Chazot Thoughts 56

“Dumbing Down” of the equestrian art

We’re creating a world of dummies. Angry dummies who feel they have the right, the authority and the need not only to comment on everything, but to make sure their voice is heard above the rest, and to drag down any opposing views through personal attacks, loud repetition and confrontation”. (Bill Keller, the New York Times)


I shake my head up and down when the quote appeared on his computer screen: this relates very well to the equestrian world.  He looked at me amused saying, “You are right, that describes exactly the ones that we refer to as key board riders. Dragging down new knowledge to their limited views is exactly how “angry dummies” react to advanced understanding of your biological mechanism. Instead of benefiting from new discoveries, they drag down new findings to old theories. Indeed, when the quality of the research allows clear explanation and they fail making their point or they are cornered by our responses, their resistance turns into anger. This is when ridiculous arguments surface, ‘Centuries of tradition cannot be wrong.” Well, for thousands year peoples have believed that the earth was flat. Even today, according to a Gallup poll, 18% still believe that the sun revolves around the earth.

Look; every time we explain that gravity is pulling your head and neck down to  earth and that attraction of gravity is resisted by your upper neck muscles, officiants of the long and low church state oppose the infamous “properly done’, They go on details such as forward position of your nose like if such detail would cancel the attraction of gravity. If you remember the beautiful study of Carol Saslow about the discovery of the very high tactile perception in the area of your flank situated under our legs. It was a surprise for the scientific world and never the less, the equestrian world. Nobody knew before the study that your tactile perception in such area was greater that the perception that we have, as humans at the tip of our fingers. Any rational mind would explore the thought that spurs would create chaos in your perceptual capacities. We receive a surprising number of angry comments from members of the flat earth society arguing that, “properly used,” the spurs are a good tool. Their proof was that our ancestors have used spurs for so long. Our ancestors were not aware of your unusually high tactile perception. The study was completed in 2002. If our ancestors had access to such knowledge they would probably have reconsidered the use of the spurs.

Caesar entered the conversation thinking, I remember that you were surprised by the reactions. It was a very good study and instead of benefit from the study, angry dummies argued about a point that was not even the subject of the study. I am glad that these professional arguers did not slow down your research. With each new finding we, horses, feel that finally, our education is starting to keep up with the subtlety, precision and refinement of our systems. I was delighted listening to you talking about the work of Anton van den Bogert explaining the forces going up and down our front limbs during the stance. These details that are never even acknowledged in any riding and training technique are a great part of our efficiency and ease in locomotion. By reducing the load on our forelegs and respecting our natural frequency, you allow us to benefit from the phenomenon of power transport. Not Only it allows more efficient use of forces produced through the hoof and low tendons during the stance but it also help us in lifting our trunk. I remember the time when I was driven forward onto the bit and heavily on the forehand. The metabolic cost of locomotion was much greater. I had to work muscularly much harder than what I have to do now for the same displacement of my body.”  

Manchester raised his head and we all looked at him. Manchester is the philosopher. He is the patriarch that everybody like and respect. When he was a school master, its peaceful manners and yet high energy has won every one of its students’ heart. When Manchester talks we all listen, even Charpege who never listen to anybody. “In my mind, the fundamental aspect of his education is respecting and developing our intelligence. When my education was about submission to the rider’s aids, I did not believe that I would have the intelligence to explore body control and coordination beyond my natural reflexes. I executed every dressage or therapeutic move that I was asked to perform protecting the weaknesses of my left stifle. I was “doing better” as they say, but I never felt any difference. My life changed when he asked me to think instead of obey. It was simple questions and I had the choice between two or three answers. I selected what I believe was what he wanted and he asked me the same question again. I tried a different response and soon realized that he expected the response that was comfortable for me. This was a totally new world for me. I was asked to perform and no one care if my left stifle hurt as long as the move fitted the judging standards. I started to be interested by the process. From basic ease, I started to explore different ways to use my pelvis observing that I could ease the stresses on my stifle coordinating specifically my pelvis and left hind leg movement. I was able to do that because he had worked on the scoliosis and inverted rotation of my thoracic spine and I was now capable to better use my thoracolumbar column. I remember one day, I make a move, it was not what he was asking but he stopped me, patting my neck and we went back home. Later you told me Chazot that he was very happy because I was ahead of him. The move that I made was what he wanted me to figure but he did not believe that I was ready. If he had not triggered my curiosity by rewarding me for a move that was not what he was asking, I would not have even remember what I have done a few minute later. Instead when you told me that he was so happy with my mental research, I started to remember what I did and I tried again.

