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Discussion Starter #1
During the summer of 2019, out of curiosity I purchased a book entitled, You Can Teach Your Horse To Do Anything, On Target Training-Clicker Training and beyond: by Shawna Karrasch. After reading and re-reading the book, I was quite taken by what I read which confirmed in my mind the book presented exactly what I had been searching for.

Shawna began her full time working carrier around 1985 resulting from a summer job at Sea World when she was attending a university majoring in the field of animals. She fell in love with training sea mammals and remained there for 10 years at which time her employer bought tickets to an equine jumping show which she had never seen and became hooked on horses.

A year or so later, she was cutting her teeth training Olympic jumpers.

Interestingly, the introduction of reward reinforcement to marine mammals was introduced by two of B. F. Skinner's graduate students in the 60's, who to the disappointment of Skinner, decided to take the knowledge they had learned and apply it commercially.

During the summer of 2019 when the book mentioned above was bought, I was heavily occupied searching for a place to purchase that would be suitable for Keno and I to relocate to on a more permanent basis than our past arrangements had been. And since the purchase that did happen soon afterwards, I have remained heavily occupied in making the place actually suitable, (in my eyes), for Keno, myself, and our two dogs.

Only recently was I finally able to return to my interest in reward based training/teaching. My future tentative plans of using reward based training on an unhandled BLM mustang led me to searching the net, which led me to Mustang Maddy.

To say I was overwhelmed with enthusiasm when Maddy's videos appeared to make my dream doable. And to that point I decided to post a thread by her name in order to hopefully find others who shared a similar interest.

So far there have been 95 posts on the Mustang Maddy thread with other resources being posted. Most of the posts are by me. I've simply been posting what comes to mind as a way of preserving my thoughts where I can return to peruse them to assess to what degree I'm changing course or just to research a link that was mentioned.

I wish to keep posting and preserving my thoughts and eventually (hopefully) my work and experience with an unhandled mustang. But with the various directions the posts have taken, I have decided that Mustang Maddy is not an appropriate title as that is not the central point to the pursuit, although she certainly has been a significant part of it.

So instead of continuing with that thread, the decision has been made to start a Member Journal.

The Mustang Maddy thread will be merged below this post and journal posts will continue where that thread leaves off.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
This morning I watched the last of a series of videos on the rehabilitation of Mystic who was deemed an untrainable Mustang.

I think there may be more coming in the series not sure. But I did watch all on her site.

I was more than impressed and learned a great deal of useful information.

I'm wondering if anyone here on the forum has watched the series and if they have any comments about it they'd be willing to share..
 

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I was curious enough to go to her site but didn't see the series. I'll have to go back and look for it.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
If her name is searched on YouTube, a lot of old videos come up. Some are pretty ragtag. She has really done something in the last few years.

To access the Mystic Experiment series, go to her website, then scroll down to the Mystic Experiment and click on Check Out The Episodes......or just click on this link. The Mystic Experiment

I have been puzzling for a couple years on +P training, reading and watching some videos, and nothing has really clicked with what I really wanted. The Mystic Experiment did.

And if you read About on the website, this gal began her paid training career in junior high. Three time Mustang Makeover champion. All done with pressure release back then until she "discovered" +P.

Some may be turned off by her at first but she becomes infectious in a short time.
 

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Thank you for the link, its looks interesting and when I have some time later I will definitely be watching the videos. I like to use a lot of positive reinforcement when training so I’m always eager to learn more and see other methods.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I'll add that the Mystic Experiment is not just another gentling and training of just another Mustang.

Mystic had been through multiple professional Mustang trainers who had deemed her dangerous and untrainable. And what made the series even more compelling to me is that Mystic was to be rehabilitated entirely at liberty in a large field and no round pen.

Maddy has also gentled and trained two Zebras which is compelling to me as I had thought they were near untrainable. She has even taken them on the road for demonstrations.

So Maddy's approach is more of an entire philosophy rather than a method as such.

