Chazot Thoughts 52

The Classical Horse

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Lead Change VS Flying Change


A new horse arrived at the center saying, “I am classically trained,” Caesar commented, “But you are lame!” The horse responded, “Yes, they injected my left stifle, but I feel the pain higher in my back.” I could read the confusion in Caesar mind. “How could it be classically trained and lame? I guess, we have an upgraded understanding of what is classical education. For us, classical dressage is about being precisely developed and coordinated for the athletic demand of the move. The old adage, “Repeating the movement to educate the body,” is not at all the way we are educated. Long ago, human athletic training has evolved abandoning the “Practice makes perfect” theory for the more advanced concept of perfect practice. He furthered the concept finding into advanced understanding of our biological mechanism, how to optimally develop and coordinate our muscular and other systems for the physical demand of the performance. This of course means soundness.   


Caesar asked, “What happened?” The horse responded, “I always have felt stiffness and at time muscle pain on my left side, behind the saddle and in the lumbar area. I managed to execute the movements they asked me to perform but the left to right flying change triggered sharp pain. I tried many ways to execute the move protecting my muscle pain but my attempts were interpreted as resistance. I found a compromise allowing me protecting my left side during the change of lead, but they kept saying, ‘late behind.” I did not understand what they mean by ‘late behind’ and when my rider became more assertive with his legs, I accelerated the stride following the change. My rider became annoyed with my ‘behavior’, and one day, he stopped brutally my acceleration pulling strongly on the reins, leaning backward with his body. I was not in a position for a brutal halt and I felt a violent pain in my back and left stifle. I was diagnosed with stifle damage.” Caesar commented, “Classical or competitive are labels covering the same unawareness. Whatever the performance, they fail preparing biomechanically our physique for the athletic demand and we became dysfunctional athletes executing movements for which our physique is not adequately prepared.


I asked to the new horse, let me guess: the compromise that you figured protecting your back pain was placing a lateral sequence instead of a diagonal sequence at the second beat of the canter. The new horse responded, “Yew, that is exactly what I did. I was then able to change lead while protecting the left side of my spine.” I remember an article that he wrote explaining the difference between the lead change that is commonly practiced in the show jumping ring and the flying change that is required in the dressage ring. Step by step, the difference is easy to understand. A stride of left lead canter commences with the alighting of the right hind leg followed by the diagonal sequence, which is ground contact of the left hind leg and almost simultaneously, impact of the right foreleg. Then comes the alighting of the left foreleg and the flight period. Then, the flying change commences during the flight with the ground contact of the left hind leg. Then comes the alighting of the right hind leg immediately followed by the impact of the left foreleg and then, support of the right foreleg. To describe what you did, we need to go back to the flight period coming from the left lead canter. You re-impacted the right hind leg. Then the left hind leg but instead of combining ground contact of the left hind leg with alighting of the right foreleg, you placed a lateral sequence landing the left foreleg. You threw then forward the right foreleg and bring the hind legs under while you were supporting your body over the right foreleg and the following fly sequence.


Accusing you of letting your hind legs late behind was severe ignorance form your rider and trainer. They know how the flying change is supposed to look like but they have no understanding of the underlying biomechanics factors. Our limbs kinematics during the lead change differ greatly from our limbs sequences executing the flying change. You were not letting your hind legs behind; you were executing a different performance. Pushing you with more legs, the rider did not give you any chance. Measurements have demonstrated that we always shorten the stride before the change and accelerate the stride after the change. We achieve better balance control increasing the length of time our hind legs remain on the ground during the stride preceding the flying change. Your rider’s ignorance trapped you into an impossible situation and as usual, the outcome of a training technique focusing on the gest instead of on the coordination preparing our body for the performance, is injury and lameness.


Caesar commented, “I did the lead change all the time during the jumping courses and in fact, no one, until I came here, never explained me that I would have been in better place for the next jump if I had executed a real flying change instead of a lead change. I was like you. I believed that in my own specialty, I was classically trained. My education was in line with tradition. I realize now that I was performing out of my athletic abilities but my education did not prepare my physique for the stresses that the jumping courses induced on my body. I became lame too and If he and Helyn had not decide to save me, I would be now six feet under the ground.

He is going to restore your soundness focusing first on your vertebral column dysfunction. You are going to became a classical horse. You are not going to learn how the flying change and other movements are supposed to look like. Instead, you are going to learn how to efficiently coordinate your physique for the athletic demand of the move.

Caesar words reminded me the thought of François Robichon de la Gueriniere. The founder of classical equitation. talked about science enhancing the equestrian art and the equestrian art enhancing the practical application of science. That is what he does. We are indeed, classical horses.

Chazot