The Contest

The following is a letter to Tom Ivers, editor and author of Racing Science Review. Ivers has dedicated years to the in-depth study of superior conditioning and training methods in equine exercise science. His method is culled largely from what has been discovered over the past several decades in human athletes, in particular INTERVAL TRAINING.

Readers of these pages have been following the saga of the Horse which I have been describing from time to time. I have taken cycles of 9 as the basis for analysis, 9 races, 18, 27 and so on. But the perceptive reader has perhaps realised that something essential has been left out of the discussion. It is the ZERO, which in this case would be the process leading up to the race – that is, the training of the equine athlete.

In this regard, in my view there is no system comparable to Tom Ivers’. In the next treatment of the subject, I hope to be in a position to discuss ‘the birth that fills the void’ with regard to the training process – which has indeed been a ‘void’ in this racing experience; and perhaps in Thoroughbred racing in general. In the meantime, this letter deals with a subject which should interest most of our readers: the delicate question of science and/or ‘something else’.

2 March 1994


As you know, and thanks to your prompt response to my enthusiasm, I received all the back issues of your wonderful newsletter just recently. I have been studying them thoroughly – devouring their contents, I might add. But unfortunately since I am a late-comer to your subscriber’s list, I could not enter ‘The Contest’ you formulated in the 3/2 issue when it was open. Entries closed before 3/4 However, since the subject interests me, I am sending you my views, though several years have gone by.

What intrigues me is the incorrect formulation of ‘the contest’. You have requested readers to submit their critiques, emphasising the scientific nature of your review and that Michel Kaplan’s explanations of his healing technique should conform to this criteria. It is the same as asking a nuclear physicist to explain, within the parameters of physics, the findings of exercise science. These are different languages. Both may be dealing with energy levels and transmutations, but they approach the subject from very different angles and therefore one cannot explain or prove the correctness or otherwise of the other.

I am assuming that Mr Kaplan has indeed cured horses and is not a ‘quack’, as you suggest in 3/4. A quack surely is one who promises to heal but is incapable of doing so, and often knows this. A deliberate fraud, in other words. From the report in 3/2, Kaplan did indeed heal a number of ailing horses exactly as he sustained he could. Where is quackery in this?

Where Mr Kaplan seems to have incurred your wrath is in his diagnosis of ailments on the basis of ‘kinesiology’, and then a healing process according to ‘kinesiological manipulation’. You dismiss his diagnoses cavalierly, basing your dismissal uniquely on the current state of equine (and human) medicine and attendant research. In my view, and certainly this is corroborated by your own experience of many years dealing with inadequate, inaccurate, flawed ‘facts’ in equine sports medicine and exercise science, or lack of it, what is known and accepted may not necessarily be the last word. Yet for years these ideas that come to be dismissed have been held sacrosanct, – ‘science’, in a word; and that means unassailable.

Therefore, perhaps Mr Kaplan’s diagnostic methodology refers to an area of science yet to be discovered. Or even rediscovered. He seems to be dealing with energy channels, if they may be so called, or a network of energy lines in the body. This is not at all new. It is a science as old as the hills. In Asia, where I live, such approaches to medicine and health were fully developed and operative long before the West came to know there was such a thing as science in any sphere, much less in health and medicine. I am enclosing an ad from today’s paper, announcing the release of a first-ever translation from the Sanskrit of a very old Ayurvedic text. You can appreciate from the write-up the detailed nature of this science perhaps thousands of years ago in India, even to the extent of categorising 120 surgical instruments, techniques for plastic surgery, anaesthesia, etc. And this is just the first volume! We regularly use Ayurvedic medicines for our horses and cattle. One product ought to be marketed worldwide. It is called HIMAX, a natural, herbal antiseptic and healing cream. But its best and most valuable feature for owners of grazing animals is that it is a proven fly repellent. Even if applied around the wound only, it keeps all flies away, without unhealthy and offensive chemicals, on which most products depend.

China developed acupuncture, which many claim originated in India. This science deals precisely with those energy channels throughout the body which Kaplan may be referring to, and the means to unblock them, or else to release energy when there is accumulation and a resultant imbalance. Naturally, if you do not accept the basic premise of the existence of such channels, then you have to debunk the whole science, as you have done with Mr Kaplan’s analyses. But this does not mean that he is wrong, or he is a ‘quack’. It only means that Tom Ivers knows nothing about the fascinating question of Energy, and the long way western science has to go before it can come near to an understanding of what exactly makes us tick as cosmic machines, minute though we be, along with the pulsation of the whole universe, the most incredible energy machine we have at our disposal to understand precisely these workings. There is far more to these pregnant issues than meets the eye. And certainly it is unfair to dismiss any approach which starts from the premise that the horse, for one, may be impelled by a different system of fuel manufacture and release than is currently believed and accepted.

