In theory, I ought to agree with her. In practice, I do not.
"To find out why a horse misbehaves when carrying a rider requires quite a bit of exploration. Just a few possible answers: an ill-fitting saddle, a sore back, an unbalanced or stiff rider, an ulcer, poor posture. It’s the rider’s responsibility to find out the answer...
Well, here are a few more: lazy, more interested in hanging out with other horses, has a comfort zone limited to its corral, hypersensitive. Yes, it is worth taking a few minutes to see if the saddle fits or not, etc. But given the number of us who are new riders, and who haven't spent our lives around horses, I think the truth is that there are more spoiled horses than there are horses with sore backs from bad saddles.
"A related technique is employed by many natural horsemanship practitioners. This involves using a leadline with quite a lot of slack or “float” in it and shaking it side to side very quickly. Again the result of this movement of the line attached at the horse’s chin is to cause the horse to lift its head and hollow his back while he backs away. After many repetitions of either of these techniques, the horse may give in and stand still. But what has been taught? Submission or a better postural choice?
I don't shake lead ropes to back a horse. However, I sure don't shake a lead rope to back them under saddle. What most horses learn in this situation is that the much smaller human can and will insist on not being bullied. And that is because a lot of horses ARE bullies. I can watch my horses in my corral and see them bully each other. And a horse that considers a human its social inferior is dangerous.
Horses hollow their backs all the time. It doesn't hurt them. It isn't the best way to support a rider's weight, but that often is best taught from the saddle. Without a rider, my horses can hollow their backs and then move with explosive speed and agility. I've watched them do it. It is my weight that hinders that, and they cannot learn to carry my weight efficiently when they are not carrying my weight.
"As an intelligent, experienced rider, if I determine a horse I’m working with doesn’t have the balance and postural skills to execute such simple figures as a large circle or semi-straight line or to do a simple walk-to-trot transition in some semblance of self-carriage, I might decide it’s not in the horse’s best interest to be asked to carry a rider at that time. This is especially true if the horse in question is very sensitive, is recovering from chronic lameness or has been abused emotionally in some way, such as being pushed too hard in his training program.
If the horse is injured or has been abused, then some time off is certainly reasonable. However, most horses move OK in circles without a rider's weight. Even if their circle is a series of straight lines, it works for them - without a rider's weight. I've watched my horses sprint at high speed across a field covered with 12-18 inch boulders, spinning and turning, and do it without any injury or loss of balance. The same horses, with my weight on their back, couldn't trot in a 20 foot circle efficiently. The problem wasn't THEIR balance, but their balance WITH me. And that required me to be on their back to correct.
"Why has the dominance paradigm persisted? There is an element of “that’s how it has always been done,” for sure. Dominance-based training can be successful, to a point. But what does the horse really learn when he is made to run around and around a roundpen until he “submits” to the handler? That once he gets tired, it’s time to listen to what the human wants?
Nope. They learn it is easier to do it the human's way than to act like a spoiled kid. They learn the human is the one who determines what to do next. And that is a critical lesson for a horse to learn.
I'm all in favor of a willing partner. But I may need an UNWILLING partner until the horse has learned I know what I'm doing. Mia couldn't gain the experience needed for her to trust me willingly until she first did so unwillingly, and then found out I was right. I need a willing SERVANT. Why? Because I know more and am smarter than she is.
I'm all in favor of listening to your horse and respecting their opinions. But we also need to be realistic about those opinions. Mia may be refusing to move forward because she is genuinely afraid, and pushing her harder will cause blind panic that shuts down all learning. But she may be refusing to go forward because she is concerned - not afraid, but concerned - over things she needs to ignore because I tell her to ignore it. Maybe she is afraid of an ATV. So what? We're surrounded by cactus, and the cholla behind her is a much greater threat than the ATV. I know that. She does not. That is why I need to make the decisions.
All quotes from Dominance Training Alternatives for Horse Riders