When I first started learning to train horses I was taught a tough love version, it’s my way, or the highway kind of concept, and because that was all I knew, that was all I did.
Then I learned natural horsemanship, and latched onto it full force, releasing the old method all together.
Neither choice was right. I did not have balance.
With the first method my horses did not really enjoy my company, and showed a lot of resistance when asked to do anything.
When I went full natural horsemanship, I was too lenient and my horses eventually started to be more dominant.
It’s when I finally found a nice balance between the two that my connection with my horses really flourished and they started to enjoy my company, and where willing to do their jobs.
My methods are still evolving, which they should, no one should ever stop learning, but now there is a nice equilibrium between having respectful, safe animals and having them be willing partners who enjoy their time spent in the arena, on the trail or anywhere else.
The analogy I usually go for when explaining how to find a balance I use the relationship between parents and kids. A lot of the time if I ask a student to get their horse to do something, and the horse resists, the student will say “He doesn’t want to” So I respond with “If your parent asks you to clean your room, and you say ‘No!’ does it work?” this usually makes the concept click in their minds pretty quickly.
If you force, you will be met with resistance, but if you show that the alternatives are a lot less appealing, then the horse will choose the correct path 100%. Maybe not immediately but they will get there eventually.
On the other hand, if they resist and you release the pressure, the next time they will resist again until you have a horse that will not do anything because they know you are not serious.