Friday, November 6, 2015

Wanless Clinic: Day 1

By this point, everyone knows I love clinics.  It gives me a chance to get all dressed up:

I love these socks
And I get to take my main man out on the town.

Show halter from PS of Sweden!
This particular clinic with Mary Wanless has been a long time in the making.  I first heard about Mary back when I submitted a photo of myself and the princess to Dressage Today for a critique.

Heather Blitz did the critique and I liked what she saw, but couldn't figure out how to do what she was saying.  I got pointed to her trainer, Mary, and got her book.  The rest is history.

After reading the books, watching the videos, and trying really hard, I accepted that I couldn't figure out the basics of her system without some feedback.  Her clinics are rare and fill up fast.  This time, I finally got a spot.

Mary is a biomechanics trainer.  She's not going to improve your half passe scores, but she will focus on getting your body in the right place and working effectively.  Coming from my h/j and eventing background, there's a lot of work to do.  Thank goodness Trainer A has made a dent, considering how much work Mary had in front of her today.  Theo's job was mostly to be a vehicle for my position work and he was very happy to go about with minimal requests on him.

I had enough work to do for both of us:

Step one:  I have successfully fixed my habit of leaning forward in the halt, walk, and usually the trot.  I now only tip forward when I'm really rattled out of my place and during the very beginning of my warm up.  I even had to bring my chest a bit forward to find vertical.  Score!  Though now I can make mistakes in both directions.  Less score.

Step two:  I have seat bones and I should sit on them.  I discovered that when I engage my legs, I tighten up my seat muscles, popping my seat bones off of the saddle and keeping me from really sitting down.  Which leads to the next one . . .

Step three:  No more squeezing with the legs.  Squeezing is bad.  Leg aids should be quick, in and out, rather than just hunkering down.  That's going to take some time to process, but it will be easier to remember because . . .

Step four:  My heels belong on my horse's ass.  Seriously, I felt like I had my heels all the way back to Theo's butt, like I was going to tangle my spurs in his tail.  The mirror showed that wasn't true, my heels are under my hips, but it feels insane.  My hips were not happy.  At all.  It's going to be a fight.

Step five:  Bear down.  This was the concept in her book that I couldn't understand.  Make your stomach into a wall and push your guts against it?  Huh?  But with a lot of hands on help, turns out I've got a pretty decent bear down, up top and down low.  I just didn't know where it was and now I have to figure out how to use it.  When I bear down, my core gets stable and I don't feel like I'm doing the hokey pokey up there while we're trotting around.  Combine that with actual seat bones, sitting vertical, and not squeezing the pony, and I'm in a pretty stable spot.  For about five seconds, then I get bounced out.  Also, I can't bear down and breathe at the same time right now.  It's a bit of a problem.

Step six:  Right knee up.  It took most of our session, but she pieced together a sequence of things that cause my right shoulder to travel higher than my left.  It started with me standing harder on my right stirrup, popping up my right seat bone (the one that seems to constantly be disappearing on me), and traveling up to my braced shoulder.  I lifted my knee, my seat bone went on the saddle, and my shoulder came down.  WTF.  We're working on that more tomorrow, since she just pieced that together tonight.

Step seven:  Hot shower and Advil because holy crap my abs hurt.

I get to sleep in my own bed tonight so I should be all set for tomorrow, but man, my brain is already on overload.  I don't know how I'm going to add any more to this.  But if it can get me closer to riding like Dorkzilla's owner, I'm totally okay with aching abs and confused knees.


  1. So happy to find your blog. Thinking I saw your submission in Dressage Today when it was published. I especially enjoyed Heather Blitz's critiques.

    I took some lessons from one of Mary's instructors a while back. Sadly she is a 14 hour round trip from here, so it's not possible to get there regularly, but the instruction was super effective.

    Holy cow - all the changes in my position that were needed were very overwhelming. The trainer got me to create acronyms for each adjustment, to cement the info, and hopefully be able to call it back - mental shortcuts. That was a helpful strategy.

    My experience was also that I could mostly get my body rearranged, and have the horse moving, but not breathe at the same time. ;D

    Looking forward to reading about the rest of the clinic!

  2. Sounds like an awesome clinic - I love a good biomechanics lesson! Re the "bear down" concept, I've heard ppl sat to "squeeze your belly button" - maybe that's the same idea?