Originally Posted by Labelmegold
I was wondering what are y'all's training methods with a horse? I mean how to you balance the rewards with the discipline? When would it be acceptable for a horse to get rewarded or a treat without him/her getting nippy about it? Or is pressure release the better way to go? Whatever horse I end up getting, if one at all, I don't want to spoil a broke horse or cause horrible habits for a green.
(Whoops just noticed I posted it in the wrong form.) 🙊
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Welcome to the horse forum :)
My personal belief is that if you can't safely give your horse treats, he's not very well trained.
I personally use Clicker Training, which is based on Reward Reinforcement and Removal Punishment, while most horse training is based on Removal Reinforcement and straight up Punishment...
I'll explain a little so you can get the idea, but there's a thread that explains it all much better than I can here: Clicker Training: Challenge Accepted
The basic methods of all learning (in all creatures) is through Positive and Negative Reinforcement and Punishment. Think of positive and negative as addition and subtraction, not as "good and bad". And try to think of Punishment and reinforcement, not as "abuse and spoiling" try to remove the emotions from the words true meaning. Negative Reinforcement
: The removal of unwanted stimulus that increases the frequency of the behavior. This is most commonly used in horse training, the removal of pressure is what causes the horse to repeat that behavior, so as not to be uncomfortable. Positive Reinforcement
: The addition of something desired that increases the frequency of behavior. This is clicker training, when the horse responds correctly they get their click (which means they'll get their treat). Negative Punishment
: The removal of something desired that decreases the frequency of behavior. I use this when I do CT, if they make the wrong choice they get nothing (a 3 second pause). Parents use this a lot too "no TV until you finish your homework". Positive Punishment
: The addition of something unwanted to decreased the frequency of behavior. This is most commonly used in horse training, if they act out they'll get a smack of the crop (or anything else).
I opted for Positive Reinforcement when I realized that Negative reinforcement left my horses frustrated, over stimulated and generally unhappy about work (and my presence). When I switched to +Reinforcement my horses have become eager and confident, working willingly and happily. They are more polite than ever.
With +R horses will increase their own criteria to get their reward, with -R you need to increase the pressure to get a better response.
When I taught my horse to back up with +R she would back up just a small step and get a Click and Treat, soon as I started delaying the click she started backing up more, faster, straighter and more confidently. Now she backs up until she hears the click. She is calm and thoughtful through the whole process.
Where as teaching using -R you apply pressure until they back up, the more pressure you apply the faster and better the back up will be. Eventually you can wean down to only needing to give a small cue to make them back up, but if the response isn't immediate pressure needs to build up again. I also find when horses are taught this way they are tense and unsure of themselves.
The reason we use a bridge signal like a click is to literally "bridge" the gap between the correct action and the food delivery, without the bridge you're only rewarding whatever they do just as they get the food. You certainly can't be feeding them while teaching them a Piaffe :P but you can
click to mark the behavior.
If you want to learn more about it check out that thread I posted, there's some great information in those first few pages. If you're not into it that's fine too. It takes someone who's going to be very consistent in their training to do this. But the results are just fantastic :)