Meaningless words and theories: Horses don’t care and neither should you

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An impression of motion can be achieved and photographic representation of various phases of motion can be done without any knowledge of anatomy and the detail of function but the situation is completely different when it comes to an understanding of the mechanisms involved. This can only be done through careful analysis based on morphology, physics and physiology. Each of theses branches contributes to the concepts of biomechanics, an essential part of which is the relation of structures to each other which determines the distribution of forces and consequent actions.” (C. W. Ottaway, 1962, The anatomy of motion. Vet. Ree. 74: 279-295)

© Dennis Mojado [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
© Dennis Mojado [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
A sample of cocktail party theorists, who never went beyond superficial impression of motion, have recently been on the rampage demonstrating why equine injuries and lameness issues have now reached an alarming level. A “cocktail party theory” is an assemblage of words put together for their elegance and the hope that they will impress whoever is listening. The words are usually meaningless and it definitely needs a few drinks to find any meaning.

This breed of cocktail party theorists would be amusing to observe if they were not submitting their horse to their theories. There is nothing pleasant to see a horse suffering for the satisfaction of the rider’s ego. These so-called experts are not interested in learning. In fact they do not have the opportunity to learn since their entire time is devoted to convince everyone of their greatness.

The picture below was used to illustrate a research study about the phenomenon of transversal rotation which is always coupled with lateral bending. The thought was to point out that if the knowledge of the horse’s thoracolumbar column transversal rotation has been known in the late 70s early 80s, which is when the picture was taken, the horse’s technique could have been corrected.

As a result, the horse’s career would have lasted longer than one year. Watching the picture, one can see that the horse was landing heavily on the left front leg, which is where the injury occurred. Picture and text were reviewed by a group of so-called editors. One of the editors, who is a cocktail party theorist, went on the rampage accusing the rider for the horse’s style. It just happened that I knew both, the horse and the rider. The horse was very difficult to ride and I always admired the rider for his ability to remain well centered over the saddle in spite of the horse’s violent rotation. The rider is a professional rider and a good one. He was riding the horse only in the show ring. He did not have the opportunity to address the horse’s defect. Knowing how difficult it was to ride the horse. I seriously doubt that the author of the harsh criticism would have been able to stay on the horse even over a single cavaletti.

Susan Hopf responded to the theologians with the measure of an intelligent and experienced professional. Her response introduced the “my trainer” syndrome, which is another interesting phenomenon of the equestrian world.

jumper-jean-lucMany years ago, I was training a group of young professionals. They were already graduates as monitors, which mean that they were authorized to teach in France. They had experience in the show ring and they were there to prepare themselves for becoming an instructors In the psychology class I warned them about the pedestal syndrome. I told them about the type of obsequious riders and horse owners who will place them on a pedestal flattering them at the level of adulation. This will last one year or more and then, these idolaters will need to move to a new idol. You will not understand why, since you will be the same person, probably even a better rider and teacher. However, if you do not move away, these peoples who adulated you will now attack you viciously. If you take this type of behavior personally, your life as a professional will be painful. These types of peoples are not eager to learn. They want to be flattered and by gratifying you they are flattering themselves.

When it comes to the time of your disgrace, your only fault would have been to be a good professional. You will have used encouragement to develop their confidence but you will also have tried to make them progress. These people do not want to progress; they are, in their mind, already the best. It will hurt you at first but retrospectively it will be a good thing for you.

Watch these people operate and you will see an interesting but pathetic pattern. They start with good trainers. They then move onto a lesser trainer who will flatter them a little more. But they cannot be flattered enough and they turn toward mediocre trainers who flatter them a lot since it is all they can do.

Knowledge is your escape from such people. If you can resolve problems that conventional approaches are unable to address, you will deal with great riders and great horse owners. You will work with people who really care for their horses. You will rise above this society of mutual admiration where pathetic riders try to convince other pathetic riders than they are pathetically great.

However, you will never be fully immune from these peoples, especially if you are doing a good job and introducing pertinent ideas. Muppets of the equestrian world never find anyone flattering them enough so they turn to criticism. They feed their large ego, criticizing everyone else. In their mind, they value themselves criticizing others. They are the intellectuals of empty theories whom, as Dwight Einsenhower said, take more words than necessary to tell more than they know.

Jean Luc Cornille

Jean Luc Cornille M.A.(M.Phil) has gained worldwide recognition by applying practical science to the training of the equine athlete. Influenced by his background as a gymnast, Jean Luc deeply understands how equine training can be enhanced by contemporary scientific research. A unique combination of riding skill, training experience and extensive knowledge of the equine physiology enables Jean Luc to "translate" scientific insights into a language comprehensible to both horse and rider. This approach has been the trademark of his training. - read more about Jean Luc

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