Mittwoch, 4. November 2020

Why it is high time to free biotensegrity from the claims of any riding styles

This is another sight on biotensegrity in horses, inspired by Jean Luc Cornilles post in

I agree with what he wrote about scientific insights, research and the problems arising from translating a feeling into words in mostly mechanical terms.

But, with due respect to the rider on the photography, this picture does NOT show a horse that has evolved his tensegral potential.

This might be a good piaffe in the sense of Lègereté, but not in the sense of a healthy creature that is able to handle what ever crosses it's path.

Taking the risk to open pandoras box, I'd like to look at the bitter struggle between Bauchér and Steinbrecht without citing their writings and without disturbing them. They've had their time.

What is this about?

I'd like to do it the other way round: What makes sense for a horse in order to live, survive, being strong and able to carry a rider where ever they are? What does it mean to evolve the tensegral potential in a horses body?

How can a horse protect his body from misuse by the rider, so it is able to carry a rider following basic algorithms instead of reacting to every twitch of the human on his back?

The pictures may help us to see the ideas. The lines I added do not mark right and wrong but what the picture shows in opposite to the training result I'd like to see. By the way – for me, a piaffe is a result, not a lecture!

The red lines follow the pictured horse, the green lines show my idea of a strong and reliable horse that makes a proper use of it's body.
How did I get there?

I did never stay in one riding style long enough to rank the proper aids above my feeling for the power of the horse, although it was close once. As a freelance riding instructor I found my job in rehabilitating horses from all riding styles and learned to see which ideas broke the horses and which made them strong.

Why it is the horse, that has to make proper use of it's body

In case of doubt, if one is not a master of riding, it is always a good choice to strengthen the horse and let him exercise with situations instead of aids. In case of doubt, the algorithm we want the horse to follow should be: „Take care of yourself and see you don't lose your rider“, because otherwise we create artificial creatures who rely on our skills instead of their own.

But maybe I'm alone with this sight...

So, why is it the horse that has to learn to make a proper use of it's body? Because we are not perfect, maybe. I'm not.

Far more important is, that the body can only protect itself without the mind blabbing memorized answers. A well trained horse with evolved biotensegral potential is able to listen to his rider, but listening to the rider will not make a horse able to evolve it's biotensegral potential.

This is why the red lines show a horse, that tries to do everything right his rider asks for and the green lines a horse that does everything right in terms of biotensegrity.

Let's have a look at the red lines

The angular dimensions of hind and front limbs and the alignment of the body do not allow energy storing in the tensegrity structures. The ground reaction forces are lead away from the body center and thus can't be integrated and used to carry the rider in a healthy way.

This is a thesis based on my knowledge about biotensegrity that goes far beyond just having read some texts. At this point I strongly recommend to follow Susan Lowell's Biotensegrity Guide before continuing, because otherwise there is no common basis for further discussions!

Main aspects the red lines show are:
- Very narrow angle in the shoulder joint, which is not made for flexing under load but for keeping distance from the ground.
- Decreasing line from the hip to the cervi-toracic transition, which should be at least horizontal on this level of dressage
- No vertical front limb
- The angles of hip joint and the knee don't match
- The lumbar-sarcoid transition is „open“

These lines show the vectors of the ground reaction forces (starting from the points of ground contact), in orange colour for the horse in the picture and green for my idea of integrated ground reaction forces. The lines on the right belong to the green lines in the picture above.

Why is it done like that?

Because horses like this are earlier and easier to control, and people like to keep control. Achieving „collection“ by pulling the hind feet under the belly is done in a minute. It is a another system than competition dressage ore pleasure. It looks so nice. It is one way of the „art of riding“.

What is the better riding style?

Sorry, there is no better riding style, because they all base on the same ideas wich destroy sound and tensegral movement patterns. Nearly all pictures we find of ridden horses nowadays show the same symptoms I marked in the pictures above. The only thing that can change these pictures is a shift concerning the paradigms equitation is based on. And here I'm with Jean Luc Cornille again....

Biotensegrity in horses is worth some studies!

So, we have a new riding style?

Sorry, nope. Here I cite the title of Graham Scarrs book: Biotensegrity is The Structural Basis of Life and no one should try to register it as a trademark! Biotensegrity will transform every riding style, but it can't be claimed as a riding style nor for a certain riding stile.

