I am not a “Cowboy-Trainer” however, unlike many who lean towards “gentler” methods I do appreciate some of their ideas.
For example, early on, a halter will be placed on a horse with an attached leadrope. The horse (or more often then not, a young colt) will be left alone to graze or move around with the trailing leadrope. The horse self-teaches himself to give to pressure: when he steps on the rope, it stops him from going farther. Only by giving – usually backing up to release the pressure on the rope – can the horse move again.
What I don’t agree with on this exercise:
1.) Leaving the halter/leadrope on for days (or even hours).
2.) Using this as a form of punishment.
3.) Leaving the horse completely unsupervised and thus open to getting into trouble.
With LadyZ I’ve been letting her and BigT graze some of the commons area where grass is more plentiful. Leaving the lead rope on her makes it a bit easier to go back and catch her, but it is also teaching her to move about with something trailing the ground and to problem solve: “Hm I can’t move – oh, I back up, move sideways, and I can move again.”
Because I am not directly there, causing the action to happen, IMO it increases her understanding of what she needs to do.
While natural trainers are against teaching a horse to release to pressure I have these questions for them:
1.) Are you going to be that horses’ sole owner for it’s entire life?
2.) Are you going to the be that horses’ only handler for it’s entire life?
It’s rare that anyone can say yes to both 1 and 2.
What do you do then when someone ELSE, ties that horse to a trailer? Puts that horse into crossties? Is leading the horse from danger? Is trailer loading your horse? When your horse has tangled himself up in a fence – rope – or God Forbid… barb wire?
The reality and practical side of life with horses is that we teach them to release to pressure and in some cases to stand still when tangled. This prevents a handler from being dragged to death, getting rope burn, having a hand or finger ripped off by a runaway, having a horse thrashing during First Aid etc… It just makes life a bit safer and when you really contemplate how unsafe horses are to humans, well it can be a bit of comfort.