If you allow your horse to make decisions sometimes but otherwise he has to blindly obey you, how do you both know the difference? Are you really making the decision?
I've discussed this topic before with people who said their horses trusted them and therefore obeyed them. How do they know the horse is obeying them rather than just agreeing with them? I've seen this before. A horse decides to turn off the path or run with other horses. The rider cues to say "no, don't do that." The horse thinks again, agrees and decides it's OK to follow the cue.
However, with many horses, they will do this a hundred times but then one day they will disagree. This time, the horse says "no" and doesn't follow the rider's command.
What happens then?
I've seen with many riders a complete loss of respect or trust for the horse or the horse's training. One man I know was ready to give up horses altogether because his "child" as he viewed the horse, had betrayed the "trust" they had, and the supposed bond he thought they had. Another very smart friend of mine, a doctor stopped riding her horse after an incident like this and sent the horse back to the trainer.
Of course they had a bond, the horses liked their owners. But the horses were adult animals and did not put any blind faith in another creature. Why would they? Horses are not stupid and they have self preservation instincts.
I believe a relationship with a horse is similar to a relationship you might have with another adult friend, not with your child. If you and a trusted friend were in a house and it started on fire, and your friend said, "Wait, let's stay inside, I know it will be fine, you can trust me." You might either agree with the friend, or you might run for your life and disobey him. Would that mean you didn't trust him or that you didn't have a relationship with him? No, you just used your own judgment as a thinking person with a self-preservation instinct.
I don't expect any horse to follow my instruction blindly, and I think those who do expect this are fooling themselves because they have an agreeable horse that has a confident attitude. My horses are adults, not children. The best thing I can do is give them life experiences to teach them confidence in many different situations, not try to teach them to blindly obey me "no matter what." There's always going to be a "what" that will cause them to make their own decision, and that's something I accept working with another person. If you really need blind obedience you better just ride a motorcycle.
Sorry, I have to disagree with you.
If we just allow horses to follow their self preservation instincts, the allowing a horse to spook and bolt, would be okay
There are trails I ride, where I do happen to know the safest route. For instance, there is one spot on one trail, where you have to ride through a long muddy puddle, where the horse can't see bottom, but I know that there is a solid bottom. There is sort of a game trail, tot he side, through solid grassy looking ground, but where I know there is a major deep bog, having accidently ridden into it before I knew that trail
My horse is darn well going to have to trust my leadership, and ride through that muddy water hole, where i know that the bottom is solid!