Chazot 69/Gentle

“The times are so serious that even children should be made to understand that there are vital differences in people’s beliefs which lead to differences in behavior.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)

The main difference is that most men behave because they don’t think, while us equine, behave because we think how to protect our mind and our body. We are volitional learners in the sense that we can only learn actively, not passively. We cannot read books and unfortunately, most humans do not benefit from lessons learned in books as well as in life. “Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so”. (Douglas Adams)

Aleksander Solzhenitsyn wrote, “Intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.” It must be a serious lack of deepness in the equestrian education because humility is rarely the trade mark of professional riders. In fact, we behave because we have to protect ourselves from their arrogance, which is coupled with their ignorance. We behave because we have to survive. We behave because we are not athletically prepared for the performance. We behave because our inadequate education induces pain. We behave because we suffer and we don’t have the mental capacity to identify and correct the root cause.

I remember the story of my late Mother, Arpege, I was amazed listening to her because she was so quiet and so shy. An arrogant trainer pretended teaching her the complexity of life in a round pen. She was quickly annoyed by the dumbness of the “education” and decide to play with the trainer. When he moved to the right, expecting her to move left, she moved right with him. When he approached her, she approached him. When he backed away, she backed away. The guy was lost as she did not reacted as it was written in the book. The trainer decided that she behaved stupidly because she was stupid. As the arrogant idiot had to justify his pay check convincing the audience that my mother was the idiot. He turned his back to her and she quietly approached and bit him in the butt. She had great fun telling us that she did not bit to hurt him but just letting a mark that he will have hard time explaining to his wife.

I realized then that she was a main reason for my very highly creative mind. Contrary to the male oriented traditional thinking, great part of my intelligence was from her and not just my father, grandfather, grand grandfather and grand grand grandfather. He loves my intelligence and that is what surprised me the most when I saw him for the first time. Helyn and he came to buy me and I behaved like a maniac protecting myself from maniacs. My trainer and my caretakers punished me all the time and I had to protect myself more and more intensively. As you know, I can understand what he thinks and as I was rearing very high, I had looked at him as I just picked his thought. “The one who can’t think is the trainer. The horse just tries to survive.” I was so surprised that I went down wanting to turn my head toward him as soon as my front feet were on the ground. This is when the trainer slammed my face with the rope of my halter. On my way up, as I reared again, I caught another of his thoughts, “This rope halter training is an insanity.” I was intrigued by this man. He was a human but he was thinking. The ones who supposedly trained me were just behaving. They expected me to submit to what they believed was right and never tried to understand that I was in terrible growing pains and that their training approach exacerbated my pains.

When he asked them to jog me, they gave him the lunge saying, “You do it”. I reared in front of him because I was to the point where I reared as a response to everything. First I did it during training because I suffered from a problem known as rer. It is a local muscle thing up due to calcium deficiency. When I landed, the jockey was no longer on my back and, being the proud son of my mother, I immediately understood that I could get rid of my rider anytime I wanted. They were afraid of my rearing due to my size and I used it to protect me from their aggressiveness, which they referred to as “education”.

He did not respond when I reared. I did it again, higher boxing with my forelegs and I picked his thought thinking, “Nice move”. Nice move!!! I was supposed to impress him and he was supposed to punish me and instead, he appreciated my style. I approached him, exploring his clothes with my nose. He patted me and we jog quietly. He told me later that this apparently simple event is where he fully realized by my behavior was triggered by the arrogance and incompetence of my trainer.

The problem is that it is all I knew. Long after they purchased me, any event triggered my intense behavior. Many time I was high on my hind legs regretting to do it, thinking I hope he will understand that it is not a response to him. He did. Helyn and he were aware of the mental damages created by my previous training. They have changed my diet recreating proper balance between calcium and many other components. They conducted a program of progressive muscular work, giving the muscle mass that I needed to deal with my large skeleton. They treated with great concern my front feet, which are too small in relation to my size. My body healed progressively but my brain was not yet ready to explore beyond my protective reflexes. I reacted in fact even stronger precisely because I was physically stronger. I remember him thinking, “This is exactly why lack of education embraces behavior techniques instead of staying focused on the source of the problem, which is physical discomfort and mental processing developed to protect physical pain”.

What they did was beyond the limits of conventional education. They did not address the rearing, even if I was more often on my hind legs than on my four legs. Instead, they developed my intelligence. They treated me as if I was a rational and intelligent creature and I became a rational and intelligent creature. They make me think about my body. First, they make me realize that I can be comfortable walking, trotting cantering and performing. I did not truly understand at the beginning but he was walking next to me and I was amazed realizing that I was able to feel nuances in the tone of his back and abdominal muscles. Later, while riding me, his movements were extremely measured and always in my frequency. I liked to keep this harmony and I observed that trying to stay in harmony with him, I gained greater control of my own body. He explained me later that our back muscles stiffen our spine to create more speed. Any reason contracting our back muscles, such as pushing on the bit engender speed. His body movements were just a little slower than my body movements. Not enough to create discomfort, but enough to suggest that I could find harmony with him slowing down my motion a little. This is how I discovered that I was capable to use my back muscles in a more sophisticated manner than nature prepared me to do. By discovering the capacity of my back muscles to convert the trust generated by my hind legs into upward forces, I gained better control of my balance and I enjoyed the comfort of lightness.

Enjoying the comfort of a functional physique has been the main attraction for me. After years of suffering on the race track, losing confidence as being unable to perform, my next mental degradation was revolt. I had to survive and I revolted against what I was unable to do. Caesar told me many times that while is job was jumping, he ended with the same behavior due to the pain associated with the performance and the fact that none of the riding techniques applied alleviated or even eased the pain. Both Caesar and I have been mentally interested by the promise of physical comfort. As soon as we realized that it was not about submitting us to another system but instead, teaching us to use our body efficiently and therefore, effortlessly and soundly, we became active in the dialogue.

He told me one day, “The stronger you become, the gentler you will be”. He humbly added, “This is not my quote. It is a beautiful Samurai proverb”.  Indeed, I am now the gentler horse in the barn.