...Leaders lead with CONFIDENCE. So your other horse may not like you, but you probably have a leader's countenance when you ride him, so he respects you and listens to you. Possibly, you may not have this when riding Mia as fear takes over from previous bad experiences...
...The problem I have with your definition of training bsms is that when the horse does not have a leader aboard, when he has not learned to trust and follow this leader, instincts take over in an unfamiliar situation. It is impossible to expose a horse to every situation they will ever encounter and get an established conditioned reaction in every one. So the horse must know that he can turn to his leader's direction...
...So I have to ask: has Trooper ever spooked? who does he behave better for? does he behave the same way, every time, in a robotic programmed manner, for every person?...
I partially agree with you and disagree with you about Mia & Trooper. I am certain that some of my problems with Mia stem from a lot of bad times together which make me tense in anticipation. She is the only horse I've been hurt by riding, and we've had a number of times when things got ugly. It is hard to overwrite those bad experiences with enough good ones to give me confidence in her, and I'm pretty sure she trusts me a lot more than I trust her - which definitely causes problems.
However, part of it is the difference between horses. Trooper is by nature a submissive horse. Mia is very dominant. The buyer before me returned her to the seller because Mia refused to submit her 900 lbs to a 1400 lb gelding. She lost 150 lbs, had bite & kick marks, and was still ready and willing to fight the gelding every day & every time.
That is one of the reasons you don't simply pound her into submission. Not just because it sounds morally repulsive to me, but because she won't submit to mere pain and power. Trooper's nature is to say, "Yes Sir!" Mia's nature is to say, "Why?"
As for training, I disagree - which we are free to do. Adults of good will CAN see things differently! Training says, "When I pull the left rein like this, you go left. You have gone left in response to that pull 10,000 times. Now you are scared? So what? I pull and you go left..."
Mia can still get scared or startled by things. That is OK. But we've done so much work on stopping that she now stops when in blind panic with a tug or two of the reins. A curb bit helps, but it mostly helped as a training tool. Having now done uncounted stops, she'll stop even when scared. She doesn't ask, "Do I trust my rider?" She isn't using conscious thought or logic. Just "X = STOP".
That does not, in any way, make her a robot. There are many times I value her input, and accept it.
I switched use of reins from 'contact' to 'no contact unless needed'. She has freedom within boundaries. I use the bit to set & enforce boundaries, but try to ride as much as possible without it. But for safety, I must have boundaries, and those boundaries must be obeyed regardless of who is on her back.
IMHO, a well trained horse does NOT test her rider. An experienced horse might, but not a well trained horse. This time last summer, we had a French exchange student visiting us. My wife, without asking or telling me, put him on Mia to ride in our little arena. I walked out and saw this French teen boy cantering on Mia, bouncing up & down like a basketball being dribbled on her back. Mia's ears were pinned, but she didn't bolt, buck, balk or fight. I stopped them, BTW, and he switched horses with my daughter. It was the first time in 2 years my daughter had mounted Mia, and Mia still behaved like a lamb.
That meant some of the training was taking effect. And yes, my wife and I had a heated discussion later on. The boy was trying, but he hadn't been on a horse in 3 years and his riding sucked - and Mia behaved. She did not test him and find him wanting. She didn't press the "EJECT" button. She didn't know him from Adam, he stunk at riding, and she did everything he asked no matter how poorly he asked.
That is what I want in a horse. I value Mia and I want her input. I expect her to notice a dog a half mile away. I expect her to ask
to speed up or slow down. If she doesn't want to be in a wash, it could be laziness or it could be wild pigs near by. But if I decide it is time for an immediate 180 deg turn on a trail, I don't want her asking why. If I tell her it is time to hit the brakes, I don't want her asking if she likes me. I was ****ed when my wife put an inexperienced stranger on her, but proud that Mia made it work.
BTW - I don't think this discussion hijacks the thread. I think an important part of ecasey's post is the balance between how we train a horse, what we expect, and how we balance our needs with the desire to work WITH our horses and not just ON them. If someone understands the sentence "I enjoy my horse's companionship when I ride", then how to do that safely and effectively becomes important.