My Science is Right! And The 5 Whys…
©2021 Carole Curley, Effective Equestrian, LLC
I have worked my entire non-horse related career in technology, nearly 40 years, during which I’ve met undisputed geniuses (both degreed and non-degreed), very smart people with a lot of common sense who are not technologists, and I have seen a whole lot of bias. The smartest people are often wrong. Part of their advantage is they can recognize it and move on. The best of the best, and the most successful in the real world are the ones who can take all the knowledge they can find, right or wrong, and connect the dots to make practical usage of it, for all people to benefit.
Science is a process not a thing. It starts with a simple question, “Why is that the way it is?”. There is no science without looking for knowledge.
The scientific process begins with looking at what others have done and seeing if anyone has asked the question before. Almost every possible question in existence has already been asked and answered based on the knowledge the author was able to gather at the time. Many of those answers are seen today as incorrect, based on the emergence of new knowledge that has been vetted and proven. Some people scoff at old knowledge, yet it is the basis for everything we know today, good or bad.
In equestrian literature, which has been in existence since 1360 BC, there is a huge amount knowledge. A lot of people over the centuries believed they had ideas to contribute and felt passionate enough to write them down for the benefit of distributing the knowledge to others. There were huge strides made in the understanding of equestrian science. Many men and women devoted their life to horses in a time when horses were vital to human survival, and physically horses have not changed over centuries. The only thing that is changing constantly is how we humans see them and use them. It is an evolving subject that changes minute my minute.
If you take the time to review some of the literature that is out there, you quickly realize that there is not much that is new. While some of the older knowledge has been proven clearly false, most of it has evolved and been built upon with new ideas. Almost all the training programs offered today, and which garner such accolades as being fresh and new and insightful, are re-spins of what has come before. Methods, wording and even diagrams from the likes of Steinbrecht, La Guérinière, and Decarpentry are copied verbatim by trainers today. It is eye opening to see how much that is taught today as new methods already existed in older texts.
When someone comes along and declares they have new knowledge, a better way, or a new program, and that what has been done before is completely and utterly false, any reasonable and educated person will not take their word for it. If the person wishes his ideas to become mainstream, the obligation is on him or her to present and prove those ideas in a way other people can appreciate and understand. Often a disruptive technology, no matter how innovative, will die on the vine because the inventor paid no thought to how someone could practically use it. Clearly, it’s better, so everyone must accept it and believe it, and change their behavior because of it, right? No, the test of innovation is whether it can transition to a benefit for all.
Today’s technology must be reasonably simple to apply and have a clear benefit to be adopted by the majority. It also must not have competing motivations, like profit or fame. To help the most horses and riders by applying science, you must present it in a way they can understand and see a benefit. You also must be prepared to defend your theories and knowledge.
There are a lot of trainers and providers that promote methods based in science that really have no idea what they are doing. There’s a lot of bozo’s out there and there is a sucker born every minute to keep them employed. They feed into the ignorance and laziness of others, and at best what they offer creates enough of transient response to get the testimonial before the client moves on the next trendy thing. If only trainer and client would take just a little time and energy to try to understand what they are doing and why, they would save the horses a lot of suffering, frustration, and confusion.
The next time you are considering trying something, or your trainer says something you don’t understand or sounds sciency, use the technique called the “The 5 Whys”. This is a method commonly used to identify cause and effect. Each iteration of the answer is questioned, and you will find each answer gets you closer to the root of the knowledge. This technique is good to flush out false theories.
Also ask yourself, has this been done before? Reading what has been done before is not perpetuating old knowledge, it’s educating yourself in the basis of what is known today. For example, every dressage trainer will teach what they call a “shoulder-in”. They teach it based on the modern dressage test standard. This modern version is a shadow of the original movement invented by Francois Robichon de La Guérinière, who used it as a gymnastic movement to develop the horse’s balance and musculature. There was no dressage “test” back in his day.
The riding masters of the 18th and 19th centuries did not have the diagnostic tools or scientific facts about biomechanics at their disposal, like everyone with Google does today. But they are the founders of the art of dressage, and it’s their work and inventions that are represented every day in the modern dressage ring. There is no benefit to disregarding their knowledge. Even if they are proven wrong in some technical facts, they were right about a whole lot of things. Those who claim to have new knowledge today, will be proven wrong in some respects in 50 or 100 years, maybe sooner. Knowledge and science, just like time, stops for no man, and keeps evolving.
It’s not about whether you pick up an old book and read it, it’s about what you do with the knowledge. Read everything, new and old, use your mind to think and wonder. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can learn. Maybe you will be the one to prove them wrong.