Chazot's Thoughts XV-Opinion verses knowledge
(Opinion verses knowledge)
As you know, he sometimes comes into the barn or into my field to spend time with me. Often he has his laptop to work on a study or to answer E-mails. I do like this time together. He does not make me do cowboy tricks hoping to convince others that we have a friendly relationship. We have a friendly relation and there is nobody around to watch.
Yesterday, he was seated next to me as I was taking a nap in my sunny field and a guy with a pickup truck stopped on the road and walked toward us asking if we were OK. He told the guy, we are fine, and we are just talking politics. The man shook his head and walked away while telling someone on the phone that he had just talked with a cuckoo who is talking with his horse.
Through E-mails, he regularly advises three to five people, who are having frustrating difficulties with their horse. Especially when it comes to rehabilitation, he is often contacted when everything else has failed and very often I can feel his frustration and thoughts. He is the first to encourage riders to do it themselves but there are times when the problem is overwhelming and demands experience and knowledge beyond the scope of the rider. He never pushes anyone to ship the horse to him but he quite often wishes that they would. It would be more efficient, avoid furthering the damages and finally, it would be less costly. It takes more than knowing where the muscles are and what their normal functions are to resolve abnormal problems. Yes he does use dressage movements as gymnastic exercises but the moves need to be understood for their effect on the horse’s physique. Also, and I want to talk about this point, the difference between efficiency and inefficiency is the psychology of the whole approach. Us, horses, we will naturally protect our natural weaknesses, muscle imbalances or other issues and we will execute the move that protects our problem. I remember when I was on the racetrack, I experienced pain in my right stifle area and they attempted to manipulate my hind limb, placing my leg in different postures hoping to work my knee extensors muscles. I executed the move using my hip extensor muscles instead. They never noticed my escape. I understood recently why it was so easy for me to execute that particular protective move instead of working my stiff muscle. One evening, as he was dressing me with my sheet for the night, he watched my thigh muscles telling me, do you know that you can extend your hind leg at the end of the support phase using only your hip extensors muscles, or only knee extensors muscles, or a combination of both and that the movement of your limb will look absolutely identical. Success in therapeutic reeducation is not about knowing what the movement is supposed to do but how to guide our brains toward the appropriated coordination.
The problem often starts with the accuracy of the diagnosis. When there is a contradiction, there is a solution but the solution is not about ignoring one aspect of the contradiction, which is what most therapies tend to do. Instead, the solution is about more deeply analyzing the contradictions until the common cause is found. Often he receives horses, for rehabilitation, with a long history of treatment that was geared toward one direction only to find out, after a few days or weeks, that the solution is in a totally different direction. As you know, I almost died. I owe my survival to Helyn who did not give up, even when I was showing excruciating pain. Helyn resisted the pressure of the vet who wanted to put me to sleep because Helyn knew that there was a contradiction between my vital signs, which were not too bad, by comparison, to the level of pain that I was experiencing. The vet, who was inexperienced, only looked at the level of pain and diagnosed as impaction colic. The problem is that the treatment she gave me, based on her opinion, was the worst thing that she could have done considering the real problem. Helyn hoped that if I could survive until they could transport me to the UGA hospital, more experienced and knowledgeable vets would figure out the real problem. I survived, obviously and effectively, thanks to the professionals at the vet school where they approached the problem differently; I immediately felt better.
The problem with most diagnoses is that they are basically an opinion and once the opinion has been formulated, a misplaced ego distorts the whole process toward proving that one’s opinion is right. Once the inexperienced young vet decided that I should be put to sleep, Helyn’s questions were not treated as intelligent thought but instead as challenging the vet’s opinion. In that circumstance, the vet’s misplaced ego almost killed me.
My condition puzzled everyone including him. His field of expertise is not internal organs so he asked questions of the competent specialists, analyzed their thoughts and asked more questions until they figured that, against all appearances, my problem was as simple as ulcers, for which I was under treatment but needed a more aggressive and pertinent approach.
When they are good, in their field, experts are not afraid of intelligent questions. In fact, through the Immersion program, I can see that they are building a group of experts who are knowledgeable enough to respect each other’s knowledge and work together for a single purpose, us. They don’t try to make us fit an opinion or a system. Instead, they further each other’s knowledge to better understand how our physique functions and performs. Often Betsy, who is a pathologist, and Jean Luc are talking about what happens inside my body. At first, I was suspicious that maybe she would like to put me to sleep to see what happens inside me. A recent reflection about their work makes me realize that they were furthering each other’s experience for the purpose of better education and more efficient therapies. Her collaboration with Jean Luc has enabled the muscular skeletal changes and lesions observed on the necropsy floor to be correlated with how the horse actually moves, which has rarely been done.
