I am so proud of you
I am so proud of you.
Chazot @ Jean Luc Cornille
This Friday, I was watching Manchester working with the participants of the third Immersion Program. The riders coming to this advanced education program are not the average push and pull type of riders. They are interested in a more intelligent and subtle equitation. They come to further understand how our physique functions. Each rider does have his or her own style but there is an overall respect that pleases Manchester.
I love watching him feeling the riders. With his big ears always oriented forward, he looks imperturbable but knowing him, I can follow his thoughts. He is tuning himself to the rider, adjusting to the rider’s body language. Then, if he likes the rider, Manchester engages the conversation. I admire his willingness but also his self-confidence. He just keeps going his own way when he thinks that the rider is too loud or inconsistent.
Manchester never reacts angrily, he just plays dumb, which for him is an enormous mental evolution. Shortly after his arrival Manchester told me that he was a dumbblood. I responded angrily that a dumbblood was a warmblood ridden by a dumb rider. He liked the thought but deep under, he believed that he was a failure. Until he came to the Science of Motion, Manchester had been lame all of his life. Lameness is an expression of pain and in our psyche physical pain often leads to lack of self-confidence. Manchester resigned himself to a life of pain. He was telling me, you are the smart one, the athletic one, the number one in the farm. I am just a cripple. He was not jealous, he was resigned.
One day, coming back frustrated from a training session, he told me, this guy believes that I don’t have to be lame! I responded that in the matter of lameness he knows what he is doing. If he believes in you, you should believe in you too. Manchester stayed silent for a few hours; he did not even munch his hay, which is not at all Manchester’s style. I started to worry about him and looked at him intensively. He then turned his large head toward me saying, you know, years ago, I came to terms with the fact that I was a lame horse. Running, bucking and bouncing through the field was not for me. It could only happen in my dreams. I am a cripple and now you tell me that I could be sound and you worry me. Curiously, lameness is almost my safe world. I am from the school of thought; “repeat the movement to educate the body”. For years I repeated the movements but they did not educate my body. My riders knew how the movements were supposed to look so I took the blame for my lack of progresses. You are now telling me that my riders should never have asked me to repeat a movement without educating first my physique for the athletic demand of the movement. You are telling me that my education has been ill adapted to my physical difficulties. You are telling me that I am not a cripple but rather that I have been damaged by bad training. You are telling me that an equitation based on advanced understanding of my physiology has the potential to restore my soundness. This is a perspective that I never have previously heard or envisioned.
Effectively, when asking for the shoulder in, he focused on the longitudinal flexion and proper rotation of my thoracic spine. I was anxious to place my body at the 30% angle and travel on three tracks. It took me a few days to realize that he was not interested at all by these details. He was looking for a very specific coordination of my body and only when I found it, I started to perceive that the shoulder in was indeed, a gymnastic exercise. I never looked at my education from this perspective. I was a submitted horse. I was not a thinking horse. He challenged my brain until I found reflex combinations that are beyond the scope of my genetic heritage. First, I was afraid to experiment because I anticipated punishment. Instead, he acted as if errors were a normal part of the learning process. This has been a considerable evolution for me. I realized that I was able to think and that through mental processing I was capable of putting together quite sophisticated body coordination.
I am no longer afraid of errors and when I do realize my mistakes, I wait for him to give me some insight. He does not want my submission; he wants my mental participation. He helps me to think in the right direction. I have not been able to stabilize my left stifle because I never realized that the way I was twisting my vertebral column was creating abnormal kinematics of my left stifle. At first, as he was working my back, I was thinking that he did not even realize that it was my stifle which was in trouble. Then I observed that when he placed my back a certain way, the stress on my stifle vanished. I started to think with him instead of protecting myself from him. Without him teaching me how to think I would not have been reeducated because the coordination that allows me to be sound is far beyond anyone of my natural reflexes. Each individual reflex is natural but the coordination that keeps me pain free and sound is not. I did not know that I was mentally capable of processing beyond the scope of my natural reflexes.
I have to say that now that I know how well I can think, I do enjoy it. I do not enter the training ring worrying about what is going to happen to me; I am part of what happens to me. I am involved in each step of my education. I give him warnings when I feel difficulties and he suggests solutions. He wants me to tell him when the move is hard and he works with me until the move is easy. He is very concerned with ease. He knows that many layers of our complex muscular and neurological systems need to work in harmony and he found that ease is the best reference. Once he stopped me because I was trying in spite of physical pain. He told me then,” if it is not easy, you are not efficiently coordinated. Let me think about the problem. We need to approach it from a different perspective.” The next day we proceeded in a different direction. In fact I was thinking that he had decided to abandon the move until I realized that I was executing the move, effortlessly.
