I am reviving this old thread so that I do not have to open a new one for a topic that has to do with yet another aspect of dealing with unwanted behaviour. Or actually the term "unwanted behaviour" does not quite capture it, because what I mean is behaviour that actually is wanted, but not in the quantity in which the horse is offering it. This post will not be that much about the question whether the behaviour should be rewarded or not (or when or how or why), but I will try to explain how I use such behaviour to generate something positive.
There are several examples of this in our training. One is Titum who often picks a certain exercise and then offers it again and again, often in a quality that is not as good as it could be. For example, right now he has rediscovered the single canter jumps, so most of the time when I am walking somewhere, he follows me in little hops and wants a reward for that. Now hops are nice, but after the 500th one it can become a bit boring. However, not rewarding his offer also wasn't something I wanted to do if there was another way. Therefore, I decided that hops were fine, but then sideways, please. So when he was hopping next to me, I moved my hip towards his shoulder area, asking him to move it away from me, and then rewarded the combination of the hop and the sideways shift. In that way, we are about to get a canter shoulder-in now.
The same goes for other exercises. We have started to combine his constant backing up with forwards jumps, which is a great strengthening exercise for his hindquarters, and his sideways towards me is being turned into a trot half-pass. But it also works for behaviour that arises in the context of a horse's emotional reaction to dangerous situations. For example, when Titum is nervous and jumpy while we go for a walk in the forest, I often do not only praise this behaviour but actively cue him to do more of it by joining in with my body language and asking for high energy moves. That's how we got some of our more energetic exercises in the first place, such as Titum's passage, which somehow never really worked when we were just doing the controlled Spanish trot as a preparatory exercise. And as a nice side effect, it seems to make the scary situation much less scary. Some emotion theories suggest that the experience of an emotion is not so much the prerequisite but the consequence of one's own perceived emotional behaviour and its evaluation, so I guess displaying power moves in a scary situation won't hurt.
Now an obvious concern might be that the behaviour could actually go up in its frequency instead of down. But I think this can be regulated quite easily. For example, when turning the behaviour into something positive like I described above, I usually ask for just a tad more than the horse would have offered on his own accord, and I make sure that the combined new exercise is a hard one and nothing the horse can just mindlessly perform hundreds of times. So while this combination technique results in the new behaviour being offered much more readily than it would have been otherwise, the original component behaviour is performed less frequently.
Besides the benefits in terms of the horse's behaviour, I think for me personally the main advantage of this approach is that it helps me not to perceive my horses' unwanted offers in a negative way and get annoyed by them. Instead, they can form the fertile ground which enables things to grow out of it that would have been far out of reach otherwise.