Tinyliny -- You nailed it!!!!!!!
They train soooo much faster and soo much better without the distraction of positive reinforcement -- which is VERY SELDOM associated with what they did to get it.
When I first started training full time (as a teen with 10 - 12 hour solid work days and 10 horses in full training) I did a lot of positive reinforcement -- because it made sense to me. Of course, I was not a horse. The more I watched herd behavior (which shaped all of my evolving methods) the more I understood that pressure -- any pressure = rein contact, a heel in a horse's ribs or your voice once he has learned to listen to it. Relief = reward = taking the pressure off = telling him he is doing the right thing.
[Someone PLEASE tell me how a herd leader rewards the horse they just kicked in the ribs because that horse tried to steel a bite of their grain.]
As I did less and less direct rewarding for the right thing with positive reinforcement, the more quickly my horses did the right thing and the fewer sessions it took to get the correct results -- especially with retraining horses with bad behavior issues. I had found that interrupting the flow of information, changing the train of thought and moving attention from the task at hand to me only made the desired results take much, MUCH longer to achieve. Not only that, some horses were so confused by it that they were far less consistent with their behavior.
I never said anywhere that I did not pet or scratch horses. I pet and scratch on every horse I have. I can tell you where each one's favorite scratch spot it. They all love me. They all meet me at the gate. I never have to hide a halter. They all stand there waiting to see if the halter on my arm will go on them. I just never use it as a reward. They don't have to EARN it and they know it. Don't feel sorry for my horses. I feel sorry for your poor confused things. Always remember; The horse with its ears back being mad, is a miserable horse. The respectful horse with its ears up, is a happy horse. You tell me which horse we should feel sorry for?
Horses love structure and 'sameness'. They love consistency. They love to know exactly where they stand at all times. They love to know exactly what they can expect. They do not think in terms of "If I don't do this wrong, I get a treat!" "If I back up, she is going to stop pulling on me and pet me!" It is more like "I backed up and got relief!"
IF positive reinforcement really did add anything to a training program, I would not have so many respectful, well-trained horses that NEVER lay an ear back. I have 50 horses and I cannot remember that last time one tried to kick me or even laid a ear back at me. Something must be working. Maybe you should be looking in your own backward to figure out what you are doing wrong.
[Side-note - I have never been a 'trick' trainer. I do know that some tricks can be taught with food rewards -- but then, having not done trick training, I do not know if it really is necessary.]
Last edited by Cherie; 09-02-2012 at 08:22 AM.