps.  This really changed the weighting of my stirrups, thigh, and seat. 
*We talked a little bit about steering more like a bus and some Mary Wanless concepts about steering which we played with a little.

Then I asked if we had time for a couple of short bursts of trot to work on my posting mechanic.  I tried to put all the previous corrections into play and picked up the trot for a circle or two.  SW said she thought my posture was basically correct but I was tilting my pelvis forward as I landed.  Hmmm…tried the trot again and bingo, my post finally felt right.  We played with all the concepts and talked a little bit about how when he come up to look at stuff or loses focus, I tend to shorten my reins and instead I need to keep my framework, not let him change me, widen my hands and keep on keeping on.  Hmmmm…

I was so pleased with how Cruise handled being at a slightly busier facility.  He listened, he followed prompts, and even though he had a couple of spooky looks at things I never felt he was way over threshold.  We did close a couple of arena doors, stick to the “safe” end of the ring under saddle, and didn’t walk around a lot outside.  We can add on stimuli later but I thought it best to keep it simpler this time.

I was also thrilled with SW.  She  is low key and friendly, just like I remembered, willing to let me show her where we are and what I am comfortable with and then gave me super effective corrections.  She was very clear in her explanations, I think, thrilled that I am conversant in Mary Wanless, and very positive in general.  She suggested I might like to come take a couple of lessons on her school masters to lock in some of these basic position corrections without having to also think of the green bean.  I am totally on board and scheduled that and a haul in lesson for Cruise in three weeks.

All in all, a super positive experience.  Much exceeding my expectations.  I think I am going to concentrate on lessons with SW, riding outside on the grass, and hauling to EW’s indoor ring every couple of weeks until my ring is built(in July now???).  Then maybe a couple of non show or in hand shows in the fall if possible.

 Excited to see what progress we can make over the summer!  What are your summer plans?


  1. I love that she suggested lessons on the school master for you. Sometimes we need to be able to focus on us and our issues alone without having to deal with/ worry about getting it all right and keeping it that way for the baby horse while they're trying to figure things out. It's a Win! for everybody

    1. Yes, I was definitely on board and found it super helpful, especially after practicing a couple of times on both of my own horses.