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Interesting article o use of voice

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    02-22-2013, 11:40 PM
  #21
Weanling
I found this (the article about the article), but it has no citation! A few cursory searches didn't turn anything up, either.

The Horse | Horses' Inherent Response to Harsh, Soothing Tones Evaluated | TheHorse.com

"To half the study horses the researchers said, "Good horse," in a soothing voice when they took a step toward the tarp. For the other half, the researchers loudly said, "Quit it!" when the horses took a step in the right direction."

Okay. Suddenly I'm on the "WHAT a useless study" bandwagon... did they even put thought into this experiment?
     
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    02-23-2013, 08:52 PM
  #22
Foal
This is the abstract for the study, It can be found in the proceedings of the 8th International Society for Equitation Science Conference, Edinburgh link here

Proceedings

Note that this is an abstract, or summary of the study. When it gets published the full details will be provided.

Perhaps before calling the study BS etc it would be worth actually reading the abstract, thinking about what the scientists were trying to test and having a look at the statistics provided to evaluate the rigour of the study. Its no wonder so much horse training is still in the dark ages if this is how people are going to react to a scientific finding that they don't agree with. Thankfully we don't approach medical and veterinary research with same reflexive unwillingness to allow our preconceived ideas to be challenged, otherwise we'd still be having holes drilled into our heads to let the evil spirits out or using hot irons to fire bowed tendons in horses.

The word reinforcer used below means something that makes a behaviour stronger or more likely to be repeated. Effectively its a reward. In the case of the soft tones, it is theorized that they could be inherently rewarding.

Do horses recognize the difference between harsh tones and soothing tones when using voice as a reinforcer for learning a frightening task
C.R. Heleski1, C Wickens2, M Minero3, E DallaCosta3, E Czeszak4, you Koenig von Borstel4
1Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA, 2University of Delaware, Delaware, USA, 3University of Milan, Milan, Italy, 4University of Goettingen, Goettingen, Germany
heleski@msu.edu

When working with horses, it is frequently asserted that horses have an inherent understanding of harsh voice cues that would be used as reprimands versus soothing voice cues that may be used as positive reinforcers/calming modifiers. If horses are unable to understand this difference, handlers often make poor assumptions that potentially lead to unfair training. A total of 95 horses from 4 different locations in US and Europe were randomly assigned to either soothing voice treatment (SV; n=52) or harsh voice treatment (HV; n=43). The learning task involved horses of various breeds and ages learning to cross a tarpaulin. Methodology was standardised across locations. SV involved handlers saying “good horse” in a soft, soothing manner whenever horses made forward progress toward the tarpaulin. HV involved saying “quit it” in a loud, harsh manner whenever horses made forward progress toward the tarpaulin. PRAAT software was used to assess similarities in vocal spectrograms of different handlers/treatments. Mean pitch for SV was 244.4±3.11 Hz and 275.1±2.01 Hz for HV; both well within the equine hearing range. Average intensity (loudness) for SV was 42.3±1.04 dB and 56.0±1.80 for HV. Contrary to our hypotheses, risk of failing the task (> 10 min to cross the tarpaulin for the 1st time) was not different between treatments (25% failures SV; 25.5% failures HV; p=0.55). Also, for those horses who did cross the tarpaulin, the total time to achieve calmness criterion (crossing with little/no obvious anxiety) did not differ between treatments (157.3±59.8 sec HV vs 245.8±43.5 SV, p=0.23. A breed difference was noted: Hot bloods=606.8±145.9 sec vs Warm bloods=120.7±18.3 sec, p<0.01. Polar heart rate monitors were used on 68 horses. There was no difference between average HR of horses who crossed (84.7±3.9 bpm) vs those who failed (82.1±5.1) p=0.69. There was also no difference between HV horses (85.4±4.8 bpm) and SV horses (81.3±4.2) p=0.52.

Lay Persons MessageBased on this study, most horses did not appear to inherently distinguish between harsh vocal cues and soothing vocal cues; or if they did, it did not influence their performance of learning and performing a frightening task.
Keywords: learning theory, vocal cues, horse training.
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    02-23-2013, 08:59 PM
  #23
Yearling
Ok, that makes sense......now if they were unhandled horses I can understand they wouldn't understand the tone of someone's voice, handled horses will understand a loud/harsh voice as meaning they did something wrong and a soft/soothing voice they did something right.....
     
