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It's Time for Horse Training to Evolve

This is a discussion on It's Time for Horse Training to Evolve within the Horse Training forums, part of the Training Horses category

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        11-01-2013, 02:23 PM
      #131
    Green Broke
    Apologies if this has already been mentioned. While I don't disagree with the point of the article I just finished reading several scientific articles as to how negative reinforcement is the best way (not the only of course, or the best in any situation, just the most effective overall) and tried and true way to train horses. It is more natural. Alpha mare isn't going to give you some of her grain if you're waiting patiently and respectfully :)
    loosie likes this.
         
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        11-01-2013, 02:40 PM
      #132
    Trained
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by marhlfld    
    . Whips, spurs, and bits are tools. There are correct ways to use them and incorrect ways. Most of the time I see them using old methods harshly on horses.
    Care to elaborate?
         
        11-01-2013, 03:30 PM
      #133
    Trained
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Caprilli    
    ...Teaching a Baby horse to accept a Saddle and Bridle and teaching it slowly, applying the training scale and therefore never asking the impossible is not only kind but will make for a horse that has a long and healthy life since it has been build up in a species appropriate manner...
    Breaking things down into small enough steps for a horse to be successful in figuring each step out, and applying pressure & release (or other forms of training) with enough precision and consistency that the horse can easily learn what a given cue or request means are critical to teaching a horse with kindness and respect.

    Seeing how my little BLM mustang was mis-trained by well-meaning people who assumed he knew XYZ and then demanded it from him convinced me that the greatest cruelty comes from not making sure the horse understands what you wanted before you demanded it of him. When you punish a horse for not obeying a given cue, but he doesn't understand what that cue means, you teach him that people are irrational creatures who cannot be trusted. Rebuilding that trust then takes a lot of work.

    I don't think punishment bothers most horses, provided they know that they did something 'wrong'. It is when they see no connection between their behavior and the punishment that we humans create a bitter or resentful horse. I wish folks would pay less attention to "positive" or "negative" and focus instead on "fair" & "consistent".
         
        11-01-2013, 03:30 PM
      #134
    Foal
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Yogiwick    
    I just finished reading several scientific articles as to how negative reinforcement is the best way (not the only of course, or the best in any situation, just the most effective overall) and tried and true way to train horses. It is more natural. Alpha mare isn't going to give you some of her grain if you're waiting patiently and respectfully :)
    This is part of what I am was trying to say about perception. If it is natural then it is not negative! To guide the horse in the right direction is not negative, demanding the impossible (usually due to lack of knowledge) would be negative. Tools such as big bits and spurs used at the right time and in the right way are not negative, the abuse of the above to achieve shortcuts is.

    To cut a long story short I think the term "Negative" and "Positive" reinforcement is misinterpreted in this thread.
         
        11-01-2013, 03:35 PM
      #135
    Trained
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by bsms    
    . I wish folks would pay less attention to "positive" or "negative" and focus instead on "fair" & "consistent".
    Amen to that.
    Caprilli likes this.
         
        11-02-2013, 12:21 AM
      #136
    Green Broke
    I think using the terms "positive reinforcement" and "negative reinforcement" which have very specific meanings took the thread in another direction from where you meant maybe. I do hear what you are saying and definitely agree!
         
        11-02-2013, 12:56 AM
      #137
    Foal
    I've enjoyed reading this thread after giving this forum a miss for several months.

    Using a treat (+R) to train a correct canter lead is easy to do (have used it successfully in the past) provided your timing is correct and you can sit a sudden stop. The reason the horse doesn't get confused is because you make the bridge sound (kiss, whistle, click whatever) at the exact moment the horse gets the lead right. Because the horse has already made an association between that bridge cue and the arrival of the food it knows that the sound means it performed a behaviour that will result in food. All the bridge does is buy you some extra time to give the food, which when you are riding is handy because you can't give the food straight away. Despite the skepticism, the horses get it very quickly. The downside is that many will come to a sudden stop when they hear the sound because they want the food. If you aren't prepared it can be a bit of a shock though could make teaching reining stops quite easy I would think.

