The Meaning Of Life part 2
The Meaning of Life
Jean Luc Cornille
“There is no glory in a victory gained at the expense of the horse’s soundness”
Jean Luc Cornille and Pavi
Another time, it was a jumping competition named “La Puissance”. It is usually a single jump, most of the time a wall, that is raised higher and higher until no once can clear it. The bricks wall was at 6feet 3. I saw at four strides that we were aiming for the perfect take off spot and I went for it. My horse responded energetically. The balance was perfect, we were having a great momentum but, without any warning, my horse slammed the brakes at the last second. His nose knocked down the upper element of the wall which fell on the other side. Concerned by complains of his jumps crew team, the course designer had ordered a lighter construction where each element of the bricks wall was made like a frame with no bottom part. It was basically like an empty box. I was not expecting this brutal halt and I flew through the horse neck and fell. The course designer went on the other side of the wall to see if I was OK, I was not there. I fell inside the wall. The course designer knocked the wall with his folded fingers asking, “Are you OK?” I told him yes but I am upside down and I can’t move. The wall was like a drum amplifying the noises. I can hear first a discreet laugh which rapidly turned into a hysterical laugh. I can hear him laughing so hard that he could barely articulate his words telling me, “Don’t move; we are going to liberate you.”
They removed the upper element of the brick wall and my feet appeared. Now the noise turned into a thunder. The spectators realized the situation and they were laughing out of their lungs. Each element that the crew team removed exposed another part of my legs and body and with each element, the noise level increased. The spectators were in complete hysteria crying and laughing so hard. They finally liberated me and I had a standing ovation. Some were whipping their eyes, others were laughing out of their lungs holding their thumb up. It was not my best performance but I never had so much success.
They bring my horse back. I gave him a big kiss, looked if he was OK and walked out of the ring. My friend and competitor was already in the ring waiting for the bell to start. As I walked by, I can see tears in his eyes. Between two laughs he told me, “Your style will always amaze me.” Then he concentrated, adjusted the reins, picked up the canter, cleared the jump and won the class. Later, we went together for a drink celebrating our respective performances. I had to sign at least twenty autographs before I can reach the bar. One man was still laughing mimicking with his hands the movement of my feet when they removed the upper element of the wall. I told him, you know, it is my friend who won, not me. He responded, ”I don’t care who won. I’m here to have fun and boy, you were really good”.
My friend commented, “Good lesson; we win and we believe that we are great and truly, nobody care. We are pushing our horses, sometime too far, because we want to win, because we believe that this proves our value. We believe that these applauds are true, that peoples truly respect us and look; today you make a very funny clown act and you never had to sign so many autographs. A few months ago you told me, I don’t give a darn if I win. I care if my horse wins. I did not get it at first and then, a few weeks later you were riding your grey horse Padirac. Your jumping course was like a dressage free style; every take off was perfect, it was effortless, the rhythm, the adjustments, the quality of the canter, the form of the turns, the roundness over the jumps. It was beautiful and totally effortless. I like Padirac, but he is not very powerful and seeing him flying at ease over each jump makes me realize, that is what he is talking about when he says I want that my horse win. I had a funny thought thinking, he does not realize that he is in a jumping ring; he is doing dressage over the jumps. You cleared the course but you did not win the class. The rider who won the class was next to me when you passed the finish line. He was very excited telling me, ‘I beat him by one second’. I replied, you beat him but he won. The guy looked at me with a curious look.”
Everyone regarded the height of the jump as a logical reason for my horse refusal. It was not. This horse was fearless and incredibly powerful. He had cleared higher jumps even when the approach was not as perfect. He came back to the stable sound and apparently unhurt, but I called the vet for X-rays. The thought crossed my mind that a sharp pain might have triggered the reaction. The pictures came back with the answer. A small pocket of gas was discernable under the edge of the coffin bone. These findings are consistent with the development of an abscess. It was possible that a given angle of the hoof at impact combined with the intensity of the impact forces has created intense pain. The brain received the message and decided that the performance was not feasible. Just imagine that if the same situation had lead a less powerful horse to refuse a small jump such as a four feet oxer, the horse would have immediately been accused of bad behavior.
