Chazot Thoughts 29
“Correct aids equal correct movement; BS is” (Yoda)
Jean Luc Cornille
Seriously; people really believe that if they properly apply the correct aids, we will execute a perfect performance? He looked at me in oblique, smiling like Yoda and responded, “BS is and BS they believe.” Sometime, members of the Science of Motion’s online course refer to him as Yoda. The nick name is in reference to his advanced research on forces acting on the horse physique. He is amused by the reference and plays with it occasionally. He does have longer hairs, at least on the front, he cannot move his ears as Yoda does, but he picked up the oblique look and the British smile quite well.
We horses, have a greater capacity of anticipation than most scientific studies want to believe, but we react intuitively in the present time. We interpret any stimulus or combination of stimuli such as the so-called “correct aids,” protecting our current body state. If for instance, we have some muscle soreness on the left side, we will execute circle left, straight line, or circle right protecting our muscular tenderness. The rider might places and act with the legs and hands and seat as described in the book, but our reaction will not be the one promised in the text. The concept that proper aids should stimulate correct movement demeans the equestrian art at the level of formulas that we are supposed to know by birth. This concept creates a dialogue of deaf. The rider applies the aids expecting a response and we react to the aids protecting whatever muscle balance, or soreness, or other issue that is part of our actual body situation. In one of his studies, he wrote, “the equestrian art, is about two intelligences working together at their respective level. The horse brain, which processes the most efficient possible response, and the rider’s brain which analyzes our difficulties in search of the root cause.” This is effectively how human and equine partnership can be efficient. Our mental processing is always influenced by two contradictory priorities. One is protecting whatever morphological flaw, muscle imbalance, neuro-muscular problem, or other issue affecting our body at the instant where the “correct aids” are applied. The other priority is that down to microscopic level, we are designed for efficiency, minimum effort, and maximum movement. For instance, we have small muscles and long tendons moving our legs. This is because the metabolic cost of locomotion is lesser using the elastic strain energy stored in long tendons than shortening a muscle. We are fundamentally designed for efficiency and if the rider is capable of understanding our initial protective reflex reaction instead of interpreting as behavior, and if the rider is capable of guiding our brain toward a most efficient body coordination, our mental processing works in favor of such achievement.
“Correct aids equal correct movements” is infantile psychology and archaic equitation. If instead of analyzing our difficulty in search of the root cause, the rider believes that the studious application of correct aids should stimulate a specific response and the rider judges our reactions in respect of his theory. The rider is then totally missing our physical reality. Such rider is incapable of thinking in terms of muscles, tendons, ligaments, nervous impulses and other components of our athletic performance. We will be judged as lazy, disobedient, unwilling, or other stereotypes and will be unable to go beyond our initial protective reflex mechanism. Manchester spent eight years of his life responding to the “correct aids” protecting his weak left stifle. The dialogue of deaf furthered Manchester’s lameness creating severe damages of the cruciate ligaments. “He” instead, analyzed Manchester’s locomotion, identified the vertebral column abnormality inducing abnormal stresses on the left stifle and corrected it. One may argue that “he” completed the reeducation applying correct aids and I will respond to one, please do not demean the real classic equitation to the level of stereotypes. “He” started the reeducation respecting where Manchester’s mind was. “He” did not applied “correct aids” he sustained an intelligent and respectful conversation. Your “aids” are just words. They are part of the language but they are not the languages. “He” did not submitted Manchester to words; ”he” conversed using phrases, questions, rephrasing the questions in respect of Manchester’s response.
“Correct aids” are only teaching techniques leading the rider to gradually take conscience of how different parts of his or her body influence the horse’s physique. “Correct aids” are not by any mean the purpose of equestrian education; they are only teaching procedures aiming at a more efficient goal, which is the mastery of the whole body. The gesture that is described by the so-called “correct aids” is only a metaphor explaining direction, intensity, frequency of a muscular work, which means increase or decrease in muscle tone. The real dialogue is not about gestures but instead, about nuances in muscle tone. Our sensitivity is comfortable with this level of subtlety. This body language can lead our brain toward the orchestration of our physique optimally appropriated for the athletic demand of the performance.
By contrast, the “gestures” described by the “correct aids” are disturbing, stimulating protective reflex contractions. It is understandable that training techniques unaware of how our physique effectively functions, resumed their teaching to the studious application of correct aids. It is less understandable that such training psychology as well as technique can still be promoted in modern days when understanding of our physiology and neuro-physiology clearly suggest a more sophisticated “conversation.”
The mastery in every sport is not about the studious application of the words but rather the integration of the thoughts behind the words to one’s sensitivity and skill. At the exception may be of a beginner, any golfer will state that golf is about everything but hitting the ball. Tiger wood said, “It is all about balance.” Applied to a golfer, corrects aids is about placing the hands properly on the club, separate the feet just the right amount, look where the ball is supposed to go and hit the ball. A golfer will read these lines laughing and thinking, “ And then, you will spent the rest of your life forgetting about the right angle of your small finger and starting to understand forces, coordination, concentration, nuances in muscle tone. Instead, if you focus on better placement of your hands and feet and head, (correct aids), you will never understand and enjoy the game.”
