Thanks Jaydee :) If you consider "round" as a shape - yup she's perfect :3 Now that you mention it, I haven't really thought of her now compared to her a year ago and wow! You're right, I'm so proud of how far she's come.
I just came home from a clinic with Shawna Karrasch - I had a blast!! I just auditted, but I learned so much and getting to meet some other New Englanders who Clicker Trained was a real confidence boost - I was beginning to feel really alone. :)
I thought that I'd write some of the things I learned on here to see if it helps others. I'll try not to repeat too much from the OP.
We talked alot about +reinforcement, -reinforcement, +punishment and -punishment. I know these were already defined in much more detail in the OPs, but I figured I'd resay it (to make sure I've got it down solid) and in case someone's poking into this thread now.
I like to start with Negative (-) Reinforcement
: The removal
of something unwanted that increases
the frequency of the behavior (this is most commonly used in traditional and natural horsemanship) Positive (+) Reinforcement
: The addition
of something desired that increases
the frequency of the behavior (this is what CT focuses on) Negative (-) Punishment
: The removal
of something desired to decrease
the frequency of a behavior Positive (+) Punishment
: The addition
of something unwanted to decrease
the frequency of a behavior
The biggest thing I never really thought about with the +/- Punishments and Reinforcements - is that we have to look at the results to see what the horse wants and doesn't want. We have to be careful not to put our own human standards on what we think horses should and shouldn't want. For example, one of our rescues likes to nip people as they walk by, resulting in the person trying to hit him or yell at him (which we would think would be +punishment, thinking the horse doesn't want to be hit or scolded). But the behavior increased in frequency, despite the (+)Punishment, so clearly it was actually reinforcing it - the pony just wanted a fight and enjoyed the reactions he got.
So I learned the best response for horses who don't respond well to +punishment (when +punishment actually ends up reinforcing a behavior) that -Punishement is best. In this case the pony wants a fight (or to watch us squawk) - so by giving him nothing, removing all stimulus when he acts like this will be sure to not reinforce anything. Also keeping his door closed so as not to set him up for failure will help while we replace the behavior with better options.
So I learned not to place my own values on what I consider Punishment or Reinforcement, and use the results alone to determine how the horse perceives it.
Another thing I learned was about Thresholds
. What I came to understand a horse's "threshold" as (correct me if I'm using the term incorrectly), is when a horse has reached a line in their mind when they're too concerned (working up to afraid) to really learn. Our goal is to keep the horse working well below the threshold, only approaching it to help get a horse more comfortable with something that concerns them, but always trying to keep them below the line.
I've found, personally, that I work with my nervous mare a little too close to the line - and sometimes over the line. I need to focus more on keeping her under the line and taking our time toward the things that concern her. It's easier to work under the line and work her up, than to start over the line.
Another important thing I came across is truly the importance of a JackPot at the end of a session. We all know to try to end on "a good note" but by not jackpotting the last skill they learned you may also be using -Punishment. Ending the session, when they still want to be doing it, when they've done something very well, you're removing what they want and could be decreasing the behavior.
Here's an example of why I found this so important. My 3 year old colt, who's very pushy and invasive - when I started CT with him he started out alright, but got pushier during the session, when it got too far I stopped the session with no jackpot. When I returned later he was much better about my space and was much calmer. So my leaving while he was acting inappropriately (while he still wanted me around) acted as negative punishment, and ended that behavior.
So if not using a jackpot has such a strong response to end that behavior I want to be sure to provide a good solid jackpot when the session ends on a good note, letting them look forward to every step of the training, even the end.
One last thing Shawna suggested was giving the horses a heavily reinforced safe place in their stall. Like a stationary target, I think this will help my mare alot. Shawna used a cue that she could do while riding too, that helps them calm back down if they get nervous while riding too. Giving them a simple cue that occupies their mind and makes them feel happier.
I learned so much, I'm sure I'll think of more later - but if I have anything incorrect or if anyone wants to build on anything I've mentioned - please feel free, I'm eager to hear.
I can't thank Shawna and the others at the clinic enough, I had so much fun and learned so much :)
I came right home and started working with my horses again. I taught Tank a new target, one that I'm going to attach to her wall. I'm actually going to do this with all my horses, it will probably help when I'm cleaning their stalls around them and when the vet is around and things like that :)
I never bothered much with my belgian, he's very well trained, but there are a few little nit-picky things I'd like him to be better with. I started him with just keeping his head straight and not mugging but never went further than that. This morning while I was working with Tank all I could hear was Revel opening and closing his stall door, he doesn't do it to get out (he has a stall guard) he just likes to open and close his latch. So I decided to spend a few minutes giving him something constructive to work on and brought the target into his stall for the first time. He was Brilliant! He figured it out in seconds!! I can't believe how smart he is - I'm glad I recorded it. :)
How is everyone else's horses doing? What are some skills you're all working on?