November 2008 • VOLUME 39 • © HORSES For LIFE™ Magazine
Jean Luc Cornille is passionate about 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.
"When I was thirteen or fourteen years old, I had difficulties as a young gymnast with the landing of the third somersault. The first two were executed in a collected posture and the third one was performed with the body in extension. Almost inevitably, I had to correct a compromised balance adding a small sidestep to the right. The fault cost 0/10 of a point which is often the difference between winning and losing. My trainer reacted like a horse trainer. He changed the tack selecting more elastic underwear and lighter sneakers. He focused on the footing by purchasing thicker rubber mats. He tried reward and punishment, and then finally decided that I had an attitude problem, that I was lazy and that I was adding a step to annoy him.
"Later in life, the horses took over from my passion for gymnastics. I expected from the horses the same level of physical evaluation as I had as an athlete in training. However, it was as though performance analysis did not exist. When the horse’s neck was rigid, I was advised lateral bending of the neck, if the horse lacked forward motion I was told to use larger spurs, etc. I decided that the primitive level at which equine athletic training was maintained was due to the fact that I was competing at relatively low levels and that training techniques would become more sophisticated if I had the luck to reach higher levels. With the help of few great horses I did. I was surprised that even at the Olympic level, better horses and skilled riders were still subjected to primitive training techniques. It was more sophisticated in terms of medical support but the horses’ difficulties were managed either by the riders’ talent or the veterinarians' skill. Problems were not scientifically analyzed and therefore never really resolved. The discrepancy between scientific knowledge and training techniques was the norm not only in France but all over the world. Astoundingly, the discrepancy remains today’s norm.
"I became a member of the prestigious “Cadre Noir de Saumur”, and thanks to the support of the school and the talent of many wonderful horses, I became “successful” in three-day eventing, which was at this time my first love. I also had individual success in stadium jumping, dressage and steeplechase. I won repeatedly in the greatest international competitions in Europe, collecting several individual and team gold, silver and bronze medals. Some of the greatest performances were the World championship at Punchestown in Ireland, Burghley in England, Fontainebleau in France, Bokelo in Germany, etc. However, I have always felt that my horses, as well as the horses I was in competition against, were performing due to their talent but below their real potential.