Don't know if this is right, but here is how Bandit & I have settled on doing it. I suspect it would work with Mia, but I also suspect both Cowboy & Trooper would want a more directive rider....
There are times he's not happy about things, but not really scared either. Yesterday was trash day for one of the companies in our area, and recycling day for the other - so every house had trash out. He weaved a little to keep what distance he could from them, but he never slowed down. I had my hand farther forward, so the reins had some slack but I could easily take it out if he went stupid.
There are times he is quite uncomfortable, but not totally resistant. On yesterday's ride, we took a road we don't often take and were passing the large community water storage tank. Its pump came on with a loud squeal. Bandit was startled, and reluctant to move forward. I switched to two hands (the better to say 'we are NOT turning around') and waited. He took a few steps forward, and stopped. I gave a little slack and waited. He took a few more and stopped. Meanwhile, the other two horses were also nervous. My youngest daughter was not ready to push Trooper, and Cowboy had picked up a stone in his hoof that my wife wanted to remove - and the hoof pick was in my back pocket (a hoof pick knife I carry for riding).
So I asked Bandit forward. He took two hesitant steps, then I asked him to turn around so we could go help the other horses. He was glad to turn around...but I think we were about to go by except for the other horses. Went back about a hundred yards, got the stone out, and in deference to my daughter, took another route. That was one of those "Maybe he will, maybe he won't" episodes. But I think he was about to move on with a little slack in the reins. We were actually past the spot where the sound came from, so going on meant less "risk" than turning back. Once Bandit was past, I'm sure the others would have followed. They accept his judgment on these things.
But sometimes, what is ahead seems too dangerous to him. If he won't move forward with slack reins in a minute, then he's very worried. I could probably wait for 5 minutes and go on, but it is easier to just back him 20 feet, dismount, rub his face and lead him by. Slowly, one step at a time if needed. If that takes 5 minutes, so be it. But it has been 6+ months since it took much effort for me to lead him past something from the ground.
Once past, mount up and continue. He visibly relaxes when we are past, and then he stands quite calmly while I mount.
It isn't automatic. And like anything else, it takes time and practice and a few wrong choices to learn how the individual horse will respond. I've stayed on and had Bandit explode, and I've dismounted when I didn't need to. If I am going to err, I prefer the latter. Dismounting when I don't need to seems to do no harm, while pushing him into an explosion sets us back in trust and obedience.
One thing to note, because this is how I got hurt on Mia: Do NOT dismount while the horse is genuinely afraid! Dismounting when the horse is scared witless is very dangerous. Get the horse away, and far enough away that the horse's mind is back with you, before dismounting. IMHO. I spent over 7 years with pain in my back when I tried to dismount Mia while she was still terrified.
But I also dismount on trail rides just because - to see something better, because I've been riding over an hour and I believe in dismounting once every hour or so for 5 minutes, because there is a barbed wire gate to deal with, etc. So my horse sees nothing unusual about my dismounting. Dismount, loosen the cinch, walk 5 minutes, tighten the cinch, mount up - and both the horse and I are refreshed!
When I decided to do this with Bandit, a lot of experienced riders told me it would turn him into a spook monster - that he would find a reward in my getting off, and learn to spook to make me get off! After all, horses HATE having riders on their backs, right? This is why I've concluded that formal lessons can be harmful
- and harmful to the instructor who teaches them as well. I think (ideally) lessons should be for the initial 6-10 rides, then no lessons until someone is ready to learn a specific discipline. Or wait a year, take a half dozen, then ride a year, etc.
No one CARES if the lesson horse is having fun. No one cares if the lesson horse is part of the team! In fact, when I took lessons and had a horse start working well with me, the instructor changed the horse so the horse couldn't help me too much. But darn it! Learning how to get a horse to WANT to help you ought to be a huge part of learning to ride!
Lesson horses have hard lives - at least those giving beginning lessons. A bad rider, doing circles in an arena, often bouncing and hard on the mouth, doing the same thing day after day...
"...There is another thing to be considered with regard to the horse's character - it loves to exercise its powers, and it possesses a great spirit of emulation; it likes variety of scene and amusement...Horses don't like to be ennuye, and will rather stick at home than go out to be bored ; they like amusement, variety, and society : give them their share of these, but never in a pedantic way, and avoid getting into a groove of any kind
..." - On Seats and Saddles, by Francis Dwyer
I can easily see how a lesson horse would learn to take advantage of someone who dismounts if it "spooks" at the corner of the arena! If I did hundreds of laps around an arena, lesson after lesson, I'd want to liven up my day, too!
But a lot of students and a lot of riding instructors, it seems to me, then extrapolate the lesson horse behavior on to ALL horses. Thus ALL horses want their riders to get off, and all horses seek to find a way to ignore their rider! And that is why I've concluded "The Power of We" is so useful in teaching a horse - because "they like amusement, variety, and society : give them their share of these, but never in a pedantic way
Horses don't like to have someone sitting on their backs, but they do
love being part of a team working to do something that makes some sense to the horse! Jumping, cutting cattle, racing, checking up on the neighborhood, using their strength to achieve a mutual goal - when the horse thinks "We are doing this
", it doesn't find a reward in the rider getting off, but in the rider getting back on!
'The horse is the sole master of his forces; even with all of our vigor, by himself, the rider is powerless to increase the horse's forces. Therefor, it is for the horse to employ his forces in his own way, for himself to determine the manner of that employment so as to best fulfill the demands of his riders. If the rider tries to do it all, the horse may permit him to do so, but the horse merely drifts, and limits his efforts to those which the rider demands. On the contrary, if the horse knows that he must rely on himself, he uses himself completely, with all of his energy.'" - 5 May 1922
-- Horse Training Outdoors and High School, Etienne Beudant (1931)
When the horse sees his rider as a part of the team, and knows his team-mate cares about him, values him, takes care of him and needs
his help, then dismounting once in a while to care for his fears merely shows the horse you have good judgment and you care about him. That is not wrong! It is right! It is proof you value the horse and will take care of him, and no horse objects to that. That is what being a leader means to a horse...
Aww, was so nice to see the link to @SueC
's journal. I really miss having her on this forum!
was one of the first people I encountered who discussed riding as something horse and rider do together. [Just reread that statement after posting...what does THAT say about the riding world?
] She was also the first person I remember who wrote about horses in a non-competitive way. Unfortunately, she got tired of the 'barn drama' that seems to go with an Internet forum...but horses lost an advocate for them on this forum when she left. I miss her posts too...although I understand her frustration! She also introduced me to the writings of Tom Roberts...