Corrections or Punishment: Whatís the Difference?
   

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Corrections or Punishment: Whatís the Difference?

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  • Difference between correction and punishment
  • Punishment and correction

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    07-20-2013, 09:28 PM
  #1
Banned
Corrections or Punishment: Whatís the Difference?

Iíve been a watcher of these forums for some time now and this is my first post. I came across a recent post where the subject of correcting and punishing a horse came up. It begs the question; Is there a difference? Yep. There sure is.

To quote Dr. Bruce Nock a world class equine behaviourist in his renowned book Ten Golden Rules of Horse Training: ďPunishment begins where knowledge ends...at its core, punishment is really no more than ill treatment that the rider (or handler) mistakenly believes will have some positive impact.Ē

Does that mean treating my horses like Iím their fairy godmother granting every wish on command? Donít be ridiculous. But it does not mean lashing out at any of them in pure frustration just because things arenít going my way. Have I done it? Yes. And Iím embarrassed to say that. Since that time though, Iíve learned that there is a more effective and tactful way to train my horses that preserves my social status. That comes from lightning fast corrections and intermittent rewards. Not punishment. Discomfort yes; pain no.



Hereís a few examples of punishments dealt out to horses I know of;
  • Whipping a horse to get the bad attitude out of him
  • Lunging or round penning at speed for extended periods
  • Kicking a horse
  • Using spurs when the horse has made no error
  • Hitting a horse in the face
  • Depriving a horse of food
  • Throwing an object at a horse
  • Jerking severely on reins (Ďsawingí on the bit)
  • Yelling at the horse (this has zero effect because horses rely heavily on body language)
Hereís how I breakdown the difference between correction and punishment;





Corrections as a Training Tool
  • Non emotional (correcting is not a personal attack)
  • Carried out with knowledge & skill
  • The horse can easily connect the correction with the error
  • The correction is over swiftly
  • Causes the horse discomfort
  • Based on respect without fear
  • Carries a lower risk to the rider/handler
  • Horse is likely to continue to make an effort when combined with intermittent rewards
  • Is calm & subtle
Punishment as a Training Tool
  • Highly emotional (punishing is very personal and is a form of attack)
  • Carried out with frustration & lack of skill
  • The horse often cannot connect the punishment with the error
  • Punishment can be prolonged
  • Causes the horse pain
  • Based on fear alone
  • Carries a higher risk to the rider/handler
  • Horse is less likely to cooperate (fears making a mistake and being punished)
  • Is uncontrolled & obvious
I want my horses to know me as their leader and 'safe zone'. I do correct. And I correct firmly when it's required.
     
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    07-20-2013, 10:32 PM
  #2
Weanling
Seeing as what you are doing is defining two world, I can see what you are saying and agree with some of what you are saying. But...I hate the word, it's not really but
it just that I define the words differently then you have, I would say that Punishment is a consequence for a broken rule.
Example: if a horse was to bit me or kick me there would be a very quick and exacting punishment. Then there would be lots of training/correcting to teach that horse the rules. My space is my space no invading my space, this would happen in a lot of ways, round pin work, leading, lots of ground work where there would be lots of chances for the horse to make small mistakes and chances for me to correct them.

I am working with a herd of 20 horses mares and gelding altogether, I once worked at a place where we had a herd of 100 horses mares and geldings so I have had the opportunity to see horses interact in large numbers in a herd. And I have to say when a new horse comes into a herd of horses I see lots of punishment at first and later less punishment and more correcting.

Another example: when I was growing up my parents would and did spank us. Lying was one of the easy was to get a spanking. If I was in trouble and lied when it was found out the punishment was a spanking then the correction was the conversation that would take place after the spanking to explain why lying is bad and how telling the truth is so important.

One more example: I have worked with a few horses that get cinchy they like to turn and try to bit the person saddling. For me when that horse turns and tries to bit me if they are aggressive about it they just might get back handed in the side of the head (punishment) as I work with that horse if they turn and look at me with there ears pinned back but not trying to bit they might get a smack in the neck and a very harsh "HAY!!"(correction/punishment), later as I am working with them they turn their head their ears aren't pinned back I will push there head away and keep going with what I am doing, (correction, no punishment).

So is there a difference between punishment and correction? Yes, I would say punishments are to stop bad behavior and correction is to teach/train right behavior.

I don't mean to say you are wrong I just define these two word differently. Thanks for giving me the chance the think this though.
LikeaTB, PunksTank, dlady and 4 others like this.
     