Now: „Fire in your own time!“


Closed kinematic Chains

It's a long text about,
  • what closed kinematic chains (ckc) are
  • why the ckcs in the horses hocks (Spannsägenkonstruktion) as well as those in the human body are not part of a lever system. 
  • how a new perspective shows the integration of ckcs in the tensegral structure.
  • what indicates that Newton's laws according to mechanical functioning have been misapplied in respect to ckcs in a living body for a long time.
  • how closed kinematic chains act and interact in planar and omnidirectional movements in tensegrity models
  • how to understand, grasp and feel the physics* of lever-free movement, even if the associated mathematics is a mystery to you.
  • how the motor safety systems in the body can be supported or interfered, activated or suppressed.

1 What is it all about?

A kinematic chain is a power transmission system that in its simplest form consists of bars and joints, some fixed somewhere and some not.

A closed kinematic chain is created when the first and last links of the chain are also connected to each other.

In a closed kinematic chain, the movements of the individual elements regulate each other. The limitation in one joint automatically limits the range of motion of the other joints. Effect on one element acts on all elements according to their arrangement.

Figure 1.1
A closed kinematic chain with three elements (3-bar-chain, Figure 1.1) is a stable, rigid triangle. The shape is determined by the length of the bars, but even with free joints it's configuration doesn't change. It is wonderful to build a model from children's toys.

Figure 1.2a
A closed chain of five or more elements (multi-bar chain) is hypermobile, so to speak, and there is no controlled mutual limitation. This can be observed well on a bicycle chain, but can also be tested on children's toys. (Figure 1.2a&b)

Figure 1.2b

Figure 1.3
In a closed kinematic chain with four elements, there is mutual control, because each element limits the movement of the other elements. This regulation results from the structure and not from an active application of force! The structure-immanent control systemof a 4-bar ckc thus offers a certain degree of movement security and protection against "erratic" movements (Figure 1.3a-c).

Figure 1.3b
Figure 1.3c
This mutual limitation refers, as mentioned above, to planar movement, which means that each element remains on its own plane (in children's toys, the elements move in different parallel planes, but do not switch or rotate them).

The heart painting pantograph shows a closed kinematic chain in action, the video shows the children's toys in motion:

2 What happens during spatial observation?

The closed 4-bar model, now with spatial joint freedom (Figure 2.1), suddenly gains a lot of mobility and the widened range of motion weakens the system-immanent control. The rods can twist against each other in such a way that the rods touch each other and, if there is enough energy in play, can also damage each other (Figure 2.2) or collapse, as shown in Figure 2.3.

Figure 2.1
Figure 2.3

Figure 2.2

The closed 3-bar chain also gains mobility by moving in space, but retains its shape. If one wanted to make the 4-bar system controllable by restricting the joint angles while allowing free spatial mobility, shear forces would be generated by external influences (the child's toy would break if the appropriate force was applied).

3 Closed kinematic chains in tensegrity models

Figure  3.1                                                 (c) Maren Diehl 2020

Figure  3.2           (c) Maren Diehl 2020

Figure  3.3             (c) Maren Diehl 2020

At  first sight  Figures 3.1 and 3.2 consist of a combination
of 3- and 4-bar elements.

However, a closer look reveals that the 4-bar module is none,
because the rod in the middle turns the 4-bar module into two
3-bar ones (Figure 3.3).

The missing Apple in a Box of Oranges

How to find the right place for the centre of gravity

In conversations about horses, therapy, training and tensegrity, commonly the question arises how to teach the horse to place its centre of gravity correctly between the shoulders to avoid stress in the overburdened forelimb. Since my brain always refused to deal with this question it could not really grasp, I finally asked for help in an English speaking group:

The first answer hit exactly the core of my problem:
"I don’t quite understand  your question, could you ask it differently?"

I couldn't, because my sense of movement also prevented me from understanding it. The second answer, however, already hit the point (which had eluded me due to the nature of the question, see headline):

"The center of gravity is a mathematical position that does not attach to any body part. We are all pulled to the center of the earth by gravity. But at the center of the earth's gravity, there is no gravity. Weird. So I would not "attach" too much meaning to the concept within a biotensegrity structure.
As for the foot loading, I gathered over 5.4 billion pressure data values under the feet when 54 people started to walk. This data is available in my PhD thesis on the internet.
What I do know is that each individual have different patterns, and these are directly related to that individual. Nowhere is there ever a "dysfunction" or imbalance. The notion that the body is broken and out of balance is unhelpful. It is always in balance, even if we declare it not to be. The question therefore is ill-posed."

