Book Review: ‘The New Anatomy of Rider Connection’

by Mary Wanless

Even if it’s been out for some time, there’s never a bad time to discover a good book. And that’s exactly what Marcella Gruchalak has done with Mary Wanless’s The New Anatomy of Rider Connection.

The New Anatomy of Rider Connection is 224 pages jam packed with an enormous amounts of information from cover to cover. While reading through this book I put a lot of thought into myself as a rider and my horse as my partner.

Where do I lack in my riding abilities? Where does my horse lack in his education and training? Who’s compensating for the other and when? How can I fix these problems and work on my and my horse’s weaknesses?

Wanless answers all these questions in depth. She states within the first chapter, “The difference between average and elite riders lies in the quality of connection and awareness between horse and rider.” She starts with the most simple area that everything else builds on: the fascial body. To accompany her description of the fascia, she provides helpful pictures that show how the fascia works with and without external deforming forces.

Wanless goes into discussing the bounciness and hydration of the fascial body and how fascia accommodate the muscles as they are changing and moving. She provides a good explanation of fascial types and gives a good rationale as to why a holistic approach to strength training is more beneficial than targeting specific muscle groups.

The next chapter of the book goes into discussing feel and how to learn how to feel what your horse is doing and what you’re doing to provoke it. This is the area where most riders plateau. In order to improve in this area, the rider needs to continue working areas in which they are least confident. In this book, Wanless discusses K. Anders Ericsson’s research which suggested “it takes 10,000 hours of deep practice to become elite at any skill.”

After discussing the fascial body and feel, the bulk of the book goes into body lines. Wanless discusses front lines, back lines, lateral lines, diagonal lines, arm lines, spiral lines and the deep front line. She thoroughly explains these lines in the rider and in the horse. Throughout the book she provides good pictures to show good versus bad body alignment and positioning pertaining to each of these lines.

Throughout this book, there are a plethora of exercises the rider can do on and off the horse to improve along with exercises for the rider to aid the horse and having optimal body positioning. Within these exercises are exercises on good breathing, which Wanless makes apparent is a big part of riding.

One of my favorite chapters is the chapter that covers hand positioning. Wanless provides exceptional pictures on different incorrect ways to hold your hands while riding, along with pictures of the correct hand positioning. She outlines different exercises to help hand control and explains the correct way to hold your reins in your hand. Aside from these exercises, she gives good feedback on what to do with your hands when your horse makes different movements such as lengthening his neck or pulling.

Wanless finishes her book by discussing how to balance everything from toes to diaphragm. This chapter is dense in anatomy and muscle names. I had to read this chapter twice to really understand the information. Even the pictures are more complex ideas. Nonetheless, it’s great information.

If you’re looking for a book that really goes into detail about the mechanics of riding, this book is exceptional. It explains what is happening, how the muscles and fascia are working with every movement in the horse and rider while working together under saddle.

You can read our 2017 review of the book here.

The New Anatomy of Rider Connection Trafalgar Square Bookscan be found at .