Naked Truth of Riding Symposium I
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Wednesday, October 29, 2008 08:50 PM
First of all the trip was a blast. The weather in Houston was heaven, +26C, sunshine and no wind. Can you imagine? They do not even have indoor arena, just covered one and barns have stalls but no walls! The symposium was everything I was hoping for and more. Watching Mary Wanless work with riders and see Heather Blitz (Mary's student for 14 years and Grand Prix rider) ride horses was absolutely fascinating. Plus there was a lecture and exercises with the audience. On Saturday morning Dr. Hilary Clayton gave a presentation on her recent study of stretching exercises with horses, saddle fit and bitting. Because there was so much information I do not want to jam everything in one blog. I will write as many as it takes to share everything with you.
Mary Wanless dedicated her life's work to finding out what exactly skillful riders do to ride so effectively. Because skillful riders cannot really explain how they do things and established teaching procedures do not give exact meaning on what to do there is a gap between language of feel and language of words. During 30 years of searching Mary Wanless has linked these two languages together to give all other riders tools to built their skills and develop effectiveness and feel. She makes this knowledge available to majority of riders by creating bite-size chunks of information that people can understand and learn. She teaches them in logical progression from simple skills to more complicated ones. She constantly asks for the rider's feedback and by listening to the rider's explanations she finds exact words that help the rider to find the correct position, balance and feel. Many instructors focus on a horse and sort of abandon a rider to search for correct, effective position and aids on her/his own. And here many riders get stuck and their instructors give up on them thinking that they just do not have what it takes. This is sadly more common than needs to be. Mary Wanless is absolutely sure that any rider can become well balanced and effective and ride as well as talented ones. If talented riders constantly work on their skills they can go as far as they like there is no limit.
Demonstration riders were of different ages, shapes, abilities and skills, from Training Level to Grand Prix. There were two groups of riders for Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning and than Sunday afternoon Mary Wanless worked in more detail with ones that audience has chosen. At the beginning of each practical session riders were riding in their usual way. Mary wanted us to answer the following questions:
  • If a horse has disappeared from under the rider by magic will rider land on her feet in good balance? Some riders were well aligned. However, most would fall backwards with the disappearance of a horse. There were two reasons for that: riders pushed their legs too much forward or they leaned backwards with their upper body.
  • Were rider's thighs 45 degrees, too horizontal, or too vertical? A few riders had their stirrups quite long and had more vertical thighs than necessary. This is very typical for dressage riders who are trying to stretch their legs down and make them appear long.
  • Did rider have hollow back, round back or good back?Many riders hollowed their backs. Mary said this is especially common with women. When riders try to stretch up and look tall they usually hollow their backs.
  • How much movement the rider had in her body? Some riders were quiet in walk but unstable in trot or canter. Some riders pushed with their seats a lot and some were very Jello like, sort of wobbling on a horse especially in the waist and thigh areas.
  • Did energy of a rider match energy of a horse? This was an interesting question to answer because some riders were very energetic in walk and not so much in trot. Some matched their horses in canter but not in trot being either too quiet or too big in their movement.
  • Did rider look like a water skier?If rider holds the reins to keep her own balance she becomes a water skier and her horse becomes a motor boat. One horse was very good motor boat speeding around so fast the rider had hard time to control the turns.
  • Did rider appear evenly stuffed throughout her body? Were there heavy or light areas of rider's body?The rider's body should give an impression of a good tone from head to toe. There should not be difference between shoulders, seat or thighs. Some riders were bottom heavy and appear "down" in the saddle. Some were stretched too much up and gave an impression being squeezed in the waist area.
Next time I will tell you what Mary Wanless did with riders to change their seats and what an amazing improvement happened to them and their horses.
Happy riding...
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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