If You Dont, Your Horse Won't
(The Paul Kathen Principle)
This means if you want something from your horse, you must first give it to your horse in order to receive it. So, if I relax, my horse will also relax, guaranteed? No, but if you do not relax, your horse won’t. That is guaranteed!
I would like to examine a few situations to demonstrate the correctness of this principle. Let us stay with relaxation since it is one of the first steps of the Training Pyramid. There are many factors which affect a horse, and you, the rider, are a major one. The closest comparison to horse and rider that I can think of is that of parent and child. The horse’s well being is strongly dependent on its rider just like a child depends on its parents. When mom is anxious, the children become nervous and insecure because they are very much tuned in to mom’s feelings. The same is true for the horse. It can sense the rider’s emotional state and will react to it.
Another example is lightness. A horse’s desire is to move in his natural balance, - on the forehand. In this state of balance a horse can feel light in the rider’s hand as long as he is not asked to perform exercises or movements that require a degree of collection. At that point this horse then must seek the support in the rider’s hand. Tight turns, jumping, transitions, stops, etc., all need the horse to be collected to some degree for the horse to stay light. We then call this horse to be in self-carriage. To teach a horse to carry himself in collection takes a rider with educated hands that gradually move the horse from needing support to lightness. Only a horse that is denied the support of the rider’s hand as well as the return to carriage on the forehand can learn to carry itself in collection. So, if you don’t work toward lightness in your contact, your horse won’t be light in the connection.
Another important area is the seat. We expect our horses to relax and swing in their back. The horse will gladly accommodate us if we do not block him with our insecure seat. Bouncing in the saddle, gripping legs, tightness in our back, and loss of balance, all are going to make the horse defensive and cause him to tighten the long muscles along his spine. If, however, we submit our back to the movement of his, he will relax, start to swing, and then we can use our seat to influence his movement. So again, if we don’t first adjust to him, he won’t adjust to us.
Here are more “for instances.” If you don’t focus, your horse won’t focus. If you don’t strive for consistency in your aids, your horse won’t be consistent in its responses. If you don’t balance, your horse won’t balance.
HURRAY. – I have found an exception to the principle which would turn the principle into a rule! Here it is. If you don’t take charge, your horse will!