    07-20-2013, 10:38 PM
  #3
Started
This is a very interesting thread - you really got me thinking!! Thank you :)

I've learned the term "punishment" to be defined as "something that causes a decrease in the frequency of the behavior" and "reinforcement" to be "something that causes an increase in the frequency of the behavior".
But I've never thought of the difference between a correction and a punishment. I suppose in modern language the term "punishment" is not as simple as it began, and has changed to encompass a more upsetting emotion behind it.
I suppose I see the difference being "punishment" - "something that causes a decrease in behavior" while I would define "correction" - "guiding them to the correct choice". Because when I correct my horse, who may be going faster than I asked by a gentle squeeze on the reins and a heavier seat. I may correct my horse for invading my space by backing them up firmly or yielding whatever body part invaded my space (hip or shoulder or otherwise). While I would reserve forms of (what I define as punishment) for things that are absolutely wrong, such as acts of aggression.

This brings me to the basics of learning, there are four way all creatures learn (please think of Positive and Negative like a math equation- adding and subtracting, not as in "good" or "bad"):
Positive Punishment: the addition of something unwanted to decrease the frequency of the behavior (so hitting a horse who bit)
Negative Punishment: The removal of something desired to decrease the frequency of the behavior (This is common with kids "no TV because you didn't do your homework")
Positive Reinforcement: The addition of something desired to increase the frequency of the behavior (giving a treat when the horse does the right thing)
Negative Reinforcement: The removal of something unwanted to increase the frequency of the behavior (most commonly used with horses, a release of pressure for the right action).


The trick to training any animal is balancing those four ways of learning and knowing when and how to apply each of them to get the best results.

I find many forms of "positive punishment" to not be very affective with horses, unless it was done to an extreme, as most often the action meant as punishment happens too late for the horse to connect the dots. And when we resort to only the use of positive punishment, we're really not fixing what caused the problem in the beginning. If the horse bit, there was a reason, hitting them may tell them "that's never allowed" but unless you fix what caused the initial trouble to begin with you won't get far.

I'd also like to add one more thing, I may be going too far off the OP, but I find the entire horse world really avoids Positive Reinforcement as a whole. Some people may use a pat or scratch to reward horses sometimes, but not consistently and that only works if the horse honestly appreciates it. My mare for example would do a back flip for a good belly scratch :P but other horses would be completely thrown off by a pat and may even consider it "punishment".
I find many people say "you can't feed horses treats, it makes them bad", but honestly, if you can't safely feed a treat, your horse isn't all that respectful of you is he? In using positive reinforcement training (clicker training or some equivalent) with horses it takes all of 3 minutes for most horses to figure out they only get food when they stand calmly and face forward, out of the human's space. Most horses I know who are clicker trained are fed treats all day every day and all of them know how to get treats, never mugging. So I'm still at a loss why the equine community has so completely rejected that entire form of learning? Perhaps it's because food is such a strong reinforcer and if not used correctly you could teach horses bad things? I work at a jumping barn where each horse has a terrible habit at feeding time, one grinds his teeth on the metal bars, several kick and bite their walls, many paw, a few pee - and each time they're fed while behaving this way the people are further reinforcing those terrible (and dangerous) habits. So if not use positive reinforcement for good things, I think people really ought to, at least, become aware of what they're actually reinforcing when they feed.

Thank you for giving me so much to think about, I'm eager to hear more responses and opinions on this particular matter. Sorry I went on, you really got me thinking!
     
    07-20-2013, 10:51 PM
  #4
Started
Quote:
Originally Posted by CowboyBob    
One more example: I have worked with a few horses that get cinchy they like to turn and try to bit the person saddling. For me when that horse turns and tries to bit me if they are aggressive about it they just might get back handed in the side of the head (punishment) as I work with that horse if they turn and look at me with there ears pinned back but not trying to bit they might get a smack in the neck and a very harsh "HAY!!"(correction/punishment), later as I am working with them they turn their head their ears aren't pinned back I will push there head away and keep going with what I am doing, (correction, no punishment).
I always love reading your posts! You think things through so thoroughly. I have to agree with just about all you said. I just wanted to add..

