A Training Update & More Questions - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 13 Old 02-03-2019, 05:28 PM
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Originally Posted by calicos View Post
As for rewards, she's done well with praise, pats, and turnout, so I'll keep doing that!
I've just read the replies. Agree with Tiny & Anita that you're not *necessarily* going too fast at all - sounds like you're doing well. If you were getting reactivity, then I'd say you're moving too fast. As for giving her 'days off', if you're not doing heaps with her, wearing her out, no burning need for that. And one thing I think is so important is that you teach/do in such a way that the horse doesn't think of 'work' as Work, but as Play. That they learn to enjoy what you ask of them.

But as for the above comment, I beg to differ, generally speaking...

Behaviourally speaking, a reward is a positive reinforcement. That is, something desirable that happens/is given at the time of a behaviour, in order to strengthen that behaviour & make it more likely. Horse people often confuse this with negative reinforcement, which is removal of something UNdesirable(eg. pressure) at the time of a behaviour, in order to strengthen that behaviour & make it more likely. These 2 things both effectively do the same thing, but they do make for effective differences, such as in attitude of the way the horse feels about Work for eg.

Why I (generally) disagree with the above as rewards/reinforcements...

Reward/positive reinforcements are something the horse actually desires. Praise, of itself is just a meaningless noise to a horse. It is not a reward/reinforcement. Although as they learn from instant association, it can gain meaning as a signal for something. They can learn that it is because we're happy, although horses do not do stuff because they have a 'desire to please'. They can learn that praise often goes with negative reinforcement, so it can become a signal that the pressure is off. Or praise can be associated closely with positive reinforcement, become a signal that that is likely. The latter is the same as 'clicker training'(tho arguably a short, sharp sound like a click may be more effective), where the sound of the clicker is the signal that a reward is imminent. The advantages of praise/clicking is that you can do this without always pairing it with an actual reward, and it can 'buy you time' - as said, horses learn from *instant* feedback/reinforcement, but of course, it's not always possible to reward instantly, and if praise/clicker/etc has been already associated with reinforcement, you can do this at the time of the behaviour, reward after that. But praise or other noises/signals are not rewards of themselves.

Patting a horse tends to be a very weak reward at best. Or it becomes a 'bridging signal' like praise, to tell the horse reward is on it's way or pressure has ended. Often it is simply tolerated as a necessary something to put up with. Of course, some horses actually like being patted. And a good scratch in an itchy spot can be a great reward.

'Turnout' can indeed be an effective reward. But it is of very limited value in training. After all, you don't want to reward every(or even many) good behaviour with letting the horse go. And the other thing is, if you make training fun for the horse, it could potentially be a punishment to tell them to go away, quit playing with you.

So... whatever you use as positive reinforcement, it must be something that is desirable to the horse at that time. It must be done/given instantly, just like punishment or negative reinforcement. Whatever you reinforce/punish, you need to be aware of what else is going on at the time, to be careful not to inadvertently reinforce 'rude' or Wrong behaviour, or punish Good. And things such as praise are not rewards of themselves, but can gain meaning/value when paired with something worthwhile.
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post #12 of 13 Old 02-04-2019, 12:01 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by loosie View Post
The first horse I ever started by myself sounds like her - she was too easy, totally unflappable. In my inexperience I too thought the previous owner must have told me a fib & she'd been started before. Over the years, I've started a number of horses that were as easy as her, and absolutely there are certain horses like that who have far easier 'temperaments', but really, if you do things right, the rest shouldn't be much more... excitable either. I think the biggest thing is reinforcing the 'baby steps' along the way, and quitting at whatever *before* it's too much for her.

That said, I wouldn't take it for granted that she's barely started, will take a lot more to become 'solid' about stuff, and expect that she will likely 'test you out' at times. As for bored, no, I don't think slow has to be boring - just don't drill her over & over. But I don't think you should be aiming to 'test her limits' either - if you find her limits regularly, that to me would mean you were going a little too quick.

