The first scenario is classic Clinton Anderson: You grab the horse by the lead rope, and you start to put on some pressure - say you wiggle a stick with a flag or plastic bag. As the horse moves away, you follow, neither increasing nor decreasing the pressure. As the horse understands it's not dangerous, it'll stop and chill, at which point you release the pressure.
you introduce the 'scary' stimulus at a level that is NOT seriously frightening to the horse (ie not
'classic CA style'), then I don't have a problem with that method. The trouble with 'flooding'(behavioural term I reckon you're familiar with) when you 'overface' the horse - just do whatever until the horse quits reacting is that it may well *appear to* 'chill' NOT because it understands anything, but because it is 'shell shocked', given up, 'broken'. I've heard CA say 'the more you frighten him, the quieter he will get'. But it's not the kind of 'quiet' I want. It also causes mistrust/fear of the handler, with a 'learned helplessness' that can also cause horses who are generally quiet but 'suddenly, without warning, out of the blue' explode with over the top reactions to little things.
Last Wednesday, they were standing in the close half of the pasture as I passed, and only one of them looked at me as I passed - the others kept on enjoying their grass. None moved.
The horses got to 'high tail' away & then get used to your bike from a distance that didn't blow their minds, so they could *think* about it & get over it. [quote]
Would this indicate that carefully timed release isn't super critical when desensitizing,
Hmm, haven't actually thought of it in that regard. But... Yes, I think it's more about them getting used to things coming & going without consequence. So... rather than 'negatively reinforce' them for doing 'something'(standing still), where you do indeed have to be good with timing for it to be understood, my tactic for desensitising is just 'coming & going' repeatedly, regardless(often ignoring the horse) how they behave, at a low enough level to not freak them out & provoke big reactions.