Let’s come back in slow motion in the approach of the six feet wall and you will understand. At four and three strides of the jump, the distance is perfect, the balance is OK, the momentum is there and the horse cerebral cortex sent the message “Go” through the brain and the spinal cord. Inside the brain elements such as the olivary nuclei and cerebellum monitor the body state. At three strides, the momentum increases, the body is gaining power and the cortical decision is confirmed through the brain. The left front hoof impacts during the stride preceding the take off stride and a sharp pain irradiates from the hoof informing the brain that the physical performance is not possible. The cortical decision, “Go”, modified within the brain by the body situation, sharp pain, became, “No Go”.
The situation might be created whatever the height of the jump. The problem might not be an abscess; it can be back pain, muscular soreness, spine torsion, joint fatigue, etc., etc. The process is the reason why a horse anticipates or resists a dressage movement. The cortical decision is modified through the brain and adjusted to the body situation. The outcome is an interpretation of the cortical decision modified to protect the body situation. During a private conversation, James Rooney explained how the cue for right lead canter can be modified by the elements of the brain monitoring the state of the body, into left lead canter. As he talked, the entire approach of the six feet wall played in slow motion in my mind. I smiled thinking about myself disappearing inside the wall and James Rooney smiled back thinking that I was polite. “You act with your leg for right lead canter departure. Your message, the touch of your leg, is conveyed to the memory by sensory pathways. The memory compares the message, the touch of your leg, with previously stored stimulus and recognizes the message as the cue for right lead canter. The cerebral cortex decides then, right lead canter. The cortical decision travels through the brain toward the spinal cord where it is modified eventually by the body situation. In our example, sensory pathways have informed the brain from a nagging pain in the right deep digital flexor tendon. The cortical decision and therefore the horse response to the rider cue, modified by the body situation, pain in the right digital flexor tendon, might be left lead canter where the stress on the right front limb is less intense since during left lead caner the right front limb shares the load with the left hind leg. The horse picks up the left lead trying to please the rider while protecting pain in his right leg.” According to primitive theories, correct aids equal correct movements,” as well as leadership and behavior theories, the horse is see as resisting or unwilling and he is punished for disobedience, stubbornness, laziness, dumbness, etc.
The cortical decision is modified by the body state. In simple terms, the horse response to the rider’s aids is always initially a compromise between responding to the aids while protecting whatever muscle imbalance, or weaknesses or other issue that is the body situation at the instant that the aids are applied. The theory that the application of the correct aids will create a correct movement is very naïve. The creation of a correct movement is a conversation where the horse reactions inform the rider brain of the horse body situation at this instant. From this information, the rider can figure which nuance or insight is likely to guide the horse brain toward the proper coordination or the horse’s physique. The leadership that the horse needs is not a leader interpreting the horse’s reaction as a challenge to his or her ego. The leadership that the horse needs is the one described by John Rosemond. “A good leader is a man who has a sound vision of the future.” The future is the completion of the body coordination allowing the horse to perform at its utmost potential and remain sound. The vision is the sound understanding of the athletic demand that the performance imposes on the horse’s physique. The conversation is about guiding the horse’s brain toward this efficient coordination. Knowing how the movement looks like is widely insufficient. With this limited knowledge the rider can only interpret the horse’s errors as a challenge to his or her authority. The whole conversation is about listening to the horse response as its part of the dialogue and providing insights willing to direct the horse brain toward the proper coordination.
Henri Kissinger describes a leader as, “An individual who created alchemy of vision that moved people from where they were to places that they have never been before.” Natural reflexes are ill adapted for the task of carrying a rider and never the less, performing while carrying a rider. The horse needs to conceive a coordination of his physique that he has never experienced before. The research includes errors and frustrations and above all the supportive and analytic capacities of the rider.
Jean Luc Cornille