Wednesday, June 22, 2022

There’s Something About Mary…Wanless Part III

I’ve written before about my love/disillusionment/love relationship with Mary Wanless’s  work.  Since my new coach is a MW devotee and I’m finding that the concepts are pretty easy for me and working almost immediately and visibility for Cruise, I thought I would explore why that is a little bit.

First off, I am really familiar with all the concepts and visualizations from Mary’s work.  I might not have been able to put it all together, but tell me to shorten my back armpits, use my thighs like a lever, or pretend to lift beanbags with my toes/knees and I am your girl.  

Secondly, Feldenkrais has given me so much more body awareness than any other modality I have tried before.  And everything in Feldenkrais is supposed to be exploratory and effortless.  This has led to my being able to switch on a muscle with nuance, not just on or off.  I think in previous attempts at MW’s ideas I was trying too hard, doing things at a 10 instead of realizing that there is a scale from 1-10 and a lot of times a 2-3  could be what is needed.  Bearing down is good, but if done at a 10 when a 5 is needed, it can shut the horse down.

Thirdly, having an experienced instructor who communicates with concepts and visualizations you are familiar with AND can pick the three most important things to work on is invaluable.  SW is a talker but more importantly she hones in on priorities pretty well as is evidenced by some pretty rapid improvements.  My husband even commented that all of her stories really relate to something I am doing at the moment and that if one explanation doesn’t work for me she wheels another right out, bless her.  Also, the value of having someone give suggestions in real time cannot be overrated.  

Fourth, SW recommended Dressage Training TV a Mary Wanless subscription service that has webinars, courses, and tons of information about all her concepts.  I haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s available but it’s a great resource and refresher as I dig deeper into all this stuff.  It is much more user friendly than the books and the groundwork course is superb.

Add all these things together with my foray into natural horsemanship and also clicker training and I feel like I can appreciate MW’s work much more and apply the concepts (with the help of SW!) much more accurately.

Time will tell!


  1. Yes- having someone on hand to be our "eyes on the ground" is priceless. Also having that someone who can articulate what, how and how much is a godsend. Especially the How Much part. It can be tough for anyone trying to interpret and include new things into their riding. The concept of only needing to do a 2 or 3 instead of going to a full blown 10 is a struggle for me and my pony too. You're not alone on that one. 😊

    1. I think the scale of 1-10 for aid application and the instant feedback have both been super super helpful.