I'll further mention that to really understand the approaches being used with Mystic, the first introductory video needs to be watched which is the longest at almost an hour.

And yes, she is running an online business, but to me she deserves all the success she achieves.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Here's a few random quotes from Maddy pulled out of one of her blogs in no particular order.
  • Ending a training session abruptly when using positive reinforcement is negative punishment.
  • Ending a training session abruptly when using negative reinforcement is the biggest reward (release of pressure) you can offer the horse.
In negative reinforcement, you must maintain control of the behavior. This means that if you begin asking for a behavior you must stick with the escalation of pressure until the horse responds in some way. A good trainer will reward the horse’s smallest tries towards the correct behavior and be able to identify these in order to set the horse up for success and avoid frustration and fear. But either way, you must stick with the pressure until the horse shows a sign of responding correctly, otherwise you will accidentally reward the resistance.

In positive reinforcement training, however, if the animal isn’t getting the behavior, no problem. The animal is given the choice to simply perform a different behavior or a smaller approximation with no aversive consequence. I was shocked and impressed with this new concept as I saw it appear throughout my time with the marine mammals. Of course, why hadn’t I thought of that before now! The trainers called this concept the “redirection technique.”

A discriminative stimulus (Sd) is a learned signal for a specific conditioned (trained) behavior that discriminates one learned behavior from another. For example, you lean forward and wave your finger and the horse backs up.

In negative reinforcement training, the Sd is introduced at the beginning of teaching the behavior, in positive reinforcement training, the Sd is introduced at ~80% mastery of the behavior”

Fast forward 10 years or so of countless hours studying, training, and learning from the school of hard knocks and my career was in full force. I could get my once wild mustangs to perform tackless and bridleless in front of thousands after a mere 100 days of training (and human touch). I could train ZEBRAS to perform at liberty. I was traveling all over the WORLD teaching others my methods (something I had NEVER imagined!). But there was still something missing.

This new business of rehabilitation I found to be much more difficult than starting with a fresh wild one. I found mustangs like Willie especially difficult, who had been so shut down to pressure for so long that I had to use more than uncomfortable amounts to get them responding again to lighter pressure. I also came across some particularly aggressive equines, including a young zebra stud colt named “Zeus.” that tested my current training toolbox. With these animals, I seemed to reach the limits of negative reinforcement training and was willing to try anything to help them…
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Reading articles this morning online about +P in the workplace.

Strikes me that there is a wide misunderstanding of positive reinforcement, what it is, and how it actually works.

For instance, I just read in the article that in terms of a paycheck, that may be the primary motivator to get out of bed in the morning to go to work.

I see that as an action to avoid negative punishment in the form of taking something desirable away, source of income. They'd lose their job if they didn't go to work. So that's avoiding an aversive.

Further, although adding a pay bonus or days off may feel good to an employee at the time received, it does not engage the brain activities that positive reinforcement engages when properly applied.

When properly applied, positive reinforcement turns on the seeking system in the brain which is experienced as fun.

The period between a bridge signal indicating that a reward is coming turns on the seeking system in anticipation of the reward.

After a number of repetitions, the activity that brings on the reward becomes pleasurable or fun in and of itself. The employee will then engage in the activity beyond any perceived requirements for being rewarded. They will do it simply because it's fun and 'feels' good.

I just skimmed a few article on +P in the workplace and it doesn't seem anyone understands much about +P. There's just so much more to it than offering a reward for a desirable behavior.
 