I remember Chazot how angry you were when I told you that I was a dumblood. You sharply responded, there is no dumbloods; only warmbloods ridden by dumb riders. I would never have found the coordination of my thoracolumbar spine and pelvis reducing the stress on my left stifle if he did not have directed my mental processing through appropriated question and let me explore errors until I found the correct coordination.

I remember one day; I came back angry form my training session because he did not help me when I felt that I was so close. You reminded me that I had one hundred eighty-six synovial articulations in my vertebral column and added; you have to think further; only your central nervous system can figure how to subtly and efficiently coordinate your thoracolumbar spine. He cans only guide your brain. You are constructed of tiers of systems within systems, within systems. He can only orchestrate superficial systems and you have to further the subtlety of your body coordination looking for greater ease in your movement. This is why he wants you to think and explore and regards errors as normal evolution of your mental processing.

Caesar came back in the conversation with a question. “Why are they dumbing-down the equestrian art to submission to the rider’s aids when they have indeed the knowledge to educate, develop and coordinate our physique very precisely and effectively for the athletic demand of the performance? When I was on the show jumping circuit, I had the guts and the power to jump what they put in front of me. I know that I was not straight because I always felt heavier load on my left front leg at the landing. My riders “straightened” me externally between his inside leg and outside reins but he never straightened me internally. I traveled with my shoulders in front of my haunches but my thoracolumbar spine was crooked. I realized that the first time that he rode me. Immediately he started to work on the right lateral bending and inverted rotation of my thoracic vertebrae. Until he focused on my back muscles imbalance, I did not even realize that I had a back muscles imbalance. What I noticed is that when he was happy with the symmetry of my back muscles, the load on my left forelegs diminished.

My observation turned into frustration and even anger against my former rider when he published the amazing pictures of the microcracks and microfracture damaging our subchondral bone. In fact, watching the picture I remembered the pain that I felt many times on my left front legs at the landing of a large jump. Today, I have to deal with arthritis in the joint between my second phalange and coffin bone because yesterday, my former rider applied the correct aids, and expected my submission to the so called “correct aids”, instead of truly creating straightness of my thoracolumbar spine through proper development and coordination of my back muscles. Instead, he, did it and relatively fast and the pain vanished. I have arthritis and he teaches me how to deal with it and hopefully slowing down the evolution. My previous rider could have prevented the problem and even allowed better and sounder performances applying the riding and training technique that he used to rehabilitate me. I probably would still be in the show ring performing soundly.

I told to Caesar, the response is in the article that he is referring to. “The rise of idiot America today represents­ for profit mainly, but also and more cynically, for political advantage in the pursuit of power­­ the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good”.  (Charles Pierce) Politicians, with the complicity of some media, have to dumb down America in order to sell indecent laws as well as unnecessary wars. The equestrian world applies the same tactic in order to sell riding and training techniques unrelated to actual knowledge of equine biomechanics.

However, the rise of intelligent riders is counteracting the dumbing down of the equestrian art. Through the Science of Motion’s page, the article that you refer to about damages in our subchondral bones and consequent arthritis has been read by more than three hundred forty thousand readers. Only seven “keyboard riders” were angry to read that loading our forelegs was damaging. We have a very intelligent physique and we have the mental capacity to properly orchestrate our physique for the athletic demand of modern performances. Riders have now access to a knowledge allowing great refinement of our education. Knowledge and intelligence are counteracting the dumbing down of the equestrian art. Chazot

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