I Think Therefore I Am

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Author Jean Luc Cornille

Edited by Susan Hopf

Hi; I am Chazot. It just happens that I am taller, more athletic, spirited and intelligent than the average. I am also modest. For reasons that I can’t explain, I am able to understand humans. It is not that the first humans I met were rational. Instead, they were hellish, with the exception of one. Her name was Rosie. She was the owner of the barn. At the worst times of my life, she gave me a gesture, regard and perhaps even thoughts that helped me. Like every other horse, I have faculties of perception far more sophisticated than the average human wants to believe. In the racetrack job, where I was trapped during the first years of my life, she was the only one who sensed my desperation. She was not financially interested. I did not belong to her. She was just the one who gave me this look and touched me gently with her hand when I needed it the most. All the others were afraid of me and as we, within the equine species all know, humans hide their fear behind discipline and brutality.

I will come back to this racetrack experience on many different occasions because I am still traumatized. However, this is not the subject of this discussion. In one aspect, my life has turned from the worst to the greatest. Her name is Helyn and she came to see me one day at my racetrack barn. We looked at each other and we knew. The man who came with her was different. His name is something like johnluck. You have to understand that I am an American thoroughbred and I think in English. From what I hear he is something like a French warmblood or maybe just a warm French. He verbalizes with an accent but his body language and his energy are very clear. At first he was hard to read. He was turning around me, touching my legs and my back. His vibrations were telling me that he appreciated my athleticism and spirit, but his facial expression was more like he did not like me. I heard later that this is what humans are doing when they have not discussed the price.

To make it simple I refer to him as he. One small problem we have is that in the morning when he comes to feed us, I gratify him with a kind hi he! and he believes that I whinny. In the end, it does not matter what he hears. He responds each time and we spend a few warm minutes.

He is the one who writes my thoughts on the computer. As everybody knows, except perhaps the dressage judges, a horse only does have one finger per limb. The number of fingers is not really the issue since he types on the keyboard with only one finger at a time anyway. The problem is the size; my fingers are too large for the computer. Like most editors, he sometimes adds his own thoughts. However, overall, he is quite close and I support his translation

Today’s issue is that I have strained the lateral branch of my suspensory ligament. A guy came to watch TV in the barn. He arrived in a van. The letters on the side of the van were about ultrasound, scanner and so on. The guy sat next to my left rear leg holding what looked like a remote control in his hand. He was rubbing his remote control against my lower leg watching the screen of his computer. I cannot see which movie he was watching but once in a while he was dropping words such as scar tissue and inflammation. I wondered why they were paying a guy to watch television in the barn. The guy told them that the fibers of my suspensory ligament were not disturbed and that it was inflammation. Care needs to be taken but this will not alter my career.

Now they are doing a lot of weird things around my rear legs. They are mostly busy with the left hind but they are also taking care of my right hind. Even Helyn, who is always on my side, is taking part in the treatment. They alternate ice and warm wraps. They are packing thick layers of clay, brown wrapping paper plus cotton and leg wraps. Within the horse species we have to learn about these humans’ strange habits. They like to dress us with all type of sheets, colorful blankets, wraps and other toys. Between equines, the general consensus is that whatever toys humans like to play with, they are taking care of us and we appreciate the attention.

The expression  limited exercise does not set well in my mind. I need exercise. I am a type A personality. This is better than the TV guy who was advising stall rest but I become worried about my next morning turn out. I do not sleep well. Manchester who is my barnmate is concerned about me. The next morning he arrives, feeds us and disappears for about 30 minutes, the time to have his own breakfast. He comes back as usual and I start to relax some, but not for long. The procedure started as normal but now he spends some time around my left hind limb. I can feel a wrap instead of the usual boot. Also, instead of the halter, he places the bridle around my head. He rests his right hand on my shoulders and invites me to go for a work in hand session. What do you mean work in hand? This is my turn out time! This is my morning canter, my adrenaline rush through the ring. This is MY time. However, I comply because I am a nice guy and also he never does anything to hurt me. He annoys me once in a while but I never feel threatened by him. I try to concentrate but THIS IS MY TURN OUT TIME.

