Neuro Feedback

Jean Luc Cornille

During lunch this week end, Ronda and Peggy were talking about the practice of neuro feedback on children. As you may know, Peggy is a psychologist working mostly with children and she was impressed by the results of such approach. Peggy explained that it was about stimulating the brain. For instance, they play a movie for the children to watch with sensors measuring brain activity. When one or more areas of the brain is llosing ineterst, the picture reduces on the screen. The child’s brain regains activity concentrating on the smaller screen to follow the story of the movie and the size of the picture expand on the screen. The child does not actively "do"; anything to make the screen expand. The brain figures it out. I vibrated listening to Peggy, as this is exactly how we can further engage the horse’s brain during a training session. Instead of pushing harder or holding stronger when the horse loses concentration, or increases the contact on the bit, refining the dialogue, by acting less or becoming softer and subtler, regains the horse attention and stimulates the horse’s brain toward more sophisticated thinking. 

Instead of becoming more assertive, stimulating inevitably protective reflex contraction, the solution is refining, lightening, softening the dialogue. Exactly like softening the voice will stimulates greater attention of our interlocutor, reducing the intensity and the frequency of the dialogue with the horse stimulates greater attention from the horse. I use the technique regularly with Chazot. Of course, refining, sobering the dialogue can only work if there is a dialogue with the horse. All the principles of submission and egotistical leadership are not a dialogue. They downgrade the horse to slavery. The horse does not perform because he is “impressed by our leadership” as wrote a major egomaniac, but because the horse has to survive. Submits to primitive equitation is directed by the horse’s powerful  survival will.

At the other end of na´ve thinking spectrum is the belief that the horse performs because he loves us. The horse does return affection and tenderness in many ways, but the business of performing is an athletic endeavor that has to be addressed as an athletic endeavor. Love keeps the dialogue friendly but does not provide to the horse the complex coordination of his physique that is required by the athletic demand of the performance.  If the rider loves the horse, the greatest expression of love is, for the rider, learning how the horse’s body effectively functions and preparing efficiently the horse’s physique for the athletic demand of the move. Submitting the horse to a move pretending that the move is the outcome of natural reflexes, is hypocrisy leading to slavery. The second the word “natural” is used before “dressage”, “horsemanship” and other propaganda, the hypocrisy is letting the horse unprepared for the athletic demand of the move.

Asking to the horse the right question and letting the horse processing the response is the greatest pleasure of intelligent equitation. The horse will process protecting his actual body situation and therefore, muscle imbalance, morphological flaw or other issue. The horse’s mental processing will start with a compromise executing the move while protecting his actual body state. The result will be an “error” that the rider analyzes providing insights guiding the horse’s mental processing toward a more sophisticated body coordination.

As the conversations goes on, the horse arrives to a coordination precisely adapted to the athletic demands of the move. Spanking the kid because he does not concentrate on the movie is not psychology; it is destructive stupidity. So is punishing the horse because he does not perform the move optimally. Ease and effortlessness, and beauty, and elegance, are the outcome of highly sophisticated orchestration of the horse’s physique. Such highly sophisticated coordination demands a rider who has in his mind a clear biomechanical picture of the horse’s necessary body coordination, and in his heart, a deep love and therefore respect of the horse intelligence and willingness to think toward more efficient coordination of his physique. 

Slavery, is making a dysfunctional horse executing a move for which his physique is not athletically developed and coordinated. Love and art and beauty and decency, is guiding the horse brain toward the body coordination optimally adapted to the athletic demand of the performance. Antony Douglas Williams wrote, “There are many great minds on earth and not all are human.” Greatness of humans is respecting and developing the greatness of the horse’s mind.

Jean Luc