upnover - i agree, esp in letting the horse make mistakes and learn and build confidence. the key is letting them learn this over smaller/lower fences and gymnastics so that they are never overfaced and have the confidence to get out of a sticky situation when need be. just think of steeplechasers...
a great example of this was last fall on a hunter pace coming on a HUGE easily 3'6"+ and just as wide if not wider downed tree that was cut to a tabletop. uphill, with a ditch on the landing side before continuing uphill, after days of hard rain with wet, sloppy footing. first time on this pace course and i had a student on my one mare in front of me bc sky was bucking and i didn't want them getting kicked. student didn't realize the size/spread of the jump and mare was game and took it ok for her (fortunately the mare knew what to do without waiting for my student to help). i didn't see the jump til the mare took off - a half stride in front of me. no room to circle or collect, i "hail mary"-ed it. safety 2 pt, threw my horse the reins and said here - do your thing and save us please. he hit all 4 legs solidly on the jump and scrambled HARD. i thought we were having a rotational fall - his nose hit the ground but thanks to my solid position and his athleticism, he kept his feet under him miraculously and came out of it upright.
in that situation had the mare waited for the rider, they would have crashed. had sky waited for me, we would have likely had a rotational fall bc i had no time to prep for the jump since i'd never seen it before and had no idea it was there nor did i know the size, with, scope, or ditch on the landing side. both of us, and my mare and student, all came out solidly. because my horses are trained to listen to me on course when i tell them, and know that if i don't get in their way and don't tell them anything specific, that means it's up to them. they have initiative, because i let them have it and encourage it, and train them to know when to use it, and when i am asking for something specific.
here's the jim wofford article that put in words how i've always been taught to train... worth the read: http://www.equisearch.com/horses_rid...g_lives_051408
and then another one about the effects of the short format and dumbing down not just our horses, but our riders as well - sad, yet true. and everything i strive NOT to be! http://www.equisearch.com/horses_rid..._format_122308