(Excerpts from a book Jean Luc is writing.)

Jean Luc Cornille

Chazot and Jean Luc


Quolibet Z

QuolibetZ and Jean Luc Cornille at World Eventing Championship in Punchestown.

In 1971, Rantzeau become ranked 5th best sire of Eventers. Thanks to Quolibet Z and Unic F. (Horse Magazine.com)


“When we want to believe a proposition, we ask, ’Can I believe it?’ and we look only for evidence that the proposition might be true. If we find a single piece of evidence then we are done. We stop. We have a reason we can trot out to support our belief. But if we don’t want to believe a proposition, we ask. ’Must I believe it?’ and we look for an escape hatch, a single reason why maybe, just maybe, the proposition is false.”(Tom Gilovitch)

As well, a horse trots around the training ring with the neck high or low or overly flexed because the rider or the trainer or both have found in classical or modern literature a single piece of evidence that supports their belief. Contemporary with classic equestrian authors, the Marquis of Condorcet (1745-1794) believed that the study of anatomy was already completed. Modern science exposes the naivety of Condorcet’s idea and scientific research appears to be the safe reference. After all, Linus Paulin describes fundamental principles of scientific research, analysis of cause to effect, factual documentation of test hypothesis, as “the search for truth.” (Linus Pauling, 1954 Nobel Price in Chemistry)

Yet, scientific researches are conceived and executed by human been and therefore, investigations and findings are influenced by human nature. For instance, in their etiology of navicular syndrome, Roy Pool, Dennis Maegher and Susan Stover wrote, “Various theories proposing different specific causes for navicular syndrome generally reflect the particular bias or investigative technique of the proponent.” (Roy R. Pool, DVM PhD, Dennis M. Maegher, DVM PhD, Susan M. Stover, DVM, PhD, Pathophysiology of Navicular Syndrome. Veterinary Clinics of North America. Equine Practice – Vol5, No 1, April 1989)

Both, scientific discoveries and never the less, the practical application of scientific findings, are subjected to our intuitive judgment. If we want to believe that scientific conclusions are accrediting the pyramid of training, we will find a single piece of evidence or two that will satisfy our tuition. Even mental and physical abuses such as hyper-flexion of the upper neck can be supported with scientific data. As well, if we rather believe that the true is in the classic approach, we will find evidences supporting our faith. Then, and instead of beneficiating from the progresses of science, the horse will be submitted to our school of thought.

Quolibet Z directed the practical application of equine research studies into a more horse friendly direction. It was the birth of the Science of Motion. After graduating from the Cadre Noir of Saumur, I was affected to a Military Scholl which was combining military and civilian equestrian education. It was a program designed by the French government and aiming at interesting more young riders to the equestrian sports. Quolibet Z was a school horse on the list of being put to sleep for health issues. Military regulations are discharging unhealthy horses or horses unable to assume any useful function. Two discharges are scheduled per year and Quolibet was on the list for the next discharge. He was basically on a death row. He was diagnosed with emphysema, chronic diarrhea and periodic problems with is lymphatic system. Both hind legs were then swelling abundantly.

Quolibet caught my attention because during the lessons, he was giving hard time to his riders, taking off quite fast around the ring and fighting reprimands. He was skinny, he was sick, he was on a death row, and he had the energy and the gust to stand for his spirit and convictions. I admired him as much as the students hated him.

 I decided to ease the last five months of his life placing him under my umbrella. As a teacher and competitive rider I was allowed to have six competition horses that I was riding and training every day. As director of the school I created a regulation for a seventh horse that will be officially used to give lessons. You have to understand that equestrian military tradition demands that the teacher is riding a horse during the lessons. Quolibet graduated as my teaching horse. One week or two in this new relationship, I entertained the thought that a great part of Quolibet’s problems were the total incompatibility between his high spirit and strong will and his life as a school horse. He was extremely anxious living in a permanent stage of frustration and anger. He could not even go for a walk outside. He was too nervous to walk and was sustaining constantly a short and frantic trot.   

Part of Quolibet’s dilemma was that he did not have the physical strength to sustain the amount of physical exercise that his energy level demanded. France is a small country with a large population. Horses do not have turn out for the very simple reason that unless an equestrian center is situate far away from a city, there is never enough land to permit any grazing and turn out. One evening, a group lesson was having a problem. They were away in the country side and one of the horses was lame. The group was composed of relatively inexperienced rider and they were afraid by the thought that they will be riding back home in the dark. I was schooling Quolibet in the outside ring and decided to go meet the group and let them go home with their instructor. I would then stay with the lame horse. On my way to the meeting, Quolibet was at the trot and nervous. As the day light was fading out, Quolibet becomes progressively calm. We came back in the dark and Quolibet was perfectly calm walking slowly next to the lame horse.

