Chazot Thoughts 83


“Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.” (Deepak Chopra)

“Involve me and I learn” is the fundamental difference between the equitation making us prisoner of the past and riding and training techniques turning us into pioneer of the future. The full sentence belongs to Xun Kuand; “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” The thought goes far beyond the fact that we, horses, can only learn in action. We are, indeed, volitional learners. From forceful actions, pressing us of accepting the pain associated with the effort, to long insistence, convincing us of accepting the pain associated with the effort, the difference is just between brutality and patience. For us, it is submission; it is just convincing us to make a move in spite of the physical discomfort or pain. All we learn with these approaches is finding compromises satisfying your ego. We are dysfunctional, executing the moves protecting our muscle imbalance or other issue.

We don’t learn how to coordinate efficiently our physique for the athletic demand of the performance. We learn how the move is supposed to look and very often, the move challenge whatever muscle imbalance or morphological we have rendering the move more difficult in one direction. Then. We are accused of behavior. We kindly execute the move in one direction and resist in the other direction protecting our body, and we are accused of behavior. How dumb is that! He often thinks, “horses need biomechanics, the ones who need help are the behaviorists,” and I agree with him. Expressing our difficulties is our part of the dialogue. Your part, as a rider is analyzing our difficulty, using our resistance, or reaction, or even revolt, as a description of our problem. We can describe our difficulty and pain, but we cannot analyze it. You have the mental capacity of analysis and we believe in you when you analyze our reaction or resistance and provide insights guiding us toward a body coordination rendering the move pain free and even effortless.

This is the dialogue that each one of us expect, but this dialogue is very rare. It is more often a monologue where the rider imposes his view without much understanding of our difficulties and physical pain. Most of us accept slavery as a condition for survival. I did not. I reared and reared until I ejected the rider. There was a hard price to pay. I was confined in a double stall, no turn out, restricted food, punished for every move I made. I often wondered how Helyn and he figured that the rearing bronco was not me. Once, a quote came in his mind and this quote was the response; “I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by beliefs.” He does not know who wrote the quote but he likes it. I would be flatted thinking that he looks at me as a wonder, but the wonder he is referring to is our willing partnership and search for greater efficiency.

He does think that as equines, we bring the worse and the best out of humans. We bring the worse because we are capable, and willing, to compensate for bad riding and training techniques. We can win a ribbon even if our rider can’t ride. But, instead of being a platform for greater knowledge, our help is often a pedestal for the rider’s ego. We bring the best because even if we give to our rider the illusion of knowledge, we push the ones who became worthier of sharing this planet with us, toward greater understanding. “In a world whose absurdity appears to be so impenetrable, we simply must reach a greater degree of understanding among men, a greater sincerity.” (Albert Camus) We can teach you understanding and sincerity and you can teach us efficiency and soundness.

All is needed is upgrading traditional beliefs to actual knowledge. Yesterday, we worked at the canter and I was reluctant picking up the right lead canter. If he was a prisoner of the past, he would have addressed my reluctance as a behavior issue. At the best, he would have used what John Rosemond refers to as the clever manipulation of reward and punishment, (John Rosemond, living with children - 2005) At the worse, it would have been more punishment than reward. Instead, he is a pioneer of the future. He knows about the deep muscle damage in my caudal thoracic area on the right side, that occurred on the race track. He taught me how to compensate with surrounding muscles. However. Muscles are highly mutable tissues adapting constantly to work and, once in a while I feel some discomfort and protect it.

He just did what I expected him to do. I refused the first right lead canter as well as the second and the third. He analyzed the possible reasons for my refusal. He could feel my protective reflex contraction on the right side and suggested lateral bending. He did it on right shoulder in but did not expect that the move would fix the problem. He always says, “the movement itself does not have much effect; it is how the horse body needs to be organized to benefit for the gymnastic exercise.” Listening to my responses, he tried different angles and degree of bending. I should say “we” tried different angles and degrees of bending, as I was involved. I know that he does not live in the past. He is both classical and pioneer. I know that he is not going to submit me. As we explored together different degrees of bending, I intensified or eased my protective reflex contraction, feeling less or more comfortable. Analyzing my responses, he concluded that I needed more balance control and asked me to further, through the work of my back muscles, the conversion of the thrust generated by my hind legs into greater upward forces. He changed the tone of his back and abdominal muscles suggesting me to sustain the same activity of my hind legs, the same lightness on the bit, but slowing down the pace. As I flexed my thoracolumbar spine a little more, I felt greater comfort and eased my protective reflex contraction. He let me rest walking longer strides for a few minutes and we did it again.

