If there is one equestrian author who single-handedly changed how we looked at riding it has to be Mary Wanless.
I can well remember receiving a copy of her first book, Ride With Your Mind in 1987, suddenly rising above all of the high-brow equestrian books about equitation and competition riding was a book that actually made sense. Ground breaking stuff for its time, but the title actually explained what was happening when the rider was in the saddle and why.
Prior to this revolution anyone interested in improving their horse had only technical books from such luminaries as Alois Podhajsky, Reiner Klimke and Henry Wynmalen to study. While they were undoubtedly incredible horsemen the information they imparted gave no concept of cause and effect as did Mary Wanless’s equestrian revolution.
Suddenly riding a horse properly made sense; regardless of how many times the correct use of the aids was explained, what was a rider to do if what they were doing wasn’t working. I don’t think it occurred to us in those dark ages that we, the rider could have any effect on what the horse was or wasn’t doing. We gave the correct canter aid, therefore the horse should strike off on the right leg. Thirty years later I’m sure that riders who have all of this knowledge to hand would scoff at our ignorance. It seems so basic now to realise how could the horse possibly strike off on the correct lead in canter if the rider’s weight was unwittingly over the required leg.
Talk about a shining beacon in the darkness, years of frustration for so many riders and of course their horses were undone as the new concept of actually being aware of what your body is doing and how your posture affects the horse made such a huge difference.
Mary Wanless is now the author of a huge number of books and dvds on the subject. She coaches riders at all levels, from novices to top level, including some who have competed at the highest levels of international competition.
Her latest title, Rider Biomechanics, is her take on what is now an extremely relevant subject and gives the reader a detailed and easy to understand text which details how the fabric, or fascia of the body affects our posture, mobility, movement and stability.
With this knowledge to hand the rider can become aware of how their body affects the horse and how they can gain mastery over their body and help, rather than hinder the horse’s way of going.
Biomechanics is an awesome concept and one that is so obvious once it is explained to you, but one that perhaps riders often don’t consider enough. It is a real eye opener to realise that tension held in one part of the body will impact on every other part and thus onto the horse in a chain reaction. Given that the horse is a living organism with his own tensions, injuries, preferences and moods it is incredible that we can become enough of a team to produce the fabulous movements of advanced dressage.
Rider Biomechanics is an incredibly detailed book, beautifully illustrated with colourful diagrams and photographs which show the influence of the body, including the front and back lines as well as the influence the arms and spinal position has on the rider’s ability to help or hinder the horse. This is such a long way away from the instructions of old where we were merely told to have a straight line from the horse’s mouth to our elbows. I am sure there must be many a horse who, with a rider who is aware of what their body is doing, must think ‘thank goodness for Mary Wanless!’
This review was written by Jacqui Broderick for Horse & Pony Ireland