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So, I watched the first 2 videos in the Mystic Experiment. I really enjoy Maddy, although I thought I would end up skipping the part in the beginning where she describes how positive reinforcement worked, targeting, etc. I ended up listening to it because I found her engaging. I will definitely continue to watch the series and am interested in seeing how she plans on 'mixing' positive and negative reinforcement, as that has to be done carefully. I especially enjoy the part where she talks on her philosophy at the end of each video.
trailscout, I believe you mean +r instead of +P? +R usually indicates positive reinforcement and +P would indicate positive punishment. An employee is definitely avoiding punishment of losing his job when he gets out of bed, but in the end going to work is a conditioned response that is primarily reinforced by his paycheck. Although they may grow to enjoy their job and develop an intrinsic motivation to work, in the end this response was conditioned by the paycheck, and if he were to stop receiving it, he probably would no longer work at the job and would seek another. There is definitely a lot more to +r than just receiving a reward and so many things play into it, such as the seeking system and engagement received as you mentioned. So many people just grab a clicker and start training with it without understanding the science behind it, and when they create a frustrated, treat mugging horse, they dismiss clicker training altogether. I love that you are actually researching it, I wish more people would do that.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Oh shoot! Yes, big fat typo or brain whatever in my first opening sentence of the last post. Definitely meant +R. Oh well......

I was right with you on the first video. Being fairly familiar with the four quadrants I also started to skip that part, but something kept me watching. I didn't even skip it on the second time through.

On a geological time scale, Maddy is a child compared to me, but so advanced in so many other ways. Yes, very very engaging, to me at least also.

Here is a short five minute video on the seeking system I watched this morning. It is about humans and the workplace but I believe it applies to horses as we may best understand horses by understanding ourselves.

 

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Discussion Starter #12
I will definitely continue to watch the series and am interested in seeing how she plans on 'mixing' positive and negative reinforcement, as that has to be done carefully.
I've watched the entire series and some twice.

My take is that she does not introduce pressure as an aversive, but rather as a cue after the behavior has been at least 80% learned.

For example, after the horse is solid on following the target with even perhaps a cue of walk on, she simply adds the cue of a forward pressure on the lead rope when wearing a halter and adds it in as a secondary cue. No more aversive than the simple words of walk on.

On one of her videos she gave an example of walking on the left side of a horse with her arm draped over the back and putting pressure on the right side while guiding the horse left with the target. Simply adding a non-aversive leg pressure on the right side as a cue to turn left. No fear, no alert, no dimming of the seeking system.

I would be extremely surprised to see her using any aversives at all with Mystic although she may well use some with other horses depending.

With aversives, she's been there done that. All of her training methods until about three years ago or so were straight out of Natural Horsemanship's pressure release methodology. She still doesn't diss it, but definitely avoids it.

When you train a Zebra using +"R!":) , I think you gotta pretty well know what you're doing.
 

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Oh shoot! Yes, big fat typo or brain whatever in my first opening sentence of the last post. Definitely meant +R. Oh well......
That’s what I thought you meant, happens to all of us!😂
For example, after the horse is solid on following the target with even perhaps a cue of walk on, she simply adds the cue of a forward pressure on the lead rope when wearing a halter and adds it in as a secondary cue. No more aversive than the simple words of walk on.
A non aversive cue using “pressure” would be a tactile cue, where the pressure doesn’t increase or isn’t held until the animal complies. So it’s not negative reinforcement although the cue would look the same as a negative reinforcement cue. I guess to word it better, if she was mixing positive and negative reinforcement, if the horse doesn’t move with the original tactile cue does she hold that cue or increase pressure until the result is reached and then click and reward? Hopefully I’ll have time to watch a couple more videos tomorrow and see what she does. I absolutely agree with you that she knows what she’s doing, and her training is amazing. Just curious to see how she mixes. There are plenty of other trainers who warn against mixing for various reasons (poison cue, emotional pressure, etc.), so I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how she does it.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I'm really puzzled by your expectation of Maddy mixing +R and -R. I don't expect her to do that and can't recall her indicating that she would or does. And after watching all of her videos in the Mystic Experiment that are available to the general public, I don't recall her ever using -R.

She does for certain have to use pressure in desensitizing fearfulness. Any time a fear boundary is approached, there is stress and fear. But she reads the emotions so as to not approach a high enough boundary to cause the horse to leave the training session. Plus after using the start button techniqjue which she praises, the horse is able to clearly tell her if the fear level is within what the horse can manage.

She is also very careful in her dialogue with video viewers to not criticize -R training in any way so as to not appear to be saying -R is bad and +R is good therefore I'M GOOD.

