Researchers are unimpressed with what Australian equestrian coaches know about training horses. A recent survey revealed that most coaches canít properly explain how to use positive or negative reinforcement when training a horse. The authors of this study assert that the wellbeing of horses could be improved by coaches becoming better educated.
The lack of understanding was revealed in a survey sent to all 830 coaches registered with Australiaís National Coaches Accreditation Scheme. Over 200 responded to questions on the usefulness and application of various reinforcement techniques in horse training.
When asked about the value of different kinds of reinforcement for training horses, four out of five equestrian coaches considered using rewards, or positive reinforcement, very useful. Nearly one in five said that negative reinforcement was very useful. Punishment was also regarded as a very useful horse training technique by 5% of the coaches.
What alarmed those who analyzed the survey results was that few coaches correctly explained the use of these training techniques. Less than 3% properly described how to use positive reinforcement to train horses. Only 12% of coaches gave an accurate account of using negative reinforcement, while just 5% correctly explained about punishment.
The study reveals how little the qualified Australian equestrian coaches understand about using reinforcement in horse training. Since these people have a big influence on horse training in the country, their misinformation has widespread consequences. This studyís authors believe that better informed coaches will result in horses being more responsive to training and having fewer behavioral problems.
Amanda K. Warren-Smith and Paul D. McGreevy. 2008. Equestrian Coachesí Understanding and Application of Learning Theory in Horse Training. Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals. 21(2): 153-162.
Don't kid yourself, if they don't understand it there, they don't understand it here (USA).