I realize that I can't physically hurt her with physical training methods and I do understand that horses get physical with each other to communicate. I guess what I don't understand is how do I "get physical" without her perceiving me as a predator, but instead as a leader? I don't want her to fear me or lose her trust in me. She is an extremely easy going horse and is doing amazingly well with very little training - its like she's a natural. I don't want to ruin that.
My neighbor is too harsh with his horses in my opinion - he can't catch them from the field, but they come running to me. They avoid him and I feel like they see him as a predator. They don't want to be ridden by him because he hits and shoves them when they are "misbehaving" out of fear. After he rode my horse one time a few weeks ago, she avoided all humans for almost a week. How do you make that distinction between being a "firm" rider or trainer and acting like a predator that they will fear
The trick is to understand the difference between a horse misbehaving out if fear, confusion, or uncertainty, and a horse who is "testing" his position in the pecking order, or simply ignoring you. I would say that your extremely laid back mare is simply ignoring, and would not be adversly affected by increasing the pressure until you get the response you are seeking. I do follow some Clinton Anderson, esp. The groundwork, and it has worked for me on several horses, but you are absolutely right that every horse/rider team is different, and training needs to be flexible. The great thing about natural horsemanship as it exists today is that there's a system for every situation.
A horse never
learns when he's afraid, but there are ways to get their attention and "bring them back to Earth" without increasing their stress. Whenever you're working with a horse, make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard, be consistent, be as gentle as possible and as firm as neccesary. If the horse is afraid, back off and work on something that she understands until she's confident again. If she's being lazy or ignoring you, get the response you wanted (so she doesn't learn that she can "get out of it" by ignoring your request), then reevaluate and decide whether you want to pursue the issue, then act accordingly.
As far as a book I would suggest Cherry Hill's How to Think Like A Horse. Http://www.amazon.com/How-Think-Like-Horse-Understanding/dp/1580178359/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top
Kind of a philosophical book, but full of nuggets of wisdom.