Indeed, my own studies in this matter have given me sufficient material to work with to explain something of this unique energy machine that the horse is. I do not feel it is ‘coincidental’ that this animal has been such a close companion of man from the earliest ages. There is an affinity between the two species which I find to be located in this very area: energy release and utilisation, and the manufacture thereof. Furthermore, I was immediately attracted to your particular presentation of Interval Training precisely because I recognised it as the system most in harmony with my own studies in cosmology as applied to human development, with the horse as a guinea pig, of sorts. In particular, your conclusion that a 3-3-3 month schedule is the best, and then intervals of 3×1, confirms for me certain findings regarding the role of time in this question of release of energy. But this is another matter. I mention it simply to provide an example of unorthodox approaches to your own system – i.e., the three stages of structural foundation, cardiovascular development, and then tapering for the race – that I am not diluting, perverting or polluting the system, though my involvement is occasioned by a very different approach. You may not be convinced, and I certainly have no intention of convincing anyone. I am only interested in ‘pure science’. That is, pure knowledge, but applied and not theoretical and speculative. But in view of my own ‘unorthodoxy’, you can understand why I was not as shocked as you, and perhaps many of your readers considering the poor response to your ‘contest’, by Mr Kaplan’s healing in terms of deblocking channels, albeit mysterious and undetected by contemporary science.

Allopathic medicine and western science have a lot to learn from Asia in this area. You have often debunked homoeopathy applied to the horse. But I know competent, first-class vets here in India who regularly treat specific ailments in horses under their care with homoeopathic treatments and with very fine results in ailments where allopathic cures produce no results. Allopathic practitioners dismiss homoeopathy mainly on the grounds that such minute doses cannot be proven chemically to contain anything of the original substances claimed by the science of homoeopathy. But anyone who has taken this medicine – myself, for one – can affirm that whatever is left after reduction is potent indeed, atomic, I might add. Based on my own experience, if I do not make use of homoeopathy it is because I find too few practitioners with the real and deep understanding of that healing technique, especially in the delicate realm of diagnosis for which it is renowned.

This is the problem with the very ancient Indian systems of medical science, Ayurveda and Siddha. They continue to be practised in India. But there are too few doctors adequately versed in these ancient methods (largely because of 1000 years of invasions and conquests and finally the British Raj and its imposition in the educational system of ‘superior’ western science) as would be required for proper diagnosis and cure. In fact, the problem lies primarily in diagnosis. Ayurveda relies mainly on pulse readings. The practitioner, if he or she is really competent – and these, I repeat, are few – can feel three pulses in the wrist, for example. That is, pressing deeper and deeper to cover three levels of pulsation, the quality of each which can furnish accurate data about the several layers which constitute human physiology. A good practitioner can and does register extremely accurate readings, without machines. His or her mind and consciousness is the machine and the art lies in a integration of the data, which most often lies beyond the capacity of computer analysis. In contemporary times we often refer to such capacities as ‘intuition’, – i.e., fuzziness. But this is inaccurate. It is more on the order of a superlogic. It is a special capacity to integrate various levels of knowledge, the synthesis or combination of which spells accurate diagnosis and cure, or otherwise. (This is applicable to other areas of knowledge as well.) In view of this special quality, I state that there are very few who are able to diagnose on the basis of these ancient sciences, simply because to do so requires a capacity which is not encouraged in contemporary scientific training, therefore depriving it of an essential layer of knowledge. This may be said to approach the threshold of art, for lack of a better word.

Carried over to your critique of Kaplan, I must say your reference to his ‘“eyeball”, “touchy-feely”’ approach as ‘the most primitive of diagnostic techniques’ is itself primitive. I am a great advocate of machines and the advancement of this technological age. But this has not reduced the special capacity of the human being to perceive certain layers of energy interaction and relation which has not yet been brought within the purview of the machine. This may await the next century when a different ‘medium’ is discovered for the purpose. In the meanwhile, humans are having a hard time holding on to the little of their make-up that has a superior edge. But after all, who invented the machine? It might well have been someone with a special ‘eyeball, touchy-feely’ capacity which allowed him or her to tread where angels dare not. Certainly some of the greatest discoveries of contemporary science have been avowedly due to ‘intuitive leaps’. The great early 20th Century mathematician, Ramanujan, is an example.

When you dismiss Kaplan’s ‘science’ as pseudo, you leave owners of the horses he has cured with no other labels than ‘miracle’, ‘magic’. But Kaplan is not to be blamed for this. You are, and those of like mind who see ‘science’ only through the western mind and machine. Whereas, he seems to be making legitimate efforts to de-mystify his method.

Mr Kaplan’s system is not, after all, so outrageous. Anyone who has studied psychology and brain/mind functions can readily accept the fact that a physical reaction when sensitive areas of the body are pressured can be due to actual pain, or else fear of that pain. In other worlds, many chronic conditions are actually physical barriers (blockages?) which are the result of fear of the pain, rather than pain due to the original condition, just as Michel Kaplan states. What is so outlandish in this obvious conclusion? You may criticise Mr Kaplan’s ability to cure the problem with his massage technique, but what about the results? Are you justified in debunking the method when it seems to be a fact that cures have taken place?

