Out of my own curiosity and learning, what are some methods of non-physical methods of punishing/training a horse who's prone to aggression? Is it still the same pressure+release? How is it different and how does it help a horse become less reactive? What are some skills/steps that could be used that isn't confrontational?
**General answer, not specifically what I'd do in any situation, but basically the usual - strong, quiet, clear focus & getting them moving their feet. For eg. You want to lead a horse in a certain direction & they rear/strike or such - just keep asking & effectively ignore their behaviour until they 'listen'. IOW, you don't get upset/angry & retaliative of their 'wrong' behaviour, but you don't quit until your request has been effective.
I might be using a lunge whip or such to ask for forward, I might even tap the horse with it - maybe even hard, but yes, it's a pressure-release thing, not actually getting stuck into the horse - if he moves, he stays out of the way.
I think this is understood quite differently by a horse than people getting confrontational. They certainly tend to behave differently. When people 'attack' a horse, even if it's in response to the horse's 'aggression', I've noticed they tend to get one of 3 outcomes - the horse becomes more fearful & reactive, the horse fights back, or will be quicker to get in first next time, or they think it's a game or a 'dominance challenge' & rise to the occasion with further aggression. **Not at all saying it's never understood/works, or even that I would never use heavy punishment(in an emergency type situation you can bet I'll use whatever force I felt necessary to keep safe) just that IME more often than not...
The way I go about it, horses that are 'aggressive' in 'dominance' tend to come quickly to the conclusion that that behaviour just doesn't cut it. Horses that are 'aggressive' due to fear or bad handling realise that they have nothing to fear & that following my lead is a Good Thing for them. It tends to encourage a horse to relax & follow my lead.
Strictly behaviourally, you could say that it's purely the negative reinforcement teaching the horse that that's just the easiest option. After watching Klaus Hempfling, he explains it in terms of becoming the lead mare to gain their respect & trust so they naturally want to follow you. So maybe it somehow leads to the horse instinctively seeing you as more worthy leadership material. Don't know whether that's just wishful thinking & whether horses would ever see us as anything like the lead mare... but whatever, it works for me!