I could not resist teasing Manchester so I told him, well, this morning I saw you extremely angry against him. He was riding you explaining the difference between the real shoulder in and the shoulder in executed with excessive bending of the neck. Showing to the audience what should not be done, he pulled on the inside rein to bend your neck and you were furious. You turned your head, advancing your nose and opening your mouth showing your big teeth like he had pulled your tongue out. Let’s face it, you overreacted. He barely pulled on the inside rein and you reacted as if he had hit you in the teeth. Manchester lowered his head in contrition. I know that I overreacted. I could not control my impulse. It was like he betrayed me. I had a flash in my mind that we were returning to the type of riding that had been my life for so long. Before I realized that he did it solely for demonstration and for a very brief instant, my body, my mind, my whole self was screaming no!!!!!, not that again. I am embarrassed for my reaction.
I told Manchester, give yourself a break. Do not return to your slave mentality. You were great. Do you realize the magnitude of your evolution? You revolted against a type of riding to which you submitted yourself for years. In his cell assembly hypothesis, O, Hell wrote, “Long-term memories are frozen patterns waiting for signals of near resonance to reawaken them.” (1993) His rein action was near enough to reawaken the memory of a system that has crippled your body and you reacted strongly. You, Manchester, the king of submission, you loudly expressed your opinion. I am so proud of you. You are definitively part of the family. Believe me, he was positively impressed. He patted you on the neck apologizing for his hand action. He also pointed out that you were no longer willing to accept that type of bad riding. He added that you were absolutely right, that even as a demonstration he should not have lacked respect by pulling on your mouth.
Manchester’s lips twisted into a funny move. I know this smile; it usually does preclude some humoristic repartee. I was waiting for the hit but as always with Manchester, he took me by surprise. The technique must be good because even a guy like you does evolve. You, the all body and no brain type of athlete, you are becoming a philosopher. Socrates said, “Get married: if you find a good wife you'll be happy; if not, you'll become a philosopher” For you it works the other way. You found a good family and this gives you the confidence to think instead of blowing up.
I heard that in order to calm your brain from the frenzy of the racetrack, they gave you a sabbatical year. Helyn played with you over the fence teaching you all kinds of tricks. They both were amazed by your intelligence. You learned to give her a kiss in two minutes. It took a year for me to understand what she expected when she placed one finger on her right cheek. However, she did not diminish me. I heard her saying, “he is afraid of the gesture”.
They explored the thought that instead of letting you alone, your reeducation would be more efficient by challenging your intelligence. This is when he started your work in hand. You were interested by the challenge and little by little found comfort from creative thinking instead of frantic panic.
Arthur Schopenhauer wrote, "Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see." At first, I was thinking, this guy must be a genius because I don’t see what he sees. You were becoming very upset watching through the door or the window and I did not see anything. Soon I realized that you were very traumatized by your life at the race track. At two years old, you were already so big, so spirited and so powerful that everyone was afraid of you. Fear engenders violence and violence was the only relation you had with humans. You were taller than everybody else and you reared higher than life to save your life. You reared out of everything. It was like a drug, a state of frenzy that was your last refuge. We were somewhat alike. Lameness was my way of life. I was safe in lameness and afraid of exploring soundness. Frenzy was your escape and you were even looking for opportunity to go there.
He understood that punishing the rearing was the mistake that everybody else has done and has failed. Instead, he treated you as an intelligent horse and you responded. I know that as we moved in Georgia he was concerned that the intensity of his clinic schedule will not allow him to work you as regularly and intensively as you needed. We all knew that after two days without working you are out of your skin. Of course we are in turn out long hours every day but this does not replace regular training. I was concerned too and I was greatly impressed by your willingness to deal with the situation. I understand now that a great part of your frenzy was insecurity. You feel safe and loved and appreciated by their quietness around you. You feel comfortable enough to explore kindness too. You are kind with me. You are supportive, staying in front of the part of the stall where we can see each other when you realize that my old injuries are giving me hard time. The lunatic horse that I meet when I arrived is now a kind and smart friend.
As we both became more intelligent in our work, we have much greater quality of life. We process events of life with serenity and even humor. Humor is not supposed to be a privilege of our specie but humor is as fun for us as it is for humans. The problem with humor is that there is not much of it in the training world, especially with the ones who wears large spurs.