Chazot Thoughts 82

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” (Pablo Picasso)

At first, I did, as a horse, what many riders do; I broke the rules thinking that I was an artist. Then, I caught his thoughts. “I want to be with you for a long time. Let me teach you how your body works. Let me give you the technique allowing full expression of our talent. It is not about obedience. It is about giving you bases that you will refine. You will further the capacities of your systems and you will add your own style.  I am not going to teach you submission, as I do not believe in slavery. I am going to teach you what nature did not; how to deal efficiently with the rider’s weight; how to better coordinate the systems within the systems within the systems that compose and animate your physique. I am going to lead you to advanced mastery of your own body. You are constructed as a marvel but your brain is only designed to use this marvel for survival.  You survived bad training on the race track. These days are over. You are going to discover the superb sophistication of your physique. Then, because you are a gifted horse and because of your will, you will go beyond my teaching. You will further the efficiency of your physique; you will become an artist. You will break the rules furthering your athletic abilities instead of breaking your physique applying the rules. This is, what I refer to as classical training.  All else, paraphrasing Ernest Rutherford, is stamp collecting.” 

At first, I powered through the movements. I had the strength to do it, but he told me many times; “Thank you but no-thankyou; I don’t want a dysfunctional horse executing compulsories out of his talent but with a physique unprepared for the athletic demand of the move. I don’t want a horse with a monkey. In the Japanese legend, a horse with a monkey symbolizes energy led by intellect. The original carving of the horse with a monkey is in the collection of the Peabody Essex museum in Salem (Massachusetts). The symbol belongs to a museum as it fit old thinking. It does not belong to actual knowledge. Many trainers act effectively as monkeys repeating what they have been taught, without questioning what they have been taught in the light of new scientific knowledge. The mastery of energy is an intelligent endeavor demanding from your part, as a horse, an intelligence that traditional belief attributes to the monkey and from my part, as a human, a deep understanding of your physique allowing me to evolve from feeling to intuition. 

I have to teach you what you cannot discover by yourself, but you have to process far beyond the limits of your natural reflexes. Efficiency, ease and effortlessness demands coordination that only your brain can orchestrate. I can direct your thinking in the right direction, but the processing is your task and your skill.”

Caesar told me one day as I came back from a training session, “If I did not know better, I would have say, you looked relaxed. Of course, you were not “relaxed”; you were sophistically coordinated giving the impression of effortlessness. I can’t tell you how many times I mentally quoted Marc Twain when my rider was telling me to relax. ‘Better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.’ (Mark Twain) I had to propel my 1400 pounds body and his own 200 pounds over a 5,6 feet oxer and he was telling me to relax. I often wondered if riders really believe that we perform relaxed, or if mine was particularly thick” 

The mastery of ease was indeed a major breakthrough in my education. When I physically experienced that I could ease the work of my muscles optimizing the recoil of elastic energy, I realized that all the human literature about “relaxation,” was a metaphor having nothing to do with relaxation. Instead of slackness and lack of muscle tone, it is all about precise coordination of nuances in muscle tone. Even as a metaphor, the concept of relaxation induces the wrong idea. The usual eccentric and concentric contraction, force absorption and force production can be done through storage and reuse of elastic energy in tendons and muscles. Efficiency, ease and effortlessness rest on a lot more science than relaxation. Muscles are composed of muscle fibers and tendinous materials. They are indeed a muscle tendon system even in the absence of tendons. Their elastic properties result for a great part from filaments functioning as serially linked spring developing tension when stretched. These filaments are named “Titine”. There are multiple titin isoforms that vary in size and stiffness. Which explains the elastic-stiffness diversity across vertebrate muscles.

When you look at a structure through the lens of a microscope, the inaccuracy of your visual impressions and feeling is magnified. Albert Einstein refers to intuition as a sacred gift. Intuition includes feeling but is a generation above feeling as it implies intelligent understanding of our biological mechanism. Cognitive scientists treat intuition as quick first assessments of a given situation, as provisional hypotheses in need of further checking. As we work, his first assessment is based on his advanced understanding of our biological mechanism. Intuition is faster than rational thinking and we have a very kind but very fast conversation as forces are acting through my body constantly. The ones who “feel” without deep understanding of our biological mechanism, interpret their perception is respect of their beliefs. They submit us to their belief and when their belief is not supported by advanced understanding of equine biomechanics, their belief is utopic leading us to dysfunction and lameness. Intuition is faster than rational thinking and is therefore the essence of our conversation in the ring. However, provisional hypothesis often needs further analysis. This is why we don’t need a human acting like a monkey. We need that the brain analyzing the feeling does have an advance understanding of our biokinematics as well as dynamics. Intuition come for the Latin “intuir,” which appropriately means ‘knowledge from within.’ We don’t have much knowledge from within without feeding our mind with knowledge. Arthur Conan Doyle wrote, “Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself. “ Benjamin Franklin commented, “Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.” Benjamin Franklin also wrote, “We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.” The knowledge that you need is not in the classical literature. The knowledge that you need is in the wisdom of your predecessors updated to actual scientific knowledge.

As he lunged me, early in our partnership, he had some knowledge in mind that he tried to communicate.  He regulated my hind legs activity, encouraged supple use of my back changing the size of the circles and walking next to me on many straight lines. At one moment, I surprise myself bouncing effortlessly from one diagonal to the other. He let me enjoy a few strides and ended the training session patting me and thinking,  ”That, my dear Chazot, is what is known as the ‘stretch-shorten contraction’ The energy stored in your tendons, aponeurosis and muscles during the eccentric contraction, is almost sufficient to replace the following concentric contraction.” As he ended the training session on this note, I understood that he was happy with my discovery. The reward reinforced what I already knew; I bounced several strides effortlessly. I sustained the same suspension, amplitude and cadence producing less muscular work. I was interested by the discovery thinking that with his help, I could move and perform effortlessly.

This deeply furthered the intimacy and tone of conversation. I know that his aim is my physical comfort. Cesar warned me against the discomfort and even pain of some dressage movements. I don’t worry as our dialogue is about developing and coordinating my physique for the athletic demand of the move. Not only I don’t worry but I participate to my work. Making me discover the “stretch-shorten contraction,” he interested my mind on the thought that I could do everything refining the use of elastic energy instead of more muscle work. I would not have discovered the “stretch-shorten contraction” if he did not have the knowledge of the phenomenon. As we walked toward the barn, he was thinking, “I am so glad that you find it. I could only create favorable conditions. I know scientifically that the contractile cells of your muscles and your tendinous materials had to be tune to the stride frequency, but only you could have process the insights and find the coordination.” I was thinking, I do enjoy the feeling but I would never have found the coordination if he did not have the knowledge of the dynamic phenomenon and provided me the insights guiding my brain.

This is how we work. This is what he refers to as classical dressage, an art aiming at sublimating the orchestration of our complex nature.