Hate to bring things back to the off shoot discussion regarding obedience, but something happened yesterday that I think might illustrate a bridge between the two sides.
I have been working on our Cowboy, an 11 year old previously a, working cattle horse. He has been rehabbing from an injury for almost two years now.
He is far enough recovered that I have been riding him for the last few weeks and he has done well for me and is actually a pretty easy ride in the arena despite his spooky tendencies (and the fact that he is uncomfortable with me) he is VERY obedient and never questions the rider.
Yesterday we had our trainer come to work with my youngest daughter (12 yo) and our boarder and her two horses. He brought along his most advanced student who is interning to become a trainer herself. I put her on Cowboy to see how she would evaluate him and she had him spinning among other things....anyway after she rode him, I rode him and then my daughter, who has always wanted Cowboy as her move up horse, asked to ride.
I said sure. After all, this was a horse with a decent handle on him, generally low energy, that may not be the most relaxed horse, but is obedient to a fault so she should be able to handle him. He is a gentleman under saddle.
My daughter is what I would categorize as an advanced beginner, not because she doesn't know how to ride more advanced cues or faster gaits, but because she lacks some of the mental maturity, consistent seat control, awareness of the horse (feel) and timing (including reaction time) I would expect of an intermediate rider.
Well, all was fine for the first 15 minutes as the two of them plodded about, walked through poles and over cavelettis so I got on the boarder's horse (one I am considering purchasing), to feel her out while my trainer kept an eye on my daughter and Cowboy.
As my back is turned I hear excitement going on and turn to see my daughter and Cowboy first galloping the straight away and then cantering around the end of the arena. My daughter is obviously panicking, completely out of control and frozen into inaction. I yell to her to hold on and ride it out. The horse would get tired eventually and slow down.
They go around the other end of the arena, the horse loses his footing and goes down, with my daughter still on his back! Heart attack moment.
She is fine, only a bruised ankle and a few scrapes, horse is fine...
I ask my trainer what happened, did the horse spook, take advantage of the rider, what?
No. My daughter cued him to trot by lifting the reins, pushing them slightly forward (giving the horse his head), bumping with both legs and leaning forward in the saddle. Before he could say anything, the horse took off like a shot. I don't ride for cows, just not something that ever piqued my interest, apparently this is how some around here cue a horse to come at full gallop out of the chute in roping events!
Not the horse's fault, he was being obedient and did not question the rider.
So a few immediately relevant lessons learned here: Obedience is good, but sometimes you want your horse to employ a bit of independent thought...I'm not in a chute, my rider is cuing me to take off like we're after a cow, there isn't a cow for miles that I can smell, maybe its not what she is asking for?
A third lesson, as much as he enjoys my daughter and she loves him, Cowboy is not a babysitter or filler horse. He was trained to be "blindly obedient" and needs a rider who does not require any independent thought from the horse. He makes a great horse for a more advanced rider, not so much though for one who is still getting the shtick down.
Obedience void and blind to all else, at all times, is detrimental. Independent thought at all times and blind to instruction is also detrimental. This is true of both humans and horses! Like I said before, balance in all things.