Albert Einstein summarized the evolution from directives to art, which is the evolution from learning how our body parts influence the horse’s physique, to a body language orchestrating the horse’s physqiue. “After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in esthetics, plasticity, and form. The greatest scientists are always artists as well.” In the same line of thought Morihel Ueshiba, who is the founder of Aikido, said, “Ultimately, you must forget about technique. The further you progress, the fewer teaching there are. The great path is really no path.” However, it would be disastrous applying such principles before advanced mastery of the technique as well as the knowledge. The so-called Masters who feel but don’t know, are dangerously damaging. Leonardo da Vincy strongly advocates the need for knowledge. “Lacking an appreciation born of a detailed analysis of bone structure and muscular relationships, the would-be artist was liable to draw “wooden and graceless nudes that seem rather as if you were looking at a stack of nuts than a human form, or a bundle of radishes rather than the muscles.” (Leonardo da Vinci, 1452-1519) The need for very deep knowledge is the only chance of efficient education, both for humans and for equine. The quality of an instruction demands that the teacher masters the knowledge of equine and human anatomy well enough to be able to adapt. “So, we may each have a shoulder suspension apparatus structurally, but the specific components of mine and the way I use it may be completely different from you. Thus, rehabilitation will be successful if these principles can be used while considering that each individual is unique.” (Michelle Osblom, PhD)
The point that higher level artists, scientists and athletes try to express is that while great technique is the foundation of the art. It is not the art. The studious application of correct aids, is not the equestrian art; it is a period of the rider’s education leading to a more sophisticate goal, which is advanced body control. Only at this level the art of riding is truly an art. Only when the rider no longer applies aids but instead dialogues with us through subtle nuances in muscle tone, the real partnership commences. This is the way he talks to us and we are comfortable talking with him. I remember Manchester coming back from his first retraining session telling me, “I braced against the incoming gestures, the so-called “correct aids”, and they never came. He does not use aids and I realized that we were having a conversation.” Cesar entered the discussion saying, “I am 18 years old and I realize that I never had a conversation with my different riders. They were all doing gestures and I tried to figure what they expected. It was always about do this or do that, but until I came here, no one ever focused on how my physique needed to be coordinated in order to do this or do that. I remember my first left lateral bending. I always had a problem about left lateral bending. I always traveled with a slight lateral bending of my thoracic vertebrae to the right. I can feel that my thoracic spines were shifting to the left when I was bending right. Sometime I wondered why I did not have the same feeling bending left. I even though once or twice that it could be a relation between the orientation of my dorsal spines and my difficulties with left lateral bending. I never furthered the thought because not one of my previous riders ever considered the issue. They were talking about fitting the saddle but that was it. I remember that he asked me left lateral bending, I responded with mu usual discomfort and therefore reticence, which due to my temperament turns into intensity. He changed then the subject, or more exactly, I believed that he changed the subject. He asked me for less weight on the bit and greater longitudinal flexion of my thoracolumbar spine. I obliged and then he asked me for left lateral bending and I had no difficulties whatsoever. I came back and tell you guys about my experience. You did not even stop munching your hay just saying, (wrong rotation.) I understand now what you were talking about. I realize now that I was combining right lateral bending with the wrong transversal rotation and this inverted rotation altered my capacity to achieve left lateral bending. No one ever focused on this specific problem. They were all applying the aids for left lateral bending judging my reticence as stubbornness, laziness or stupidity. I recognized the aids but I was not properly coordinated for the correct response. I guess my riders did not even know that lateral bending of our thoracic spine is always coupled with a transversal rotation. No need to say that they totally ignored the fact that inverted rotation could alter my capacity of lateral bending. They applied the correct aids and I was giving the wrong response, and therefore, I was a bad horse.”
Manchester added then, “The problem is that there is no aids for the rotation. They try over and over correcting me and straightening me between their inside leg and outside rein and I never had any idea of what they were talking about. He talked to me at a more sophisticated level. First, it was no gesture and therefore I felt that I did not have to protect my body from his gestures. Second of all, our conversation was about subtle nuances in muscle tone. I felt his left calf or right thigh but it was not a strong action. It was a supple resistance and I explored some adjustments in order to be in harmony with his body. It was pleasant and amazing. The amazing part is that I was suddenly pain free. I still resisted at first because such is my instinct, but I knew deeper in my mind that he was directing my brain toward a subtle coordination of my body. He did not correct my inverted rotation through obedience to given aids. He nuanced instead his back movement, right thigh, left calf. It was an ongoing conversation. It felt like his body was a corridor inside which I could find a comfortable place. He guided me toward the proper coordination but it was always my choice. I experimented many errors and he responded by different nuances. We truly worked together and when I found the right coordination, he rewarded me but I already knew that it was correct because it was easy for me. I realized that such dialogue is not possible as long as the riders’ mind is set on the thought that if they execute the right gesture, correct aids, we should provide the right response”.
Chazot & Jean Luc Cornille