I have to explain to you the game of the work in hand. He rests his hand on my shoulder and walks by my side straightening his own vertebral column. We horses are capable of feeling such slight changes in muscle tone and therefore I follow him slowing down my movement. The first time he did it I was thinking that he was not feeling well. He had his hand on my shoulder like he needed support and he was slowing his pace. I was worried about him and I slowed down my walk. I guess that makes him happy. Each time I respond like that he pats me for a long time and then we go home.

In the next days I realize the extent of this training technique. He does not give me any support with his hand. He lets me touch the bit but does not let me put any weight on it. He does not seem to understand that in order to slow down the pace without any support from his hand I have to subtlety coordinate a complex set of muscles, which are situated above my vertebral column. Intuitively, I am using these muscle groups to resist attraction of gravity. However, In order to follow him when he is straightening his own vertebral column, I have to very specifically coordinate the muscular system of my vertebral column. In one hand, I am glad that he makes me think about such coordination. This type of muscular orchestration does not come with our genetic heritage. However, this is a very efficient way to control balance and forward transmission through the vertebral column of the thrust generated by my hind legs. If he had not stimulated my brain to think about such coordination, I doubt I would ever have found it by myself. At first, I was thinking that he had no idea of the difficulty. Soon, I realized that he knew exactly what he was expecting from me. I told you, sometimes he really annoys me.

When I was yearling, I was like a two year old human being; I liked to play with my body. Now that I am four or five, I still like to challenge my physique. Some people, who seem to have a sort of speech impairment as they are referring to themselves as a whisperer, believe that everything horses are doing is related to pecking order and other intuitive behavior. The control of my back muscles that he taught me to process is an interesting and active mental game. Of course I do make mistakes since trial and error is basically the way my brain processes stimuli. He lets me make errors providing insights, which often guide me toward a solution that pleases him. I know when I find the right solution because he praises me. Soon I realize in my brain and body that the coordination he helped me to process renders the performances he is asking me to complete surprisingly easy.

Under normal circumstances I like the mental challenge, but today he wants to work during my turn out time. He kept me in the stall all day yesterday. I have so much energy that I can’t concentrate. I know, he does not ask too much. He raked the ring last night and he seems happy to have me walking in a controlled fashion on good footing. Now he is walking me back to the barn and replaces the bridle with a halter. Perhaps he finally remembered that this is my turn out time. I expect that he will open the gate and let me run with all my soul but he does not. Now he is really annoying me. I can’t believe it. He is attaching the longe line to the halter and is expecting that I will walk and graze peacefully. He does not understand than if I cannot burn my steam running forward and horizontally, I am going to climb the trees.

Oops, I just climbed the tree and I keep going on one or two legs. I know I should not but I can’t control it. I feel that I am loosing my mind. I have been punished so many times on the racetrack that when I start to behave like this I do not discern memories from reality. I rear and I expect to be punished. I rear stronger and higher and more angrily by anticipation of more punishment. I know that when I am loosing my mind like this that I could hurt him. I am not looking to hurt him but I am now so angry and so much on the defensive that I am ready to interpret any move he is going to make as an aggression. I stop and he is approaching me. If he thinks that he is going to touch my left hind leg, I am going to kick so fast that he is going to fly through the ring faster than he can think.

Instead, he places is hand behind my withers and starts to scratch my back gently. Boy, it feels so good. The advantage of thinking in the moment is that I do not even remember what I was thinking a few moments ago. His fingers are exactly on the right spot. I only realize just how tense I was because now I am relaxing –a lot. Please ask the media to respect my privacy and refrain from taking pictures. I am not sure I am going to keep my alert neck posture. I don’t know what I am doing with my neck and head. I am just enjoying the moment. 

Now I am ready to graze. I don’t know why he is keeping me in the training ring. I walk resolutely forward toward the grass and he is following me. The grass in Florida is not French cooking but it rained yesterday and with some imagination I can find it tasty. The first time my friend Manchester, who comes from Canada, tasted the Florida grass, he lifted his head in surprise and told me, to be that bad, the meal must be coming with a few toys.


Jean Luc Cornille Copyright©2011