    The hostility to positive reinforcement from horse trainers who frequently remind us of the length of their experience or the number of horses they have trained never ceases to amaze me. Trainers of dolphins, dogs, seals, horses, cats, sheep, cattle, chickens, zebra and now even elephants have been using these techniques, in some cases for close to 50 years. The vast majority of animals used in movies are trained with PR these days. Yet us horse people are still out there arguing that it dosen't work (despite 1000's of studies in a wide variety of species incl horses which show that it does) or they shouldn't be used because- pick whatever reason you like. Or they say that food rewards spoil horses on the basis that SOME horses trained with PR ARE pushy so don't use PR ever, for anything. No matter that horses trained with negative reinforcement buck, shy, rear, bolt and sometimes kill or main their riders because the negative reinforcement hasn't worked. Unless you are very bad with your timing and technique the worst that will happen with a badly trained PR horse is that they will get pushy and maybe nippy. That is not due to the method but due to the incorrect application of it. It is very easy to train horses with PR without them getting pushy or nippy.

    Because some horses don't stop when the bit is pulled or buck when they feel leg pressure do we think that we should never use NR. No, we work out what's gone wrong and try to change what we are doing or if we think its the horse's fault we buy a bigger bit or spurs- to apply more pressure in case the horse didn't get it the first time. We rarely seem to stop and think what we might have done (or not done) to cause the horse to buck or bolt, stall or drift. Like good NR training, PR simply requires good timing, consistency and shaping of responses from simple tries to the final polished behaviour.

    That said I am not a believer in the notion that using only PR is good for horses. Some horses can get very frustrated, even with good timing and I don't think a frustrated horse is a happy one. I also believe that there is and always will be a place for negative reinforcement in horse training. In fact, unless we never use any kind of tack we will always be using NR to some degree. I usually use PR when training trailer loading but I always make sure that the horse will load and back off from pressure cues alone. This is a deal breaker for me as far as safety is concerned- a frightened horse won't be tempted by food so its imperative they understand and respond to pressure cues. The same is true for ridden work- the food often makes it happen more quickly with less "mistakes" but in the end the horse must be trained to stop, turn and go from those pressure cues and their release. Whether I achieve this using PR, NR or a combo (usually), the fact remains that the only way the horse will learn how to give me the response I want to the cue I apply is if I train it and make the associations clear and consistent. If the horse doesn't comply its because I have stuffed up- whether going too fast, not taking into account environmental stimuli, its sore etc.

    As others have posted, the simple rules of reinforcement and punishment developed by Watson, Skinner, Hull and others (all Americans by the way) are not the whole story with all animal training. There is now some very interesting research being conducted into areas such as arousal, affective state and learning (basically emotionality), attachment (whether there is evidence that horses get attached to and respond better to some individuals than others and why), the attributes that make some people successful trainers compared to people who aren't and many more. If vets and the medical profession had the same attitude towards opening their minds to ideas that challenge their beliefs as horse trainers we would not have antibiotics, radiographs or cancer drugs.

    There are many trainers who don't use any PR in their training that are ethical and humane in their methods and produce quiet, responsive horses. I look up to and respect many of them and use some of their techniques myself. But to state that PR doesn't work, can't work or shouldn't even be tried is simply silly when there is ample evidence it does work and many horse owners find it hugely improves their training and their relationship with their horse. And in the end its those pressure cues, pressure equipment and their (mis)use that leads to the injuries due to the bucking, shying and bolting- not one too many carrots.
    loosie, azarni and Foxtail Ranch like this.
         
        11-02-2013, 01:15 AM
      #138
    Trained
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Caprilli    
    it is natural then it is not negative! ....To cut a long story short I think the term "Negative" and "Positive" reinforcement is misinterpreted in this thread.
    Negative is natural too.... but lets not get into people's perception of the term 'natural'... a whole nother can of worms!

    Yes, we've been over that & this has already been explained in the thread. To reiterate, we are using the formal behavioural definitions. 'Negative' does not mean 'Bad' or 'positive' mean 'good'. Think of them as + & - And 'reinforcement' is something that strengthens a behaviour whereas 'punishment' is something that weakens a behaviour.

    So for eg... an example of negative reinforcement would be removing leg or rein pressure when the horse yields to it. Positive reinforcement would be giving the horse a treat or a scratch when he does 'right'. Positive punishment could be hitting the horse, could be bit pressure, spurs, etc. 'Patting' a horse, if the horse doesn't like it is +P. Negative punishment - which IMO is not really effective with horses - would be withholding or taking away food, freedom, etc.
         
        11-02-2013, 01:38 AM
      #139
    Trained
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by bsms    
    I don't think punishment bothers most horses, provided they know that they did something 'wrong'. It is when they see no connection between their behavior and the punishment that we humans create a bitter or resentful horse. I wish folks would pay less attention to "positive" or "negative" and focus instead on "fair" & "consistent".
    Agree with you, that fair & consistent is absolutely imperative, but I don't think anyone questions that. The reason we're 'paying attention' here to positive & negative is because, as I understood it, that's what the thread's about. - using +R as well as(or instead of) -R & +P.