Correction is helpful, but when you rely only on correct, saying "no", the only "yes" the horse gets is a lack of "no".
In the example I quoted I would go about the situation just about the same as you - the only thing different I'd do is change the way I cinch. If a horse is trying to bite me while I do his cinch, it's not because he's just mean spirited, it's because it probably hurts. First I'd check to make sure the cinch is clean and not rubbing anywhere. Then I'd cinch the horse more slowly. With english girths I like to put it on the first buckle that touches the horse's body. Then I'll go and brush them off a bit, then move it up a hole or two. Then I'll bridle them up and move the girth up another hole. Then I'll bring them into the arena and finish tightening it. When you crank the cinch all in one go you can really knock the wind out of a horse. A few times doing that and most horses would get pretty pissy.
So while I'd correct and or punish as needed, I'd also do what I could to make the situation more correct - because even though what the horse did was unacceptable, he is still trying to communicate with you in the only way he can. It's our job to hear what they're saying and try our best to make the situation more live-able for them. They still need to do the job, but ignoring what they're saying is just leading to trouble or a very unhappy horse.

Another example, at the jumping barn I work at I was grooming a horse - I'm very perceptive at reading horse's signals. I was grooming the horse and she was standing quietly, then she was kicking and leaping about in an instant - I must have touched her someplace she didn't want. But this horse had learned that a little ear pin or a twitching tail wasn't heard by her riders, that stomping a foot or pawing was never heard, the only thing that ever brought her relief from the situation that she deemed unacceptable was by kicking and leaping away. Of course her behavior was unacceptable and the consequences happened. But this horse had forgotten how to whisper, forgotten how to speak and went right for screaming because that was all that was ever heard by her usual riders. So I try hard to listen and try to fix situations while the horse is still whispering - within reason of course.
     
    07-20-2013, 11:42 PM
  #5
Super Moderator
I agree that making correction from an emotional base is not the best horsemanship. However, sometimes it has taken getting mad to make me, or others I know, become firm enough to meet what the horse is doint with an appropriate reaction. The strength of the "correction" or "punishment" for bad behavior needs to match the level of "push" that the horse is doing to the human. If he's noodling his head against you in a friendly and treat seeking way, the correction does not need to be so strong, but if he bites in a very intentional way, that's a hard push, and he needs to meet a response that is strong enough to make him never want to do that again.

Some folks won't get that firm unless they are angry. Not the optimal way, but sometimes that's waht it takes.
     
    07-21-2013, 01:09 AM
  #6
Banned
Here’s a human example of the difference between correction & punishment;
Which scenario most inpsires you with a willingness to learn?

#1 you have just completed a math test. It was a challenge and there are a few incorrect answers. You can trust that your teacher is able to calmly show you how to find the correct answer without penalising you with a lunchtime detention. Your teacher will continue to correct your mistakes until you get the right answer.

#2 you have just completed a math test. It was a challenge and there are a few incorrect answers. For every question you got wrong you will be penalised with a lunchtime detention since a perfect score is required.
Now, some may say that the second scenario will motivate the student more than ever to get a perfect score on the test. Maybe; maybe not. That is likely a very individual thing. For some of us it might inspire us to do well, but for others they might not bother taking the test at all. Either way, humans have the ability to reason this scenario out. But the horse does not.

We cannot fall into the trap of attributing human understanding/ability to livestock. No horse has the capacity to absolutely guarantee a mistake free training session no matter what the motivation. With punishment in the form of attack an instinctual fear will dominate his headspace and so comes a reluctance to work for fear of stuffing up. The horse may even develop other avoidance techniques as a way to keep from being punished. A trainer's willingness to attack a horse won’t change a poor training outcome. Adjusting your training to make it easy for your horse to succeed changes everything.

If the horse fails to do as expected it’s not because he started the day with some kind of agenda to make life hard for his handler. Horses need a strong leader who does not compromise their social status and who knows how to tactfully help him succeed and to acknowledge his efforts regularly along the way.

Let me clarify my approach to training; do I correct? Yes. Are there times when my natural aids are not effective enough so I must increase the pressure? Absolutely. I get in, get the job done then let the horse get on with it. Since I'm the human I see it as my job to make it easy for them to succeed. I do not allow my horses to push me around. Ever. Whenever I interact with my horses I always behave like their superior. I won't even step aside if they want to graze casually where I am standing. To do so would tear down at least some of the respect they have for me. I do on occassion hand feed them. But I expect proper table manners. I don't expect my horses to see me as their friend. I'd rather they didn't. I am their leader. Not too long ago I was doiing a bit of handywork in their pasture. My horses were together quite a distance away. Something spooked them. They reacted by running toward me where they gathered nearby for safety. They felt safer with me.
     
