Only had time for a quick few lines last night. I'd like to explain why & what I don't like about the way people(inc MR) *generally* seem to understand 'join up'.
Firstly, agree fully with Sky's comments above & also want to comment on...
When I join up with a horse I don't start by pretending to be the horses friend. I take them in an enclosed area and let them off lead. As soon as they leave me or start paying attention to something else I chase them off and make them start moving. I never let them get below a trot and I control their direction. I am getting after them like that because they aren't paying enough attention to me.
Most importantly IMO, I too don't 'pretend' to be anyone's friend. Horses aren't stupid & they sense our intent, often a lot better than we realise it ourself. I honestly
strive to become my horse's friend.
IMO if you've got your horse trotting away from you, you can bet they are indeed paying attention to you. It's just that you're telling them to leave, so of course they're focussed on other places! When the horse 'gives you' her ear, it's because she's run 'away' & you've kept pushing, so eventually she realises that her current behaviour isn't working to get you to quit pushing, so she's looking at you wondering what signals she may have missed, what she can do to get you to stop.
I don't personally think there is anything wrong with using appropriate pressure & negative reinforcement(removal of pressure to teach/strengthen a behaviour) at all, and I also agree with the rest of what you've said, srh1. I just think we need to analyse what we want the horse to learn from this sort of exercise & what the horse is actually learning. Eg. a 'join up' type exercise is actually how I teach a horse to come when called & it seems that this is what you're(srh1) wanting too(?).
I don't make a horse trot or chase the horse away from me if I want to teach it to do the opposite. But if
the horse is moving/facing away from me, I will signal them to come & direct some pressure at their hind end(not out behind as in lunging), which may indeed cause them to think I'm asking them to move further/quicker away at first. I too keep *light* pressure on until I get the smallest sign(like an ear in my direction) that they are confused about the continued pressure & ready to try something else. Then I instantly relax bodylanguage & focus to reinforce this. It doesn't take too many repetitions to work out that when I direct pressure at their hind quarters, I mean them to move that part away from me & so face me & ultimately come to me.
Monty Robert's theory behind this trick is that it supposedly emulates natural herd discipline & therefore magically gives you the same 'respect' as a lead mare. In a wild herd, a lead mare will chase an 'offender' out of the herd and not allow him to come back in until he's 'apologised'. Once he's shown those signs(head lowering, licking & chewing, etc), she allows him back in the ranks.
The discrepancies between natural behaviour & 'join up' start with my amazing observation that humans aren't actually horses
, aren't perceived as other horses or often even as a desirable 'herd member' to stick close to, have far different(& often unconscious & conflicting) bodylanguage. The mare doesn't chase anyone from the herd without good reason - 'rude' behaviour for eg. She also doesn't continue to chase the horse around once he's 'out', only when he tries to come back before she's happy about it. The horse is not trapped in close proximity and he desires to be close to the other horses & feels anxious when away/alone. The edges of the herd or away & alone are where prey animals are most at risk of predators. In contrast, 'join up' teaches to chase a horse 'away' & continue chasing them, although they cannot do as they're asked & get away. Especially if a horse has not first learned that people are to be trusted, the horse generally has little if any desire to be close to the handler and every desire to be away - often also where his actual 'herd' is.
There are also similarities between 'join up' and prey/predator behaviour. If for eg. a pack of wolves was able to separate a horse from the herd, they would keep the pressure on & endeavour to keep the horse away from the rest and exhaust him until they had a good chance to make the kill. The head lowering at the end of a tiring run is a sign of exhaustion. While it would be rare for animals in the wild to be trapped & run in a small area, once they get beyond hope, for eg. once the lion's latched onto the exhausted antelope, it seems to be a common 'last ditch' coping mechanism for the prey to just 'give up' & 'submit' to being eaten. Some people refer to this type of mental response as 'catatonia'.
So anyway, I think it's vital to really analyse & consider the natural behaviour & psychology of the animal & that emulating this is indeed helpful in effectively communicating & developing a good relationship with your horse, but for the above reasons, I don't believe 'join up' is a good way to go about it.