Mary Wanless was a pony mad kid, who began riding in a British riding school. Whilst studying for her degree in Physics she was a member of Bristol University riding club, where she competed in student competitions, including internationals. After graduating she passed the British Horse Society instructing examinations to BHSI level. However, she always felt that she was not a talented rider, and was frustrated with her progress. This eventually led to her giving up on her dream, and quitting the horse world entirely.
After six months she was back riding and teaching again. But her perspective had changed: She stopped trying to be a good rider, and instead began noticing what was actually happening in her body and the horse. This profound philosophical difference led to some remarkable discoveries, which gradually evolved into an empirical research project. Influenced by her study of physics, she began from the premise that there must be laws of cause and effect underlying what appears as a mysterious skill. Over 40 years she has gradually illuminated the ‘how’ of skilled riding, and decoded the hidden laws of the rider/horse interaction. This supplies the ‘how to’ information lacking in traditional instructing.
Mary has indeed demonstrated that talent has a structure, which can be taught to interested students step by step, in bite-size chunks. Her coaching method is a guided discovery, using trial and error. This is how people learn most effectively, take ownership of their discoveries, and change ingrained habits.
In developing her work she has studied anatomy, the science of expertise, and the psychology of how and why people either learn or remain stuck. Over the 40 years of her experiment, science has validated her approach through research in to learning, and the fabric of the body.
The work of Thomas Myers (‘Anatomy Trains’, 2009) has proven seminal. Fascia, the connective tissue of the body, links muscles into chains, so fascia is to muscles what sausage skins are to sausages. There are six times more nerve endings in fascia than muscle, and these are the root of our feel sense. Our ability to transmit force within the body (as exemplified by talented riders) is based in a taught fascial net. Average riders can develop this with the appropriate coaching.
Mary’s pupils include international Grand Prix dressage riders, along with competitors at all levels, and many ‘average’ riders.
- BSc degree in Physics, Bristol University 1974
- British Horse Society Instructor’s Certificate 1978 (now known as BHS Stage 5 Performance coach in Complete Horsemanship).
- Diploma in Integrative Psychotherapy, the Minster Centre, 1985
- Practitioner and Master Practitioner Certificates in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, 1986 and 1987
- BSc degree in Applied Sports Coaching, De Montfort University, 2000
- Level 3 certificate in Tutoring in Sport, 1st4sport Qualifications, 2008
- Franklin Method Educator, Levels 1 and 2, 2017, 2018