    02-23-2013, 10:06 PM
  #24
Yearling
Why must we microanalyze everything with our horses? That's the part I don't understand. We are humans, we try and communicate with everything, it's just our nature. We talk to our dogs, and they understand. We talk to our horses, and in all my experiences, I am a strong believer in them recognizing vocal cues. But seriously, why does it matter if they understand or not. If someone could please enlighten me on why this matters...
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    02-24-2013, 09:44 AM
  #25
Yearling
Quote:
Originally Posted by corymbia    
Lay Persons MessageBased on this study, most horses did not appear to inherently distinguish between harsh vocal cues and soothing vocal cues; or if they did, it did not influence their performance of learning and performing a frightening task.
Keywords: learning theory, vocal cues, horse training.
That's the key word...inherently... which makes perfect sense. A horse learns the meaning behind those funny noises we make. I have a very distinct noise I make to express displeasure and any new critter I get must be conditioned to understand it and react appropriately. I don't expect a strange horse or dog to understand my growling/spitting "AAATTCHA" (near as I can spell it LOL) means "I am currently displeased with your present course of action, please take steps to remediate it or I will be forced to correct you."

For example, I was a K9 officer for years and did a lot of public service appearances with my dog. She was very intelligent, and knew I couldn't just haul off and correct her in public-and shamelessly took advantage of that fact. However, she did know that when I very distinctly cleared my throat I wanted her to pay attention to me. I cleared my throat, she stopped whatever it was she was doing and faced me. This was a trained response, and it worked well for us. In fact, as the years rolled by she started making a "throat clearing noise"of her own when she wanted my attention Ahh, I miss her to this day.
     
    03-04-2013, 06:25 AM
  #26
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wanstrom Horses    
Why must we microanalyze everything with our horses? That's the part I don't understand. We are humans, we try and communicate with everything, it's just our nature. We talk to our dogs, and they understand. We talk to our horses, and in all my experiences, I am a strong believer in them recognizing vocal cues. But seriously, why does it matter if they understand or not. If someone could please enlighten me on why this matters...
I think it matters because many people believe that their horse can tell the difference in their tones and that their horses "know" when they are in the wrong and also believe that because their horse "knows" its in the "wrong", when it doesn't behave as required its being disrespectful or arrogant and deserves to be punished or reprimanded.

While this study is preliminary, it has a large sample size (95 horses) across four locations so is likely to be a representative (valid) sample. Studies like these test our assumptions and sometimes the assumptions are shown to be correct and sometimes, like in this case, the assumptions are questioned. The more evidence we have to substantiate our hunches and interpretations of horse behaviour, the more humane and ethical we can be as trainers, choosing methods and techniques which are truly based on limitations and abilities of horses, rather than our best guesses.

While this study should be followed up with additional work in different training contexts and with horses with greater and lesser prior exposure to humans, it is still a very interesting first look at something many of us (self included) believed was important in horse training. Given horses apparently don't inherently discriminate between soothing and harsh tones when learning a frightening task we can use this information to ensure that we apply cues which they can discriminate between and thus enhance their learning. Alternatively we can also not get angry when they don't respond to verbal reprimands or frustrated when we speak softly to them but they aren't soothed. It doesn't hold all the answers, it isn't the last word.... on the subject. But it is a another piece of evidence that can be used to improve the welfare of horses in the long term.

That's why this kind of science matters.
     
    03-04-2013, 09:33 AM
  #27
Yearling
I do not believe 95 horses is a large sample size, horses are like humans, every single one is different. I've started probably 150 head of horses over the years and I still run into to horses that surprise the daylights out of me. I think recognizing voice is a learned behavior. Just like anything else. Horses learn to differentiate in differences in tone from previous experiences. It's easy for a horse that has never seen a human before to not understand vocal tone. They have no experience. It's like young children understanding large vocabulary words. But horses that are raised with humans learn, if they do something wrong and get a pop on the butt and a loud "no" in a aggravated tone, they are most likely to remember that tone. The study is invalid and not necessary to me if you only study feral horses. Because tones are learned..
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    03-04-2013, 08:03 PM
  #28
Showing
The study would help green owners of green horses who unknowingly think the horse should understand the voice. It takes the same sound and numerous repetitions along with a consistant aid to teach the horse what the voice means.
     

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