It's not always okay to speak up, I really do understand that. And I practice that. Most of the time. However, there are times when choosing not to speak up leaves us with inner thoughts and internal conversations wrestling to understand.
The other day I was at a feed store and while browsing the shelves I overheard a young woman complaining about her horse turning around on the trail. Her friend promptly suggested, "Oh yea, when a horse does that you just keep him turning, around and around, let him know that it's more work to turn around than to do what you want," or words to that effect. I thought about countering that suggestion, but who am I? I'm certainly no trainer. I do alright helping folks learn how to make their horses feel better with exercises, but a trainer I'm not. So I just did my business and moved along.
But I never understood, or subscribed to that method of, "training." First that kind of turning around and around can, and often does, cause the horse to become heavy on their forehand. Which is counterproductive to opening a horse's mind, as a horse on its forehand is most likely to be in flight mode, and that's not really a thinking place. Second, causing a horse to become heavy on its forehand is exactly opposite of correct and healthy body posture and carriage. Lastly it just feels and sounds wrong.
To me that kind of approach always just felt like … "Getting even." … As if to say, "You wanna do that, I'll show you what that gets you." Different approaches for different folks, I reckon ... But to me, "teaching a horse a lesson," falls far short of, "teaching a horse to be confident."
What do I do in a case where my horse refuses, or rebels? … Depends. But it's never, ever "Get evenism." When Kessy, early in our relationship, refused to go down the trail, I dismounted and led her. In those early days I did a lot of walking, and walking for me is difficult. But you see, each little step helped her gain confidence. I'd walk a little, find a spot I could sit down and let her pick at the grass if there was any, or just take in the moment being out there together. We did this for weeks. Eventually she gained the confidence to go happily down the trail.
This confidence can then be transformed to other challenges. That's where I feel, and it's only my opinion, "getting even, or teaching them a lesson," leaves the horse wanting. Those do not build confidence. Without confidence the horse cannot truly enjoy or look forward to doing things with you. Sure she might perform, but it'll remain an effort. Not be a joy. And it's difficult to build on.
I feel, when a person expects a horse to "obey" they are not, "hearing" the horse. When you help your horse build confidence, co-operation is freely given. A horse who has been trained to "obey" will too often see your requests as just another thing they, "Must Do." A horse who has been allowed to learn by building confidence will see your requests as adventures. A side benefit will be a horse who has less separation anxiety, and will be with you on the trail, even when other horses around her are worried and anxious. It's a confidence thing.
Have a perfect day.