He can find, through his gait analysis process, solutions that other approaches have missed because he explores and explores until he finds a hypothesis that answers all the questions. He never stops at the leg but looks into the back for the root cause of the limb kinematics abnormality. He never stops at the back but looks to our mental processing to figure out why our protection mechanism would take a specific direction. In fact, he never stops. This is why I like, so much, our mutual education. I am a quick thinker and my muscular system evolves rapidly. I feel different each day and he does not expect me to be the way I was the previous day. I like to tell him the way I feel because he listens and respects my evolution, even when I am wrong. Yesterday, I was a little bit on edge. I felt a little stiff from my canter work a day earlier, but truly I do not really know why I was in a bad mood. Perhaps, Mars and Jupiter were not exactly where I wanted them to be. We remained longer than expected at the walk and I started to be annoyed. However, I know by experience that he is guiding me toward physical comfort. I guess, I was annoyed because the physical comfort was not coming fast enough. I could have released my overall tension and the work would have been faster but if I were able to think that way I would not be a horse and I would not need him.
In my frustration, I tried to impress him by bumping my butt a few times and throwing my front leg forward like I had lost my temper, but he did not even acknowledge my reactions. I know that these small temper tantrums do not impress him but you know the saying, “Experience enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.” (Franklin P. Jones) I am the type of guy who makes it again. He was working on my shoulder fore, asking me to flex my thoracolumbar spine both longitudinally and laterally. I was annoyed by the suggestion because I was muscularly stiff in this specific area. I guess that is why he chose the walk. On one hand the muscular demand on my back was greater but I had the time to think about it and find a way to carefully bend my thoracic vertebrae. I did, and realized that flexing my spine longitudinally eased the effort of the lateroflexion. Without our very active mental engagement, gymnastic exercises are unlikely to work the targeted muscles. As I explained earlier with my hip verses stifle extensors, we have many ways to execute the same move. Inherently, our initial impulse is to protect whatever muscle imbalance, pain or weaknesses is affecting our body at the instant of the demand. The pathologist James Rooney mapped our neurological processes saying that our cortical decision was integrated within our brain to our body state. This is absolutely true. We try first to protect whatever problem we have. This is why demanding submission in order to force us to execute a movement does not work. This is why repeating a movement does not educate properly our physique. This is why the current judging standards lead riders to show us but not to train us. This is why correct physical therapy must know how our body functions, but above all, must also understand and respect our psychology, which will lead our brain toward the most appropriate muscular coordination. He does that. The ones who are pulling on our legs do not.
No real rehabilitation can be made without engaging our brain. In fact, no real training can be made without engaging our brain. He trains me and he rehabilitates Manchester and Caesar using the same psychology. He challenges us and lets us figures the most appropriate coordination. This is why we are so comfortable with this approach. This is why we are capable to explore and succeed in muscular coordination, which is beyond the scope of our genetic heritage. Lameness results from performances for which our physique is not properly educated. Our natural neurological process is protective reflex contraction. We protect ourselves from pain. Releasing the contraction without addressing the root cause of the pain will only last as long as we remain still. As soon as the first step forward is taken, our protective reflex contraction comes back.
The problem is that our protective reflex contraction also shields the root cause of the pain. We quickly develop layers of contractions that we are not willing to let go because they prevent us from experiencing physical discomfort or pain. We do not have much understanding of the future. He sometimes tells me, it would be much easier for you if you were not protecting your back. I don’t understand this concept very well. I protect what I feel I need to protect. He tries to explain to me that in doing so I make the problem worse or I compromise my future. I know that something is true because when he guides my brain toward different body coordination I do feel better. I have noticed that and this is why, when I am balanced in my brain, between protecting myself from his suggestion and exploring his suggestion, I often elect exploring his suggestion.
Manchester and I have often discussed this phenomenon and found ourselves interested by Caesar’s remarks. Caesar recovers from a fracture of the right foreleg coffin bone. Shortly after his arrival, Caesar told us, He makes me walk at this extremely slow and collected walk where I literally control each and every one of my hoof placements. At first I was not very happy with this work. I am a jumper; I go fast and jump high. I have been ridden with draw reins and other gimmicks asking me to keep my neck down. I never really understood the purpose of such a neck posture; it increased the weight on my forelegs and stiffened my back. I just presumed that, for whatever reason, it was a rule to which I have to submit myself. Basically I have always felt that I was performing out of reach of my talent in spite of the training techniques I was submitted to. At first, I reacted against him as I have always done, protecting myself. I was intrigued by his insistence. He did not want me to obey, he wanted me to think. This was new for me and I tried. I tried to figure out how I could sustain this very slow, very straight and very light walk in the most efficient way possible. I tried different solutions and each time, he provided me with some new insights. Once I flexed my back longitudinally, higher than I ever did it before, I felt great control of my front limbs. Also, I was pain free. I was carrying less weight on my front limbs and the pain in my right hoof vanished. I lost the coordination after a few steps but was anxious to follow his suggestions knowing that he was guiding me toward comfort. Just then a whole new world opened up. Instead of protecting myself from the rider I became capable of exploring my body further and even experimented beyond the scope of my genetic heritage; following and even furthering my rider’s insights.
In perfect synchronization, Manchester and I said to Caesar, welcome to our world.