Craigs reference to the question leads back to the headline, it seems to be the search for the missing apple in the box of oranges.

Craig Nevin is not alone with his statement, because, as Marie Randjelovicin correctly writes in another commentary on my question, Graham Scarr as well as Steve Levin and Leonid Blyum (who originally came up with the orange box thing) and Ida Rolf have repeatedly mentioned more and less purposeful questions:

„I remember Graham Scarr mentioning this topic of « dysfunction » in a conversation (…) as being another « state ». He explained that the body always functions exactly the same way when healthy or diseased. And that disease is a man made construct. So that is a challenging perspective for our minds used to make a difference as you said it too, Craig, in your comment « the notion that the body is broken and out of balance is unhelpful ». If I remember well, Graham expressed the idea that the body is always in movement towards a more efficient (efficiency) state. This topic really stayed with me, (...) I wonder how do we use words, language to express around this idea. It reminded me of Ida Rolf’s « where you think it is, it ain’t », what do we choose to focus on? It reminded me of Leonid Blym’s work, he says we think of children with cerebral palsy as « dysfunctional » , and that not at all they have a super brain, they even have too many connections, (... ) it’s a shift in how we position ourselves. (…)“

Now I'd like to venture a conclusion regarding the missing apple...

Paradigm shift

On the one hand we have our nicely worked out beliefs and ideas, which tempt our mind to work off always on the same problem - the apple.

But now there is a new paradigm, a completely new basis for our world view, a new explanatory model, in which, unfortunately, apples do not occur. A cookbook with thousands of recipes - everyone without apples.

When we open the box of biotensegrity, we find fascinating new explanations for what we see. We can guess a completely new functionality that works without shear forces, without compression in the joints, without overloading individual parts. A functionality that opens the way to more mobility, joy of movement and quality of life, if we dare to try and engage in the new possibilities.

With the biotensegrity we experience omnidirectionality, self-design, self-empowerment. Completely new questions arise, which all deal with how a biotensegrity acts and reacts in different situations. How does one's own tensegrital structures feel like and what is the difference to the previous conception, however we call it?

Why should we continue to ask the old questions which became irrelevant after the paradigm shift? Perhaps the nature of the question is an indication that there is still another step to take if we want to reach the other side?

New questions

This is what we need. New questions! Many of my previous seminar participants have heard a "Wrong question!" when their mind wanted to pull them back on the old track.

Let us put a taboo on the old questions, let us explore the new with new questions instead of defending the old questions and thus the old paradigm. Many people will not like the word taboo in this context, but it is the questioning that can lead to the same or to different results and in this case the taboo is a tool for self-education. I promise you it will be very exciting, instructive, entertaining and transformative!

Of course what we see is there. That is not the question. The existing is not questioned! Of course there are medical diagnoses, X-ray- and ultrasound-images. We see degraded body systems whose external appearance does not correspond to any ideal, just as their current abilities do not correspond to any ideal. This cannot be discussed away and almost certainly cannot be treated away, trained away or optimised away in the long term.

A daring statement?

No, I don't think so. An incredibly high percentage of the horses in this country (Germany) are permanently in professional therapy, are trained with the best intentions and species-appropriate keeping is in a constant optimization process. There is more professional literature on horses than one can reasonably read in a lifetime, and countless magazines are published every month to tell everybody how to do it. So the problem cannot be due to a lack of information. Most horse owners do their best, but it never seems to be enough.

At the same time, I have seen many horses in my life that simply do their job, that are not optimized, that stay healthy and grow old with difficult terrain, crooked riders, barely acceptable equipment and the simplest feeding.

If Dschinghis Khan had had to make such an effort with the horses as is done nowadays, he would have stayed at home and had horse steaks for lunch. The whole world history would have been different.

What's missing?

To my mind, "the right spirit" is missing. A video of an event with Gerald Hüther popped into the picture yesterday, fitting the question. Assuming that the outer appearance, the posture of the horse is linked to its inner posture, I see the statement of the brain researcher and visionary as a key to new questions:

"Posture is a meta-concept that has arisen from experience." Experiences have coupled cognitive and emotional networks - and I'm sure the physical networks too! What are the experiences that we and our horses have had? And how did they form the body? How does the body change when it is allowed to have other experiences, especially those of self-efficacy?

Object relationships

In my book "Beyond Biomechanics" I have written about it in detail, here I summarize it again:

As soon as we enter into an object relationship with horses, we make them the object of our (mostly well-intentioned) measures.