Remember, I am a horse; I live in the moment, and I resorted to the same protective reflex contraction as we restarted to work. I resisted less when he suggested more bend and more balance, because the feeling of physical comfort was still present in my cerebellum and my brain was balanced between protecting and exploring. It took a little longer the second time and I was not totally sure about the balance. I contracted my neck on the right side. Old thinking would have think bending the neck, which would have totally destroyed the coordination that we were recreating. Glad he is not a prisoner of the past; the thought did not even crossed his mind. He concluded that I needed more flexion of my thoracic spine and further the suggestion for greater balance. I objected a little because I need to keep him sharp and modest. I objected, but I did not quit in my mind. He considered that even if my reactions were not the ones that he expected, the dialogue was on and he kept asking for more balance without increasing the intensity of his leg contact and body tone. I explored more balance and found the ease that I did not felt during the previous attempt. He then asked me for right lead canter and I responded. It is just when I was at the canter that I realized that I just did was I was decided to resist several minutes earlier.  As a matter of principle, I bounced a few feet above the ground shaking my head and coming back on the left lead through a flying change. He laughed thinking, “too late; you gave the right one, and quite well.”

The gymnastic continued at the canter. Protecting the same muscular soreness, I turned my croup toward the inside. I expected more resistance of his right calf but he focused on the root cause. He addressed the inverted rotation of my thoracic dorsal spines turning his pelvis, back, shoulders, slightly to the right and increasing the tone of the left side of his body including his upper thigh. I followed his adjustment and found myself straight on my canter. He furthered the gymnastic asking me for half pass right at the canter. He only asked for the half pass when I sustained a light bending of my thoracic spine while keeping my croup straight on the rail. Because I am trained to make it easy for me, looking for the appropriated body coordination, I opted for greater flexion of my thoracolumbar spine and greater support of my trunk between my forelegs. I know that half pass is easy when I coordinate my body this way and I think that it is exactly why he asked me for half pass. During the first half pass I did not engage and adduct well my left hind leg. He straightened my body going straight asking for more balance along the long side. As I increased the flexion of my thoracolumbar spine, he suggested half pass and I had no difficulty engaging and adducting my left hind leg. I was then capable of benefiting from the gymnastic exercise gaining greater balance.

This is what he refers to as exercise therapy. The exercise itself does not have much effect.

The education and the therapeutic benefits are related to your ability as a rider of coordinating efficiently our physique for the athletic demand of the performance. This is literally classical training updated to actual knowledge. Etienne Beudant wrote, “Create lightness, prepare the body for the movement, request, let the horse execute.” Updated to actual knowledge, the classical concept gains greater efficiency. You know today, or at the least you should know, that lightness cannot be created through half halt and other techniques shifting our weight backward. The concept of backward weight transfer is antiquated and false. Half pass is a great gymnastic but only if the transversal rotation associated with our lateral bending is proper. The abduction of our outside hind leg is beneficial only if the dorso-vental rotation of our pelvis is correct. The benefit at the level of the forelegs muscles is only effective if the load on the forelegs does not exceed the capacity of our forelegs’ structure. Balance is therefore created educating our back muscles in converting the forward thrust generated by the hind legs into upward forces

The equestrian literature does not permit understanding our complex mechanism. Force interactions can only be described through metaphors which can be understood through many different angles. Our locomotion as well as our performances are for a great part the result of elastic energy that we store and reuse in our tendons, aponeurosis, muscles and fascia. Your literature talks about impulsion. I like the French definition of impulsion. “The horse desire of carrying himself forward.” Now that I know how my back muscles can convert the trust generated by my hind legs into horizontal and vertical forces, I can “carry myself” efficiently. Know that he makes me feel the ease and effortlessness related to greater use of elastic energy, I can have the “desire of carrying myself forward.” Science converts beautiful but mysterious sentences into tangible reality. This was hinted through confused metaphors. It is today clearly explained. You just have to ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.