Recently I was listening to reports on synesthesia – or the capacity of certain subjects to see sound, for example, to have visual images formed in the brain/mind/consciousness based on certain sensorial perceptions such as smell, hearing, touch, etc. For many years these subjects – an average estimated 1 per 25,000 persons – were considered psychologically defective. Most were treated for hallucinations. But now it is ‘known’ that this anomaly is actually a function of the brain which can even be nurtured. Children and women possess this natural capacity in a ratio of 3:1 compared to adult males. This too is a function known to ancient schools of psychology in India. Only now is western science catching up, realising that this is a normal albeit dormant faculty of the brain/mind. The problem now, though accepted, is that it cannot be explained according to the current scientific brain/mind model. Yet recent discoveries by dedicated (anti-establishment?) researchers have resulted in sufficient data to force the scientific community to re-think the matter. Who is to say that before long some of the unorthodox ideas healers like Kaplan work with will not be similarly accepted? After all, what Kaplan is talking about is precisely brain functions. You must admit that virtually nothing is known about this fundamental instrument. Nothing of its fullest potential has been tapped. Since Kaplan is talking about this largely unknown quantity, it is not honest science to debunk his methodology when faced with the apparent successes he is having.

Michel Kaplan’s method is not faith healing. Mercifully, the horse is not ‘open’ to such influences. His is a straightforward technique quite soundly backed up by what might be called the psycho-physiology of pain and how to deal with it, and its residue in chronic conditions. It merits serious thought, not medieval denial.

All of this was just to present the background for my objection to the overall tenor of the ‘contest’. I do not consider it fair play to judge Mr Kaplan’s ‘art’ according to parameters foreign to his system of healing. We are justified in judging and drawing conclusions of quackery or not, only if we are versed in the methods he uses. These may be very alien to us. In which case we are not qualified to debunk. All we can do, all that is reasonable and just to do is to judge his performance. That is, the results.

Did Kaplan cure the horses of their ailments or not? The question of whether his diagnosis and explanation of his healing technique is ‘scientifically’ tenable, according to our current beliefs, is immaterial. After all, which ‘science’, and at which stage of its evolution? Just observe the way space probes are turning hitherto indisputable ‘facts’ about the solar system and the universe upside-down! Or what about anthropology? A skull recently uncovered in China indicates that homo sapiens evolved pari passu with homo erectus, IN ASIA at that, and not simply in Africa. The date of the skull overturns all prior estimates of the age of the human species. The problem faced in anthropology is the Bible, believe it or not. Too many scientists, it is stated, cannot overcome their Biblical conditioning and accept that the human species did not appear in the Middle East, etc., etc., etc. Or what about the age of the Sphinx in Giza? Now weathering data prove that it is at least 10,000 years old, and not 4000. Science screams: IMPOSSIBLE, no civilisation existed then which could have built the Sphinx. And naturally this would put the supremacy of Greece and post-pagan Europe as the cradle of civilisation in doubt. So, can we be sure objecting to Kaplan’s treatments is not a similar form of prejudice against ‘alternative medicines’. Alternative, according to what criteria? You will have to admit that western-influenced science in general is an infant. Very much is known, but certain essentials remain unknown. And these in their discovery may make all the difference.

I am perhaps more ruthless and intolerant than you in condemnation of ‘quacks’. Particularly regarding the United States’ penchant for fads coupled with a lack of in-depth understanding, especially where healing is concerned, and anything related to the ‘beyond’ or the ‘invisible’. Quacks do indeed have a grand time in the United States, given the bent of the national psyche to pick up an angle or two and disregard the full ‘science’. But I honestly believe that Kaplan is on the right track in dealing with energy patterns of the horse’s constitution. But whether he is correct in his approach or not, I cannot say since I know too little about the subject to date, and far too little about his own successes – and failures.

My point is simply the unfairness of the ‘contest’. I am, as it were, beating you with your own stick, dear friend!


* * *


Medical Science has been more a curse to mankind than a blessing. It has broken the force of epidemics and unveiled a marvellous surgery, but, also, it has weakened the natural health of man and multiplied individual diseases; it has implanted fear and dependence in the mind and body; it has taught our health to repose not on natural soundness but a rickety and distasteful crutch compact from the mineral and vegetable kingdoms.


The doctor aims a drug at a disease; sometimes it hits, sometimes misses. The misses are left out of the account, the hits treasured up, reckoned and systematised into a science.


We laugh at the savage for his faith in the medicine-man; but how are the civilised less superstitious who have faith in doctors? The savage finds that when a certain incantation is repeated, he often recovers from a certain disease; he believes. The civilised patient finds that when he doses himself according to a certain prescription, he often recovers from a certain disease; he believes. Where is the difference?


                                                            Sri Aurobindo

Thoughts and Aphorisms



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