Just take a few moments to consider why we do what we do with our animals. I am following Cathy Siretts blog on mindfulness https://themindfulnessjourney.wordpress.com – it is useful to apply mindfulness in the work we do with animals too.
Do you want your horse to do things for a reward or to avoid an unpleasant/aversive stimulus?
Do you want to need to escalate pressure if the horse doesn’t comply with a request? At some point if using pressure/release (negative reinforcement) you may well need to go from the lightest of touch to the harshest of pressure. E.G going through the phases in Parelli training, using a whip or spurs in conventional training.
What do you do if your horse runs off at the first signs of pressure? Do you use a bracing position so they can’t escape? Have you ever consider how the horse feels in that scenario? Positive reinforcement trainers advocate giving the horse a choice – so often start at liberty.
Do you know what equine appeasement behaviour looks like?
Does your horse come to be haltered or do you have to play a game first? Is your horse staying with you to get something or to avoid something?
Jo Hughes has a just started the Academy of Positive Horsemanship. http://www.equi-libre.co.uk/academy-of-positive-horsemanship – a wealth of resources but a paid for site.
I do use some pressure/release but do not agree with escalating – there has to be a better way with these sensitive animals. They give us so much and rely on us when we keep them in captivity, we owe it to them to be the best horse people we can be.
Benny taught me so much, he still is a little hesitant to go out alone but is getting better with hosepipes etc since we started using positive methods. He was the one who reared and ran off when pressure was applied – he was definitely sent to teach me to be a more empathetic horsewoman.
Everything we do in our horses presence teaches them something – sometimes they learn things we don’t want – so it pays to be mindful in every interaction with them.
The difference between using positive reinforcement as opposed to negative reinforcement is the emotional response of the animal. Behaviours may look the same and the cues can be the same but how does the horse feel? Only the horse truly knows.
If you wish to know more use the above links and get some expert advice, this is not a method but more tools in your toolbox.
Wishing you all a very Happy New Year.