For whatever reason, Quolibet was peaceful in the dark. I did not understand why day light and darkness were having such an effect on him, but from this day, I started riding very early the morning leaving the equestrian center in the dark and coming back with the sunshine. As long as he started his outside work in the dark, Quolibet was able to stay calm as the sun was rising. Quolibet taught me an important lesson. Instead of judging a horse’s behavior and fitting him to stereotypes, being true to a horse demands to explore beyond conventional thinking.

Conventional views were expressed by everyone aware of the situation. They were all telling me that instead of working the horse in the dark, I should accustom the horse to work in the day light. That was exactly what I was doing but instead of submitting the horse to a system, I was adapting the system to the horse’s problem. I never understood why darkness was having an analgesic effect on the horse. I just sized the opportunity and, for the good of the horse, turned my back to conventional thinking.

The system had failed the horse. Quolibet’s descended from a good blood line. His father was a young stallion named Rantzeau, in which the national farm had great expectations. His morphology was not bad at all. He was small, 16 hand, but compact. He was angular but a great part of his lack of harmony was due to his muscular deficiency. His spirit was probably the reason why a horse of this caliber ended as a school horse. Quolibet was probably submitted to a system and revolted against it. Instead of adapting the approach to the horse’s talent, the equestrian education criticized the horse and condemned him to misery.

Quolibet was difficult to feed. He was eating one small handful of grain per meal. He was offered more but did not touch it. He was also picking some hay but not really eating it. I multiplied the meals. Instead of three meals per day, I feed him up to eight times a day. My hope was that eight times a handful of grain would provide him enough nutrients. However it was not that easy. As the number of meals multiplied, Quolibet was eating less each meal. I crimped the grains further mixing it with shredded carrots and other veggies. I was also concerned by the lack of long fibers. Quolibet was not eating much hay. This was in the late nineteen sixties. It was not at this time any pallets or efficient supplements. The meals where basically composed of crimped oat and barley.

My thought was that giving him access to grass would improve his diet. The problem was that the equestrian center was part of a military school. It was patches of grass all around but also heavy vehicles and military activities that kept Quolibet’s mind and mouth away from grazing.

One morning I rode him with the race horses curious to see if he would graze the grass in the middle of the race track. The track has been built three miles away from the school and the center of the track was a large grassy area. Quolibet was not at all exited by the thoroughbred speeding around the track. He was in fact grazing quietly. From this day and at the least three times a week, Quolibet was dressed in bikini saddle walking with the race horses to the race track. The difference is that he was grazing while the other horses were running. Quolibet was now much calmer and one of my students was riding him to the race track and grazing him during the early morning work. Quolibet was tacked up with a steeple chase saddle because otherwise, I would have to explain why a dressage or jumper horse was going early morning with the race horses to the race track.

Horse peoples are very critical and always ready to pick up a detail to compare with their view and convince them that their views are better. My approach with Quolibet was unconventional and it was easier to dress the horse rather than explain my views. The system had failed the horse. However, even when the system totally fails a horse, opinions will still protect the system at the horse’s expenses. Recently, Jonathan Haidt explained the phenomenon. “We engage in moral thinking not to find the truth, but to find arguments that support our intuitive judgments, so we can defend ourselves if challenged.” (Jonathan Haidt, Ted Talk, 2008)

Three months into the journey, Quolibet was eating and exercising. He was gaining weight and serenity. He was still very combative and highly spirited but his will translated into courage and great concentration. His health was improving dramatically. The diarrhea issue ended and with it, the lymphatic problems. The most amazing was that his emphysema appeared to be cured. Retrospectively I think that all was related to his extremely poor condition, both mental and physical. I do not believe that he ever had emphysema but showed symptoms probably related to respiratory infection or allergies that have been misdiagnosed.

One month before his discharged I started the papers work canceling his discharge. The difficulty was that the veterinarian in charge of signing the papers was the practitioner that had diagnosed the horse on the first place. I managed to be on the horse practicing jumping exercises when the vet arrived. He commented about Quolibet’s skill and then asked to see the horse he was supposed to examine. I dismounted Quolibet and told him, here he is. I hear the word screwed. I was afraid that the vet might think that I was trying to screw him. At the contrary, the vet had a smile reading his previous report and telling for himself, I really screwed my diagnosis on this one.

Quolibet Z was officially released from the death row. It was the beginning of a successful three day event career. Quolibet’s performance at the 1971 World Eventing Championship in Punchestown, ranked his Sire Rantzeau as the 5th best sire of eventers.      Jean Luc Cornille Copyright©2010

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