    07-21-2013, 04:00 AM
  #7
Banned
Maybe my point wasn’t as clear as it should be about attaching human abilities to horse.

My horses don’t go into a training session thinking they’ll be sure not to do the wrong thing or they’ll probably get a beating of some kind even if that’s how I think. The reality is that if my training is defective in any way the error will happen anyway punishment or not.

Horses by nature are hypersensitive to approaching or doing anything that poses a possible danger. A recent example of my own was when one of my mares refused to lunge to the right despite repeated attempts. I could have whacked her with a brick I got so frustrated! That was my fault for not making the right answer easy for her in the early stages of learning what was for her a new skill. If I had beaten on her I have no doubt she would have connected the punishment to the signal to lunge to the right. If I was her there’s no way I’d be willing to lunge to the right.

She lunges easily now. The answer was not in an often repeated punishment but in my body position and 2 firm and lightening fast corrections given at the right moment.

Fear is part of a horses DNA and no amount of training will entirely rid a horse of this instinct. If training is approached with sensitivity and tact we know that the horse can learn the skills needed to put aside much of his fear and replace it with trust & respect.
     
    07-21-2013, 04:52 AM
  #8
Green Broke
Quote:
Originally Posted by PunksTank    
I find many people say "you can't feed horses treats, it makes them bad", but honestly, if you can't safely feed a treat, your horse isn't all that respectful of you is he? In using positive reinforcement training (clicker training or some equivalent) with horses it takes all of 3 minutes for most horses to figure out they only get food when they stand calmly and face forward, out of the human's space. Most horses I know who are clicker trained are fed treats all day every day and all of them know how to get treats, never mugging. So I'm still at a loss why the equine community has so completely rejected that entire form of learning? Perhaps it's because food is such a strong reinforcer and if not used correctly you could teach horses bad things? I work at a jumping barn where each horse has a terrible habit at feeding time, one grinds his teeth on the metal bars, several kick and bite their walls, many paw, a few pee - and each time they're fed while behaving this way the people are further reinforcing those terrible (and dangerous) habits. So if not use positive reinforcement for good things, I think people really ought to, at least, become aware of what they're actually reinforcing when they feed.
I agree with this. Food is #2 on the horse priority list (behind safety) and if you can take a bag of treats out to a group of horses and they all behave, you have a good thing. We feed our horses in the same spot every time, and when it's feeding time, they all go to their spot and wait for their feed pan. I do hand feed treats and once again, they all wait their turn. No nipping, no fussing, no playing around. You don't want to be in the middle of a bunch of unruly horses, so if anyone was to fuss, they all get run off and that's it. When I trim our horses, I can go into the pasture and they all stand untied to be trimmed. When I'm done, they get a treat. Do they remember that good behavior gets a reward? Of course they do, and they learn fast. No doubt in my mind.

Every time you are feeding, whether treats, feed, and even just their daily hay, you have a training opportunity, and you will be reinforcing either good or bad behavior.
PunksTank likes this.
     
    07-21-2013, 10:22 AM
  #9
Cat
Green Broke
What I find fascinating is how often the horse (and animal world in general as dog trainers do this often too) change the meaning of words to make themselves feel good and sugar coat it. I'm not interested in some random trainer's slanted definitions of the word - though I understand his reasoning for it to try to show readers what is effective punishment vs what is not by calling it a feel-good something else but it doesn't make the terminology correct outside of his pre-defined terms of his book.

Very basically punishment is any change that happens after a behavior/action that reduces the likely hood of that behavior/action from happening again. Even if it is carried out with no emotion, done with skill, etc - it is still a form of punishment. Correction is a form of punishment no matter how you try to sugarcoat it.

However not all forms of punishment are effective in correcting behavior. It must be immediately after the behavior and done consistently - the same rules as positive and negative reinforcement.

What effective training always comes down to is timing, consistency, the reinforcement/punishment fits the behavior, consistency, oh - and did I mention timing? I've seen people mess up all forms of reinforcement and punishments by being off on timing.
PunksTank and Muppetgirl like this.
     
    07-21-2013, 11:03 AM
  #10
Started
Very nice thread - I really enjoyed it and 100% agree with you.
I will be teaching this for my 4-H demonstration next year and to everyone who comes at our horse meetings.
Thank you!!
     

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