So, today I got to work with a friend's horse. She's a very pushy, dominant mare who has initially been trained with NH and then clicker training. The mare's been away on a lease and apparently during that time everything's not gone all that nicely... Result: pushy, dominant, headstrong, stubborn, even aggressive mare. No clicker training while on lease.
I (more of a NH person myself) did a short session with her at liberty. She has no respect so that was my main focus. I asked her to move away from my space, move her forehand and hindquarters, back up and come (yo-yo game), follow in her place (ie. Not pushing me away or going into my space/faster), stop and give her attention, lower hear head.
I was quite surprised I got her to listen and to do all of these things very lightly. Her usual "hell no, YOU do it" attitude and pushiness disappeared after first try at any task, like always.
However, I think I ran into a huge trouble with her the longer our session lasted.
She has been worked in a way that she gets a click for reward as well as "loose" (removal of pressure). Either one on their own should be ok. Usually after a series of clicks, a treat. Well I didn't have any treats with me, so I mainly let her stand and took away the pressure as a reward. A click here and there, but as I'm not a clicker training person, it doesn't come naturally. She didn't see petting as a reward (tried).
At first, she did things very well. The longer I worked with her, the more insistent she became with asking for a treat. First it was just a look "do I get the treat now?" then pawing, after that poking her nose "hey you, treat!". After a while I think it got to a point where her dominant nature took over and she was very close to biting me in an attempt to find a treat. Her attitude towards working ("yeah, let's play") didn't deteriorate.
I kept on asking her away from my space and tried to give her something else to think. At the end I had to give up on our session because I didn't want to risk her biting. This is a horse that will bite a human.
So the question is: how should I have handled the situation? How would I need to handle it in the future? Is this a problem with the horse's clicker training or her pushiness? Me? None of those things? Should I prepare her in some way to let her know "this session will offer you know treats, your reward is this"? Any other tips?