The founders of Cavalia have written a book that apparently delves deeply into this discussion. Click on the photo of the cover of the book to be taken to Amazon where you can search inside the book. Click on Interview to listen to an interview with the authors from NPR. Click on Excerpt to read more about them. Click on Article to read more about their "Six Golden Principles" of playing with horses.
Force versus psychological manipulation as tools for communication.. Fear versus respect - is it almost the same thing, except that the response of someone respected can be controlled by one's own behavior?
What happens when my horse that isn't afraid of me, but also doesn't have any intent to do me harm? What if he only balks when he is questioning my judgment or is conserving his energy - often a prudent tactic in a natural environment? (My other partner - my husband - also exhibits very similar behavior!)
The funny thing is that I'm in the very same quandary about my pre-teen son. I'd almost come to the conclusion that I'd raised him incorrectly. That if I'd only corrected him physically (phase 4) at an early age, he would be more compliant & obedient now.. It is too late now because he is getting bigger than I am (not to mention the legal issues)! Perhaps an underlying element of fear is a good thing? After all, the world is a dangerous place..?
If a horse (or kid) isn't afraid then why would they choose to do what you/I want them to do? Could the answer be "because I have good ideas/answers"? But how would they learn that my answers are good without experiencing the consequences of their own poor decisions?
There may truly be a time in a child's life when force is necessary to keep them safe. When they are too young to face the consequences of their own decisions. But as they mature, we as parents are supposed to move into more of a supportive guidance counselor-type role.
So what about our horses? According to Temple Grandin, we infantalize our pets through selective breeding and by preventing them from acting as mature, adult, fully-functional animals. Do we do this to our horses in order to keep them dependent upon us? Maybe so. Isn't that what "domestication" is?
I've heard the opinion that if a horse doesn't "respect" you, then he is a danger to be around. In this case, "respect" really means "fear you enough to move when you tell him too." I may have that with Guinness. If I put a point on my intention and really bring up my energy, he will move. However, he is a very "short" horse meaning that his flight distance is small before he turns and faces and wants to investigate. He is also foolishly brave. He is not being disrespectful, it is the way that his brain is wired.
In PNH, and perhaps more so in clicker training, we encourage horses to think. However, it seems that once they begin thinking for themselves, and realizing that they have choices, we sometimes want to put the genie back into the box! We want them to think what we want them to think. We want them to be obedient. Isn't that also how we feel about teenagers in general?
There is something to the idea of meeting the horse as an equal adult creature with thoughts, feelings, opinions, and as much soul as we humans have. We humans tend to think that we are superior because we are masters of linear thinking. We devalue right-brain thinking (see the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain). Our horses see the world in a different way than we do and this gives them a different perspective. Not inferior to ours. We have much to learn from them.
So, I don't know where this line of thinking goes. It has been rattling around inside of my head for awhile and I needed to write it down. Plus, I needed a place to link these amazing resources. ;-) Please feel free to post your thoughts!