    I see (fair & consistent) punishment more as something to *teach* the horse what 'wrong' is, more so than something they 'deserve' because they 'know' their behaviour is 'wrong' - the latter strikes me as too anthropomorphic for a horse.
         
        11-02-2013, 01:38 PM
      #140
    Trained
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by loosie    
    Agree with you, that fair & consistent is absolutely imperative, but I don't think anyone questions that. The reason we're 'paying attention' here to positive & negative is because, as I understood it, that's what the thread's about. - using +R as well as(or instead of) -R & +P.

    I see (fair & consistent) punishment more as something to *teach* the horse what 'wrong' is, more so than something they 'deserve' because they 'know' their behaviour is 'wrong' - the latter strikes me as too anthropomorphic for a horse.
    1 - Most people do not know the clinical meaning of positive or negative as applied to a reinforcement.

    2 - Horses most definitely know when they have done something offensive to the leader. That is why they don't mind being kicked by a superior for trying to take the superior's hay - they understand the rules, and are merely checking to see if the superior is going to enforce the rules or not.

    This is part of why people reject the advice of so many experts - the advice doesn't match the reality we see. My 3 horses, and Lilly before them, most definitely DID understand the idea of being punished for disobeying the rules. They did not have an instinctive knowledge of what each rule might be - stand still while mounting, for example, is not instinctive - but once a rule is taught, they DO understand punishment for offending the rule.

    They also understand consistency and proportional punishment. If I give Mia a bump of my heel when she is being lazy trotting, she accelerates slightly with no sign of resentment. If I walloped her with the end of a whip for the same thing, she would be stunned at first, and then deeply offended - the punishment would be disproportionate to the "crime".

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by corymbia    
    ...The hostility to positive reinforcement from horse trainers who frequently remind us of the length of their experience or the number of horses they have trained never ceases to amaze me...

    ...Or they say that food rewards spoil horses on the basis that SOME horses trained with PR ARE pushy so don't use PR ever, for anything. No matter that horses trained with negative reinforcement buck, shy, rear, bolt and sometimes kill or main their riders because the negative reinforcement hasn't worked....

    ...That said I am not a believer in the notion that using only PR is good for horses. Some horses can get very frustrated, even with good timing and I don't think a frustrated horse is a happy one. I also believe that there is and always will be a place for negative reinforcement in horse training...

    ...If vets and the medical profession had the same attitude towards opening their minds to ideas that challenge their beliefs as horse trainers we would not have antibiotics, radiographs or cancer drugs...

    ...many horse owners find it hugely improves their training and their relationship with their horse...
    Again, the resistance comes in large part because it doesn't match the reality we see around us. None of my horses act resentful over negative reinforcement, and none of them show any sign of being upset over pressure/release of pressure. If you can get the desired result without clickers or treats, then why start using them? If I wished to teach a trick, such as would be needed in the movies, then I'd try clicker training. But I don't see much value in it for teaching my horse more confidence, or to swing her rear end in response to pressure, etc. If she spooks on the trail, rewards aren't going to help me. What has helped is being negative enough to hold her in place until she finds out the scary thing isn't scary at all, and that I - me, the human rider - know the difference.

    The 'positive' is then the relief she feels when she can walk down a trail carefree and relaxed. Negatives - my legs & the bit - bring her to a state of mind that is a huge positive for her. It even carries over into her behavior standing around in the corral with 2 geldings - she is a much more relaxed horse. Doing something 'negative' to create a 'positive'...

    Horses don't buck, shy or rear because 'negative reinforcement' - whatever that means - doesn't work. I don't care if it is 'positive' or 'negative', and my horses don't either. If it is consistent, fair, and they are taught what a cue means in small steps they can digest, they do fine.

    Also, horses WILL test their riders, just as they test each other. And when they test each other, they expect punishment. If they don't get it, they assume they are now superior. And as the new superior, they feel free to punish their inferior. And if 1000 lbs of muscle feels free to punish a human, it is going to be bad for the human.

    That IS natural horsemanship. It is working with the horse in the way a horse works with another horse. It is simple, straightforward, and it works with horses because it is in line with how horses think.
         

    Tags
    horse training, how to train horses, positive reinforcement

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