Discussion in 'Horse Training' started by Blue-Roan, Oct 29, 2018.
What are your opinions on positive reinforcement training with horses?
Extremely helpful- I wish more people would use it, but it's usually seen as something people use to teach their horses tricks. Some horses respond better to it than others, and some horses are hard to train using positive reinforcements such as food because they start to feel entitled or expect food.
What else do you want to know?
Positive reinforcement means adding something to the training environment to get the animal to do something(Negative reinforcement means taking something away from the training environment).
Positive, here, doesn't mean 'positive' as in 'nice,' 'kind' or 'not hurtful.' (and 'negative' doesn't mean 'mean' or 'cruel.')
So for example, if you added electric shocks to the training environment, that would be 'positive reinforcement' training.
A 'reinforcement' is anything that causes a behavior to happen more often.
So the principle of adding something to the environment to get a horse to do something, I agree with, but for me, it would need to be something added that I can tolerate.
And in fact, using behaviorist terminology like 'positive reinforcement' in terms of training horses is very problematic for a number of reasons.
people don't read the definitions of these terms, they make up their own definition based on their emotions. So everyone is using a different definition for the term, so they can't have a real discussion.
behavioral science is about reducing or increasing the frequency(often-ness) of a behavior. Horse training very often means absolutely removing a behavior (like biting people) so that it never occurs again. Horse training is not 'satisfied' with 'reducing' the number of times the horse smashes the handler up against a solid wall, bolts or rears.
many of the problems in horse training are from dealing with an animal that has some very set, rigid behavior due to his instincts to keep with the herd and flee danger. Horse training methods have to be adapted to that.
many things, horses do 'out of good will.' In other words, in a competition, you can't make a dressage horse piaffe. He has to want to piaffe for you. So that also causes training methods to adapt.
For those reasons and more, horse training uses a number of different 'behavioral techniques' all in unison, to teach anything.
Positive Reinforcement Training ONLY?
This might help.
I am somewhat familiar with operant conditioning. Adding electric shocks would definitely not be positive reinforcement, more like positive punishment. Because a shock is very unpleasant and would certainly discourage a horse from performing a behaviour, that would make it punishment, not reinforcement.
I have been curious about it for a little while, started learning more about it and have experimented with teaching small, simple things to my horse using clicker training. I wanted to see what other people thought about it (there are lots who are vehemently against it for some reason).
I hugely recommend trying it out. I was initially really skeptical of the idea of using treats and had a really hard time wrapping my head around the idea of no longer using pressure and release. I had to throw away nearly everything I’d ever learned about training horses in order to fully embrace the idea of positive reinforcement, but I’m so glad I did! It has completely changed the relationship I have with my horses and the way I view horse behavior.
Definitely think treats work better for some than others. I've never, ever relied on them for training til I got my super spooky guy. He didn't consider release of pressure to be a reward, he just waited all tense and miserable for something else bad to happen. He stayed totally aloof and distant til I started adding strategically timed treats. Then he finally started to relax and look forward to handling. Now I barely give him any and he's calm and willing and I seriously attribute it to the treats. I know that's totally unacceptable to some people but hey, it works for me!
On the flipside though, I've also owned horses that become holy terrors if given treats, so I truly believe it's individual.
These definitions are not correct. “Positive” is adding something, yes, but adding a shock would be positive punishment to not positive reinforcement.
Positive reinforcement - when a desirable act or stimulus is presented as the result of an action (e.g. a pat, a treat for some action, e.g. picking up a hoof, standing still)
Negative reinforcement - when an undesirable act or stimulus is removed as the result of an action (e.g. leg pressure or rein pressure that is then removed when the horse moves over)
Reinforcers serve to increase behavior whereas punishment serves to decrease behavior
Positive punishment - when an underirable act or stimulus is presented as the result of an action (e.g. horse bites, it gets smacked.)
Negative punishment - when a desirable act or stimulus is removed as the result of an action (e.g. horse is pushy during feeding time, you take away his food)
Obviously some are more suited to certain situations than others. I think positive reinforcement is a great tool for certain situations, in my experience it is particularly useful when the horse is fearful of whatever you are trying to ask.
I guess the example of electric shock is what confused you, you assume it was stopping a behavior.
No, though it can also be used that way. But my fault because I did not repeat an earlier example I gave - the electric shock causes the animal to do a desired behavior, that is reinforcement, not punishment.
Punishment reduces a behavior, reinforcement increases a behavior.
The earlier example I gave was the cowboy shooting bullets at the sheriff's feet and yelling 'dance!' Whether a hail of bullets or an electric shock is a reinforcement or punishment depends on the situation.
Horse training uses a number of different actions, each part of which the behavioral scientist would label with his labels. The best horse training involves a whole bunch of behavioral methods, very often at the same time or in quick succession.
Much of the training of a horse that I do, is operant conditioning, not the classical reinforcement/punishment. But in a good training system, if a behavioral scientist watched it, he would be shouting out labels of what we are doing in very quick succession and would at times be shouting, 'what the hail just happened' because he has not seen the years of training that led up to that moment.
It seems to have become standard practice in the +R world to teach your horse “treat manners” right after getting them accustomed to the fact that treats follow the click noise. My horses now know to hold their head away from me in order to receive their treat, which is a huge improvement from before I started clicker training. I usually just use hay pellets too since higher value treats can sometimes cause unnecessary food anxiety/frustration etc.
I had a mare that sounds a lot like your guy and find myself wishing I would have tried +R for her, but at that time I had never even heard of clicker training horses. I think it could have worked wonders on her!
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