As for rewarding her 'good stuff', I do use food treats, among other rewards. I find it's a generally strong & convenient way of rewarding. Remember though, that animals learn from *instant* association, so you must reward at the time of the good behaviour & giving them a feed after they finish 'work' does not reinforce the 'work'. Also, food treats do not cause 'mugging' or nipping or other 'rude' behaviour. If you give food treats at the time of a 'rude' behaviour, of course you will reward/reinforce it though. You just have to be aware of what it is you're actually rewarding, what's going on at the time, with whatever 'method' & 'tools' you use. Same with food causing them to 'only work for food' - it is when/how you reward, not what you use that might cause the dog to become 'reliant' on rewards.
You've left me a host of great advice!

Since the update was posted, I still haven't found a "limit" yet. Given, I haven't ridden her, but I have been working with her nearly every day. She's still very cheerful about the whole thing -- showing up by the fence around the time I usually come out, and greeting me. After lessons, I always brush her down, sit with her, or take her for a stroll without a lead. I don't want her to feel like I'm shooing her away after we're done. Turnout is supposed to be a fun thing, not an exile.

You said some interesting stuff about food treats in another comment. It was a VERY strong point, and you're right. I talked to my mother about treats last week, and was on the fence about making some. Needless to say, you've sold me on them, so I'm going to work them into my training. I thought praise and pats was enough, but I never thought that it might just be noise/touch to the horse. Thank you for the comment, I appreciate it!
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post #13 of 13 Old 03-20-2019, 07:58 PM Thread Starter
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Hello again!

It's been a while, but I felt compelled to drop in and let whoever's here know that training is going well! We've had a few days where she's shown her temper, but I expected as much from an untrained horse as spirited as she is.

I took much of the advice I was given, and it's served me really well! For the past few weeks, I've been focusing on reinforcing what we've already accomplished, and doing a lot of general stuff. I do a lot of things off-lead, since many of my exercises don't require a rope. She seems genuinely curious and happy to play with me, even when I ask her to do silly things like step over poles.

She's never run off, and always sticks around until it's obvious we're not gonna do anything else. (I typically rub her down & sit with her until she wanders off to visit with the neighbor horses.)

As for saddle-training, we had two small hiccups, but that's all. I've only gotten on her back a few times since the last update, and most of our lessons have been groundwork/getting used to saddling & mounting.

Here's a photo to break up the text before I start talking, haha.



The first hiccup was somewhat inevitable, in retrospect. It was kinda hot (it's summer/fall here in Uruguay), and she had been a little less enthusiastic since I came out. I just wanted to get in the saddle, sit for a moment, and dismount. We did warm-up stuff, I saddled her, and we walked down to the lower pasture.

She was being fussy about standing still during mounting, so I corrected her a few times and she stood still. I got on, sat for a moment, and slipped my toes into the stirrups like usual. Then she turned towards me and went to nip my shin. I lifted my toe so she snubbed her nose against it, and this seemed to incense her. She turned back around, took a few steps, and threw a fit.

Ladybird usually gives up hopping & bucking pretty fast, and I'd stayed on both times before. I've even stopped a few bucks before they happened by just talking gently to her. But she caught me off guard and she was obviously in a bad mood. I barely had my butt in the saddle for more than a few seconds before she managed to throw me backwards. I hit the ground (hard) a few feet away. No aggression beyond that, though. She took a few steps forward (away from me) and stopped.

I immediately got up, shook the stars from my eyes, and walked towards her. She seemed determined to have her fit, so I said "fine, have your fit" and followed her as she ran around the pasture. Didn't try to catch her or run after her, just walked. Eventually she got tuckered out and approached me, so I took her lead rope, lined her back up to the block, and tried again.

No problems this time. She stood still while I got on, sat up, and put my toe in the stirrup. I patted her neck and praised her, and got back off after a minute. Right there, I unsaddled her, let her have a drink, and rinsed her off with some cool water. Then I scraped the water off and took a walk around the pasture. She followed diligently, so I patted her some more and left.

The second fit was exactly the same. She kept hopping around & getting started while I was leaning across her back, and got an attitude with me (throwing her head, refusing to back up) when I corrected her. So, I walked after her while she galloped about, until she finally circled back and did as I asked.

That's really all that's happened. I've only ridden her once since then, and she walked very nicely & I got off.

I think it's going quite well! Here's a little gif before I go, and I'll try to update this thread as we make progress.

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