The “task” often becomes the focal point, rather than the quality of communication. If the horse mostly “goes along” with what is asked, people tend to accept the behavior.
But without effective “tools” (I don’t mean gadgets, rather how a person uses pressure to communicate) they often wind up at the “mercy” of the horse or “surviving” the ride.
This creates a cycle of worry, fear, and insecurity in humans and horses.
Consider the following questions:
If you walk into the pasture/stall does your horse automatically move away from you (fleeing from your spatial pressure)?
Does he approach nicely but “hover” in your personal space (delegating the pecking order of where you’re at in his herd)?
If you raise your hands to halter him does he move his head up, away, or “dive” into the halter (defensive, anticipative, disrespectful)?
When leading him is he lethargic and slow in response, does he try to “hide” behind you as you walk, does it feel like he is “leading” you and rushing, or does he constantly walk with his head cranked over his shoulder with his body bumping into you?
If you walk past grass or a buddy horse does he try to drag you over to where he wants to go?
If you ask him to stop moving using the lead rope lightly does he respond slowly, is over-reactive, push or lean on it, or altogether completely ignore you?
If you walk faster or slower, does he follow the feel of the energy of the rope drawing him forward and mimic your energy with his, or does he only offer one speed irrelevant to what you’re asking?
If he is tied does he paw, wiggle, chew, or lean on the lead rope, pull back against it, or move away from you as you groom and tack him?
When you mount, does he stand still, walk off before you’re ready, or fidget if asked to stand longer than he wants?
If you’ve answered yes to any of the above questions, there is an Opportunity (even in “accomplished” or “trained” horses) to address their interpretation of pressure and refine the Quality of your communication.
People often misunderstand or lack consideration of all the seemingly small insignificant moments of resistance and defensive horse behavior.
If these are not addressed while still offered in a reasonable behavior, they can very easily evolve into overwhelming scenarios for the horse. Many horses tolerate constant human-imposed pressure without reacting unreasonably, until "all of a sudden" that same horse becomes mentally overwhelmed.
Unfortunately, it seems that people need to see the horse blow up or fall apart before they believe he's having a problem, rather than recognizing, acknowledging, and addressing the subtle signs of minor defensive, anticipative, tension-filled behaviors.
Recognizing the value in learning how to acknowledge and read the horse's communication, without judging it or filtering it with human emotions, gives one guidelines or a starting point as to what to address to help him.
Without having the ability to mentally direct the horse, physically drain his tension, and independently move his head, neck, shoulders, hindquarters, and feet separately, one does not have preventative measures to diffuse potential future unwanted equine responses.
You will often see examples of people taught to drive horses whether it's with the pressure of the lead rope, a stick, a flag, or their leg. Rarely addressed is engaging the horse's mind to participate. Yet the horse's mental and emotional state is reflected in his physical behaviors.
The specificity required from the human to offer clear, intentional, adaptable, emotionally neutral communication is often seen as a chore or not "fun" to learn, rather than viewed as a fundamental skill in the basic equine interaction to build the horse's try and trust.
Too often it isn't until a person has unintentionally reinforced the horse's fear during every interaction and he becomes overwhelmed, offering dramatic or dangerous behaviors, before there's motivation in the human to change "how things were always done..."
Just as much as it is a skill for the human, the horse learning how to learn is also a skill that needs development. Prioritizing helping the horse learn how to mentally work through and let go of his concern will perk his curiosity rather than increase fear and concern. This then influences the reasonableness of the behavior he offers.