smrobs, I agree w most all of what you are saying. I was just saying...it is a bit much to expect any horse to have seen and have been habituated to "everything", when the vast majority of people have not.
No, that's true, you can't expose them to everything, but if you instill the basics of how to react to the feeling of fear, then their first instinct will be to react that same way in every situation that comes up. After that first gut reaction to freeze or flinch, then, upon further thinking about the situation, can decide whether it would be safer to continue on or go the other way. Plus, that added second or two when they are frozen will give you time to decide if you are safer where you are or running the other way and you can make the decision of what to do next instead of leaving it to them.
Horses learn best what they learn first and will often revert to that original training in a moment of panic. I've seen it happen over and over and had it happen to me more times than I care to remember. That's why I take special care to teach my greenies what reaction I accept from the very start. Even on a green horse, I don't accept a bolt or a buck as just "par for the course" with the mentality that "I'll begin to teach the horse not to bolt/buck later in their training". If they learn at the start that they will be permitted to bolt/buck with no consequences, then they will continue to do that until it becomes habit. At that point, it is a very difficult thing to overcome.
I've ridden horses that were allowed to buck as a response to being scared because people just allowed it because they thought it was "to be expected". Even after extensive training to get them to stop bucking, every time they got upset or a little bit scared, it was still their first instinct in a pinch when things got ugly. Horses that hadn't bucked in years would suddenly turn into rodeo broncs in a hairy situation because that was what they learned in their first months of training.
For a very green horse that has never seen pretty much anything before, that plastic bag that suddenly begins flapping when the breeze comes up is just as scary as the coyote or bobcat or deer that jumps out of the brush. Granted, we don't have bears, but if a horse reacts one way to a mountain lion (yep, come across those while riding too), then I doubt it would react that differently to a bear.
And, by "a gully"...I meant severe high walled (no less than 15 feet and steep) gullies. It is rare that a horse "fresh out of the gate" takes one w/o so much as batting their lashes. I don't think of it as "bad behavior", I just think of it as...what they need to do. I don't mean, if they just kept bucking until they jar your teeth out...I mean a little buck should be acceptable and expected in that instance.
Oh, I understood your description of gully, that's what we call it down here too. That's where you and I differ in our training ideas. IMHO, bucking (even a tiny bit) is never
acceptable and to just accept that it's "to be expected" is asking for trouble later down the line.
What happens if you're going up the gully wall and when the horse decides to give a buck because he's feeling good, the footing crumbles or he trips and you both go rolling down to the bottom of the hill? Is it still "acceptable and expected" when you're laying there with broken bones and internal bleeding? If the horse is more concerned with being able to hop around because he's fresh than he is with paying attention to the cues you're giving or where his feet are at, then something bad will
happen, and probably sooner rather than later.
I guess I just have higher expectations for my horses that most folks. I expect to be able to get on them and go for a ride without constantly worrying and wondering whether they are going to throw a buck here or there, whether or not they plan to bolt today, or having to spend the entire ride in constant rigid fear because I know
that they will spin and bolt the first time that a blade of grass or a leaf flutters in the wind when they weren't expecting it. Why would I want to ride a horse that would purposefully buck just because he's feeling good, even if it's a little one? On any given day, a little buck can hurt you just as bad as a big one.
Is it really too much to expect a horse to behave like a good saddle horse should? For goodness sake, they have 20 hours a day or more to go run and buck and play, they should be able to behave for the small fraction of time that I am handling and/or riding them.
I mean, riding is supposed to be fun above all else. Spending every micro-second of every ride wondering where and when the buck/bolt/rear was going to happen doesn't sound like very much fun to me.