As an object of evaluation, treatment, measures, the horse loses its autonomy and thus its enthusiasm for the development of its very own potential. There is an incoherence* between what might be desirable and what is "right" because it is rewarded with treats and makes people happy.

Here is another very important statement from Gerald Hüthers lecture:

"Incoherence activates the same networks as physical pain"

This could be one of the reasons why many people and horses with findings are free of pain and others without findings are in pain. Another possible conclusion is that therapy and training must always be accompanied by a restoration of coherence, of recognizable and meaningful connections.

Graham Scarr's statement that the body always functions in the same way, no matter whether it is "healthy" or "sick" experiences a further explanation here: The body always functions in the same way and it is always a biotensegrity. The question is "What enables us and the horses to use the functions of the body in a way that the "use" makes this particular body the best possible version of itself?"

Now we know the Question

But what is the best possible version? The best possible version is always the one that matches the task at hand and offers the best solution to the problem. It is not an ideal, it does not necessarily include symmetry, suppleness, flow of movement - not even "health"!

The best possible version is always the best possible version NOW, which is linked with the development of one's own potential. The potential always unfolds towards what is desirable, what is it worth striving for, contradiction-free. Above all, the potential unfolds in the context of problem solving!

New problems

The optimized modern  horse has no problems. It is perfectly cared for, it is "safe", the world is barrier-free and supposedly species-appropriate. Without problems, however, the problem-solving engine (see below) will not start. Without problems nothing moves. Without problems there is no training stimulus.

Doing something right in the eyes of another person is not something that is desirable and therefore does not stimulate the body! Except maybe, if there is food for it. According to Gerald Hüther, incoherence blocks the brain and it is not an absurd assumption that exactly this happens with the  fascia body in it's capacity as a movement brain.

The horse needs a problem that can be solved, and both the problem and the solution and the resulting experience must be in meaningful relationships for body and mind. In my experience, the solution for a movement problem found by the body itself also triggers a "reward kick" (on one's own body), just as it is already proven for the mental solution of an intellectual problem (Hüther).

Which experiences are missing?

Ability to act, self-determination, self-efficacy, the experience to be able to save oneself from all kinds of situations. A horse that has managed to escape the quicksand by its own efforts, if it is crazy enough, goes back in the next day to perfect its ability... That was not the piebald.

The engines...

Life has two engines: How do I get into the most energy-saving mode possible (1)? And how do I survive in the best possible way or take the best possible care for the survival of my species (2)? The second question makes sure that we do not fall asleep in a highly efficient way, but that we shape our lives when we have the opportunity to do so.

In order to carry a rider well, the horse needs both motors: the search for self-organisation that enables the efficient use of gravity as an energy source (ground reaction forces) (1) and the search for the best possible movement competence that ensures survival (2). With these two motors, the process of unfolding potential is set in motion on all levels.

The potentials
We must learn to see the potential instead of looking for mistakes and problems. The potentials are the oranges in the box! Every horse, every human being has undeveloped potentials. The biotensegrity of the body is always there and offers an infinite potential. If a movement or direction of movement "does not work", there are others that give the body new possibilities of expression and allow a goal to be reached on a new path. Even a living being that is ill in our eyes has potential that it can develop if it feels that this is desirable or if the development of potential helps to achieve other goals.

The restoration
of congruence (... we bring our feelings, thoughts and actions into agreement so that our non-verbal statements do not contradict our words) and of coherence (... let's leave the trap of incoherence, arbitrariness and incomprehensibility) are the basic prerequisite for setting the processes in motion that ultimately lead to the realization of the best possible version of ourselves.

Creating coherence in one's own life is a considerable effort, because it means not being satisfied with other people's interpretations. Coherence comes about when you get to the bottom of things and no longer need to believe someone. Getting to the bottom of things means taking responsibility for one's own viewpoint. It also means not relying on one's own feelings when making decisions, but to recognize a bad feeling as an indication of the need for further research.

With the coherence gained, congruency usually also arises, which enables us to make a credible impression on the horse. Only then can the horse be truly inspired to redesign its own world view.

The oranges in the box
Hopefully this unexpectedly long article could show how many delicious oranges are in the box and encourage you to look at them. The quote from Ida Rolf is a fitting conclusion:

"Where you think it is, it ain't!


Coherence refers to the recognizable connection between cause and effect, between one's own actions and what happens.

In psychology, congruence refers to the agreement between verbal and non-verbal statements in human communication

The homepage of Gerald Hüther: