Where do I start to reshape the horse's response system? With his body, of course. Think about the last time you saw your horse spook. What was the postural expression of that behavior? Head up. Ears *****ed. Eyes intent. Back dropped and rigid. The sense that he's on his tiptoes. An overall appearance of his body bracing for danger...
...So, what I want to teach the horse to do when he's working with a person is, with a little help from his handler or rider, to chose the second posture. Why? First, for safety so he can modulate his reflexive flight response when he gets spooked by something that isn't really going to eat him - a bicyclist, a trash can, a flapping plastic bag...
...The first step is to override that head-high/hollow-back posture that turns him into the reactive horse, replacing it with a more relaxed stance that signals the reasoning or thinking horse is present and ready to learn.
All of that is fine from a round pen / arena / groundwork scenario. But I reject the idea that posture drives the horse's emotions, or that you prepare a scared horse to listen to you by doing groundwork & round pen work. I watched a good pro try it, and it didn't work for squat. In my years with Mia, I had to come to accept that while she viewed me as a deity when I was standing on the ground, she forgot about me when scared
. And while a professional taught her head down cues, they didn't mean anything in the real world.
If she was calm enough to listen to a head's down cue, she was calm enough to listen to other cues - go right, or turn around and walk away, etc.
The two most effective things I did with her, long after the round pen failed and ground training failed, were:
1 - Teach her The Two Rein Stop using a curb bit.
2 - Learning to deal with scary things with a slack rein.
When a horse is getting ready to explode, it is really hard to give them slack and merely suggest going right, or suggest turning around. But once I accepted I could not control her mind thru her body, and that I needed to train her mind by giving her an opportunity to think and work with me, not for me, we began to make progress.
I suspect Stacey Kollman and I could get along well if we went for a ride together. But I also think she is stuck in some of the old thought of body control. She seems to be moving toward training the mind, but wants to hold on to using posture to affect the mind. But minds respond to experience and learning, not posture. We should think in terms of root causes, not symptoms.
Mia was a very hard horse to learn to ride on, and I made a ton of mistakes. But so much of what highly experienced people said just didn't work with her. On 16 May 2015, I wrote:
Mia's last day with bsms
I've had Mia since 2008. I was told she was the perfect horse for a beginner when I got her. She wasn't...and she was. She was largely unbroken, as it turned out, and had a very intense personality. We did a lot of spooks together...only parting company once, in Jan 2009. I was a total newbie and she was no better - bright green with bright green.
But if we were a terrible match in some ways, we were a good one in others. She was and is the sort of horse who will not be dominated, but who will give you her best if you break things down and teach them to her in bites small enough for her to figure out. And while many horses CAN be dominated, I think they all
do best when you try to teach them instead...
...One never knows what the future will hold if you sell a horse (or trade one away)...but I can honestly say I tried to do right by her, and I think she reciprocated. We were never "right" for each other, but for 7 years we were always honest with each other. Now if I could just get those darn specks of dirt out of my eyes... https://www.horseforum.com/horse-ridi...3/#post7464529
If more people had met a horse like her, there would be a lot less emphasis on control. And a lot more emphasis on treating each horse as an individual, and on the horse's mind.
PS - The last comment is NOT directed at tinyliny. Generically, I think there is too much emphasis on the body and not enough on the mind.