Discipline vs. Punishment - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 04-11-2019, 10:18 AM Thread Starter
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Discipline vs. Punishment

Discipline and Punishment.

Some people use these interchangeably and that it is reserved more for semantics.
Some people use these specifically, as they believe they are different.

What are your opinions?
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post #2 of 19 Old 04-11-2019, 10:26 AM
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"Discipline" corrects the horse's behavior as it occurs and shows the horse what's expected of it; "punishment" is purely retaliatory and doesn't work, because you can't tell a horse that it won't get dessert tonight because it stepped on your foot.
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post #3 of 19 Old 04-11-2019, 12:56 PM
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Mmshiro has my vote for chicken dinner. Well put.

Some horse people change their horse, they change their tack and discipline, they change their instructor; they never change themselves.
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post #4 of 19 Old 04-11-2019, 12:58 PM
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Yes they are used interchangeably and that is conditioning and use over time. I try to make an effort to use discipline when I word things but if punishment * the word) has been used I will just keep with that.
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Some horse people change their horse, they change their tack and discipline, they change their instructor; they never change themselves.
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post #5 of 19 Old 04-11-2019, 01:19 PM
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What @mmshiro said.

I would add that in my view, "punishment" tends to be the thing people do to horses to make THEMSELVES feel better ("take that, horse!"), whereas discipline is what we do to horses to make them BE better.
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post #6 of 19 Old 04-11-2019, 03:26 PM
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Discipline is making your horse back up for being a jerk, and then releasing the pressure. Discipline comes from a place of logic, understanding, and teaching.

Punishment is making your horse back up for a quarter of a mile, then beating him over the head with the reins when he gets enough of you beating a dead horse and pops up on the front end. Punishment comes from a place of emotion and loss of self control and it is the excessive, brutal side of Discipline.

Tangent but related: Doing it their way to teach may mean riding a trail for a third of a mile in reverse just to prove you'll do it.

(Superman kept backing up on the trail to go back to the trailer one time... son turned him, pointed his butt down the trail, then let him start backing up... and let him keep backing up... but he was going forward down the trail with us... just in reverse. LOL Superman finally lost the battle, gave up, and turned around and behaved himself when he realized son could wait him out. It was absurd.)

"We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that death will tremble to take us."
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post #7 of 19 Old 04-11-2019, 05:36 PM
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Sematics,I guess, but I'd add consequences to the discussion as far as discipline and punishment in horse training,,,,,, I agree with what has been said regarding discipline Vs punishment.

If you stick a finger in a running fan, the OUCH you get is a consequence not discipline or punishment. A bit of a stretch, but if the horse pushes into a training aid or tool (training stick or string for an example), I can see that as a consequence but not discipline or punishment.

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Be as soft as possible, but as firm as necessary--Pat Parelli
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post #8 of 19 Old 04-11-2019, 08:41 PM
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Good question OP, because it pays to have a clue what people mean when they say certain things, and I've discovered a lot of things are taken the wrong way because of those differences. So yes, I'd say semantics definitely. And therefore it pays to give more information on specifics if you're going to advise 'punishment' or such. And I think it's important, in situations like this forum, to at least understand the formal, proper meanings of terms.

I do understand people use those terms loosely, to mean different things, but just like... laminitis/founder for eg, I think of them as pretty much interchangeable. With a background including behavioural psychology, I like to stick to formal definitions.

So... punishment means a consequence that happens at the time of(or at worst, immediately after) a behaviour, in order to weaken that behaviour, make it less likely to occur in future. So, to use mslady's eg above, yes, sticking your finger in a fan - or a horse touching an electric fence, say - is indeed an eg of effective self punishment.

People also use the term 'reward' loosely too. For eg they use it to mean release of 'pressure', cessation of Bad Stuff(negative reinforcement) and they use it to mean a pat on the neck or a 'good boy' which is not a Good Thing of itself for the horse, but just a signal that *if paired* with something desirable often enough can come to mean something to the horse. And they use it to mean giving the horse a treat after everything is finished, when they put the horse away or 'just because'. Whereas I use reward and positive reinforcement interchangeably - it formally means the addition of a Good consequence - something desirable to the horse - at the time of(or immediately following) a behaviour in order to strengthen it, make it more likely to be repeated.

Here are the behavioural definitions of the 'four quadrants'...

Positive Reinforcement(+R) = The addition of something desirable in order to strengthen a response/behaviour.
Negative Reinforcement(-R) = The subtraction of something UNdesirable in order to strengthen a response/behaviour.
Positive Punishment(+P) = The addition of something UNdesirable in order to weaken a response/behaviour.
Negative Punishment(-P) = The subtraction of something desirable in order to weaken a response/behaviour.
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post #9 of 19 Old 04-12-2019, 05:19 PM
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From the US Cavalry manual:

7 PUNISHMENT. If the horse merits a reward after a good performance, he also deserves punishment when he disobeys, but such action should be taken properly and at the correct time. Corrections should follow the fault immediately, in order that the horse may understand the reason for the pain he suffers. In this way only is the correction effective, for otherwise it would be misunderstood by the horse, and would be considered as an unjust and uncalled for attack.

Punishment should not only be given at the proper time but also with justice. Should the horse disobey through ignorance, fear or defects in his conformation, he should not receive punishment...

...Punishment should be administered without anger...The rider should remain calm in order to give only the needed amount of correction. In this way he obtains greater obedience, whereas in exceeding this limit he provokes the horse's resentment and leaves him with the memory of an injustice.

As soon as the correction has produced the result sought and the horse has yielded, the rider should caress his horse in order that the latter may see that he has everything to lose by disobeying, and everything to gain by submitting...
"Discipline: The practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience." - https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/discipline

They are not "vs". You can use one (punishment) to create the other (discipline). Of course, you can often use rewards instead, and I'd rather reward a horse than punish. If possible. But punishment can be a good thing and we should not hesitate to use it when needed.
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Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"
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post #10 of 19 Old 04-12-2019, 06:37 PM
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^Ah, yes, I understand 'discipline' to have a different meaning, but I thought we were talking of 'disciplinING'... which I don't know is even a proper verb.
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