...And on the 'other side' I also see(here & in 'real life') SO many people with a strong attitude against using actual +R, due either to lack of understanding what it is('the only reward a horse(or dog) needs is release of pressure & a Good Boy'...)...But perhaps this is because I come from a 'combo approach' kind of attitude, that I'd feel 'set upon' if I didn't use +R, I don't know...
I think a huge number of horse owners use R+ without calling it that or thinking about it. On the ranch Trooper came from, he was used for sheep instead of cattle - because he seemed to enjoy being around the sheep. His sire was a somewhat dangerous stallion until my friend realized there were two things the stallion liked - going for 50+ mile rides, and working very rough cattle. So he started using the stallion for those sorts of work, and the stallion realized humans enabled him to do things he liked. He eventually became my friends favorite horse, and eventually was used by their teens - but not until the stallion understood working WITH people allowed him to do things he enjoyed.
Cowboy was given to us free because no one at the place where he was a lesson horse wanted him. He had been up for free for several months with no takers. He was a pretty bitter, arena-sour lesson horse. But we eventually found he LOVES going out on trails with the other horses - if he is ridden by a rider who lets him make some of the decisions. We now consider him to be our best trail horse, and in many ways simply our best horse. My wife only recently started riding, and she is learning to ride by riding Cowboy in the desert. If he gets left behind, like he was yesterday...oh boy! He got more exercise racing around the corral and kicking and jumping than he would have going out with us. His hooves are harder than the rocks, and he views the desert as a giant, all-you-can-eat buffet, spread out before him! My wife will sometimes steer him to a spot with something he likes to eat, just so he can grab a bite. In return, when she needs him to do something physically hard - he does it. With enthusiasm! They are a team
, riding together
I don't think many eager horses are created by trying to limit oneself to R+. And most owners don't even think about it. But a lot of owners DO try to find a horse who enjoys the sort of riding the owner enjoys.
When I started handling Bandit's stronger fears by taking him a little way away, then dismounting and showing him, slowly, that the scary thing wasn't scary, I was told he would soon learn to take advantage of me - that horses don't like to be ridden and by dismounting I was "rewarding him". It didn't work that way. Heck, I dismount and walk about once an hour anyway - but Bandit shows no sign that he doesn't want to be ridden. He dislikes being afraid and he dislikes parts of trails that hurt his feet. Can't blame him for either!
Apart from that, he enjoys getting out. In his mind, at least, he is in charge of the herd. He is guiding them, with help from me, through the desert. The grass in our little arena is an immediate reward, and he'd prefer immediate gratification. But once out, he enjoys being in charge...so once we're 1/4 mile or more out, he's happy enough.
I realize it is also common for horse owners to say their horses' desires are irrelevant. It is common, including on this forum, to see "My horse has 23 hours a day to stand and eat. So for MY hour, he can make me happy. IT'S HIS JOB!
" No amount of R+ initial training will survive being ridden regularly by someone who believes the horse's JOB is to make the rider happy - at anything the rider wants to do, anytime the rider feels like doing it.
Horse sense used to be a synonym for common sense. If someone had "horse sense", you might fool them for a while, but they would eventually see the truth of the matter. I don't think horses have changed. My horses can see through me, given time. If I want them to enjoy being with me, they eventually respond. Even Trooper, who doesn't like me much, likes me a lot better if I ride him regularly. And if someone believes their horse's job is to make them happy, then horses will figure that out as well. In that situation, R- might be the rider's only option to compel obedience from a horse who would much rather be somewhere else.
For most horses, I don't think R+/R- for teaching cues matters a whole lot. What matters is what happens AFTER the horse learns the cues. Does the rider treat the horse with respect? Do they include "Please" and "Thank you" in their cues? Are they willing to make compromises with their horse? Do they genuinely care about their horse's welfare? Heck, do they even know their horse has a mind and is capable of thought? Are they teachers or trainers? Do they ride the horse's mind, or just sit on top of his body?
In the long run, I think those questions have more to do with a positive approach to horses than how we teach them what a cue means.