Last Thursday, I arrived to work with the little mare, got her tacked up, out to the arena, and then put her in the long reins. She was very worried about them, kept trying to move off, and getting it set up was two man job, with me running the line through the stirrup and owner holding onto horse for dear life. Once in the lines, the horse was in a state and about to blow, so I had to gently reel her in and unhook her. I asked the owner, "What on earth is going on here?"
Owner told me that the previous weekend, she'd tried taking horse on a hack up the road on her own and horse would have none of it. The immediate problem was solved by the BO, who is a very accomplished horsewoman, getting on the horse. A day or so later, a friend of the owner, one of her fellow liveries, told owner that what the horse needed was more groundwork and "respect." Friend has apparently done a few Richard Maxwell clinics with her own horse. I don't know much about Richard Maxwell -- he's just a name I see on forums, but I think he's one of these "natural horsemanship" gurus. I suspect that he himself would be quite good at working with whatever horse was in front of him, but as is the way of these things, people can be quite selective in what they take away from these clinics and completely miss the underlying principles, or get hung up on the whole "respect" v. "disrespect" thing in a way that isn't actually useful for horse training.
In order to get "respect" from the Welshie, this lass apparently blocked any kind of forward movement by shanking the horse with the lead, and wildly swung the lead rope at her hindquarters. The intention was that the horse was to always face the handler and fly backwards in response to the swinging rope. Indeed, every time a rope would swing or flop about, the horse would go flying backwards, which was why she was in such a panic on the long lines. The ropes on either side meant she felt trapped. There are times when I do want to send a horse backwards quickly. This is not most of the time. It is, in fact, incredibly unhelpful behaviour when you want the horse to go softly forward on a lunge line or in long lines. The horse's owner admitted that she wasn't happy and couldn't understand what friend was trying to achieve with the horse, but felt she couldn't say anything as this person is a good a friend and ostensibly far more knowledgeable.
I spent the session reschooling the horse in basic lunging. The horse was fine once she was out on the lunge, but bringing her in and switching sides was a faff. Once you were close to the horse and futzing with the line, she'd start worrying and run backwards. I spent an hour and half bringing her in, changing directions, sending her quietly back out and desensitizing her a bit to a flopping rope. I use a flicking rope as a cue, especially on the long lines, but I don't want the horse moving away every time the rope moves. Horses can learn the difference between a flicking rope that means move and one that doesn't. Anyway, I fixed it. But I was bloody annoyed at friend.
I understand why some NH style trainers will drive a horse backwards. I have done this with horses, but in my experience, you have to match the energy of the horse. I'll only use big cues on a horse who's going in a direction I don't want it to go (on top of me) with a lot of energy and not much attentiveness. As I said earlier in the thread, this horse is quite soft on the ground, so she was probably quite confused by a person going nuts, flailing a lead rope at her, and not backing off the lead rope flailing no matter what response the horse offered.