...Horse spooks, spins around, rider manages to stay on and stop it from tanking off. Turns to try again patting the horse and talking to it nicely thus rewarding the spook leading to further reaction.
The horse that spooks, spins and is pulled up hard, booted in the ribs and made to go forward unceremoniously is going to learn that spook and spin is not a pleasant experience and the rider is going to be in charge.
Gotta disagree with this. I see no sign a horse enjoys spooking - and I'm talking about a genuine fear reaction, not just balking and saying he doesn't feel like going forward. Mia used to squirt diarrhea out the back at times in a spook, and I don't think a reaction like that is enjoyed by the horse. I think horses hate being genuinely, deeply scared!
Had one stayed on Mia (as I did) and then "booted in the ribs and made to go forward
", the rider would learn what I learned when I did it - that Mia had 4 feet on the ground and I had 0, and that no one could MAKE her go forward. I tried whipping her butt with a 4' leather strap. All that happened is we flew backwards. The harder I hit her, the faster we went back.
If the horse is smart enough to know that she has 4 feet on the ground and the rider does not, then you can never force her to go anywhere. Instead, you have to TEACH her it is safe to go forward if I tell you to go forward. You need to CALM them past the scary spot. Trying to force a sensitive horse past a scary spot only reinforces their fear.
Ever hear of the "Fillis stirrup"? James Fillis, writing in the late 1800s, said:
"The impressionability of a horse can be greatly diminished and modified by breaking. Custom establishes mutual confidence between horse and rider. If the animal has not been beaten, or violently forced up to the object of his alarm, and if the presence of his rider reassures him, instead of frightening him, he will soon become steady. It is a sound principle never to flog a horse which is frightened by some external object. We should, on the contrary, try to anticipate or remove the impression by "making much" of the animal.
I have already said that a horse has but little intelligence. He cannot reason, and has only memory. If he is beaten when an object suddenly comes before him and startles him, he will connect in his mind the object and the punishment. If he again sees the same object, he will expect the same punishment, his fear will become increased, and he will naturally try to escape all the more violently....
...My only advice about the management of nervous horses is to give them confidence by "making much of them." If we see in front of us an object which we know our horse will be afraid of, we should not force him to go up to it. Better let him at first go away from it, and then gently induce him to approach it, without bullying him too much. Work him in this way for several days, as long as may be necessary. Never bring him so close up to the object in question that he will escape or spin round ; because in this case we will be obliged to punish him ; not for his fear, but on account of his spinning round, which we should not tolerate at any time. In punishing him, we will confuse in his mind the fear of punishment and the fear caused by the object. In a word, with nervous horses we should use much gentleness, great patience, and no violence." (186)
A cavalry officer writing in the mid-1800s had the same belief. I hate to contradict Foxhunter because I i know she has a lot more experience than I do, but the two riders I'm referring to wrote books that have been in print continuously for over 100 years - so someone has obviously found them useful sources of information. And their idea agrees with what I have experienced - if you have a phlegmatic horse, "making it go forward" might work. But if you have a smarter horse, then the rider needs to be smarter still.
One of the best bits of advice I've seen, based on how it has worked with Mia and now with Bandit, came from Tom Roberts in Australia. He was former British Cavalry in WW1, then moved to Australia after the war and helped start a dressage club. He told this story:
If you have a sensitive horse, or with any horse IMHO, then try riding past the scary thing on loose reins. It won't go fast, but a horse working its way past a scary object at its own pace and own distance is a THINKING horse - a horse who is learning. Like Tom Roberts, I've found the distance decreases and soon the horse will go by without a worry.
If there is not enough room to let the horse work its way past in loose reins, then what works for me is backing the horse up (or turning around and WALKING away). When the buffer zone is big enough to allow the horse to relax a little and get mentally with the rider - very important since I was hurt badly dismounting a scared horse who was NOT mentally with me - I dismount. Move the reins to the halter and I lead the horse at whatever pace it takes - often slowly - with me between them and the scary thing.
That does not 'reward the horse' - not unless your riding is atrocious! It does show the horse you care about it, and that you are not afraid because you are smart enough to know there is no reason to be afraid. Over some time, the rider builds up a track record with the horse: "My rider has been right 23 times out of 23...so...maybe I CAN work my way around the scary thing
". Then you can stop dismounting, and work past on slack reins. Eventually - at least this is where I am now with Bandit after 4 months - he just doesn't get truly scared. He may get uncomfortable, but I can urge him forward when he is just "uncomfortable". And now I'm working on building a track record of always being right when mounted.
We are not there yet. Not 100%. But I haven't had to dismount for some time, and he hasn't tried to spin away for about a month. We're getting there.
If your horse will follow another horse, but not go at your urging, then your horse doesn't trust your judgment well enough to feel safe. One option is to try beating him past. The other option is to try teaching him you deserve trust. I prefer option number two.
BTW - Bandit's previous owner told me to just force him to go past, so I gather Bandit CAN be "forced to go" - unlike Mia. But after 4 months, we're getting to the point he is "willing to go" because the human on his back knows best. And that method will work, eventually, even with a very nervous horse. Mia was not perfect when I swapped her for Bandit, but she had made a lot of progress in the last year of our riding - by following the advice of Roberts and Fillis.
If anyone wants to know more about my opinion, it is discussed at length on this thread (along with a lot of other things): https://www.horseforum.com/member-jou...t-mias-581034/