After all, only two years prior to the video, she was a full time -R practitioner at a level that won 1st places in Mustang Makeover competitions. I would think that most or all of her trainer friends are -R trainers.

I think she wants to be certain not to appear as a smoker that quits and then starts preaching to every smoker that is met.

I can see where some of that discussion could lead to thinking she will continue to use -R which she may, but if she does I doubt it will be with the same behavior.

In the first video there was a pop up of a video shown for only a few seconds where she was standing beside the head of her haltered horse, not Mystic, with the lead rope ran around a pipe on the fence. She was seen treating the horse. Not enough was shown to see what she was actually doing, but I guessed pressure was applied to the rope with the horse giving himself a release rather than her giving it with a food reward following.

The pressure on the rope was obviously an aversive or the horse would not have made it go away. This is the only thing I've seen even close to mixing but what I believe she was doing was conditioning an aversive to become an apettitive.

Jesus Rosales-Ruiz defines a cue as a discriminantive stimulus established by +R and only +R. He defines a discriminative stimulus established by -R as a Command, plain and simple.

He also mentions that a Command is viewed by the horse as a precursor to an aversive if the correct behavior does not follow the command.

So in my mind, an "Ask" is nothing less than a gentle command, but a command never-the-less.

He goes on to talk about poisoned cues and the associated problems in the link below.

Before I go, I wanted to mention I only first used a target with Keno a day or so after my first post. Then I absolutely lost my clicker. But it turned into a good thing. Yesterday I bought another at Tractor Supply that fits on the index finger where it is ready to be squeezed by the thumb at any nano instant, and not lost. It's really great and I would not have it had I not lost the other which I really did not like.

Here's the article on poisoned cues. Poisoned Cues – Empowered Equines


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Thank you, I seem to recall her someone in the first video that she thought positive and negative reinforcement could be mixed, and that led to me expecting her to possibly mix it with Mystic. I have read the article on poisoned cues, but thank you for posting it! I have not watched all the videos yet and am looking forward to finishing the series. I think I know what clicker you’re talking about, I used to have one like that. I now just use a mouth click, but I found that one really nice.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I want to express that I really really appreciate you entering into discussion in this thread! I am very excited about +R which I've been mulling over for way to long without action and being able to talk about it really helps.

I had heard the term poisoned cues but wasn't really clear on what it meant. Your mention of it led me to the side I posted which is quite a site! When your post came in I had just finished reading an article on trauma in horses on the same site.

I tried the tongue click but was not very consistent with the sound. Maybe later someday.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Here's a video from 2015 when she was still training with negative reinforcement. An untouched wild mustang with only 30 days training. I'm impressed!!


 

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I’ve really enjoyed talking with you on this thread too, you’ve obviously studied this subject thoroughly and a lot of people don’t. I started looking into +R back in the spring, so I’m still trying to find out as much as I can! When I started clicker training I just used a clicker too because my mouth click wasn‘t very consistent or well timed. I think the clicker is probably better, but once I started using targeting or doing faster paced things, I started using a mouth click.

I watched Mustang Maddy’s bridleless and bareback performance last night with her mare Amira and it completely blew me away...it was very moving.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I've watched the Amira vid a couple times and just did again.

I'll have to say that in the mustang makeover finals, I've seen much more advanced and technical rides. I'll also say that I wasn't crazy about the theme getup, but I suspect she bent to the advice of others.

All that out of the way, that video was one of many things that got me hooked on Maddy. Not only was Amira a three strike mustang, but I'm pretty sure she was trained from the get-go with 100% +R. All of the mustangs in the finals competition are trained with -R which is much much faster but with all it's problems.

Thanks for the flowers but no, I have not studied this topic thoroughly at all. I've been simply circling and looking at it from afar. But the inclination to go in this direction has been dwelling within for quite some time.

Now I have no excuse to keep circling. What can be done with +R has been laid bare before me. So now what I do will depend on whether I really want to do this, not on whether it is possible.
 

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I thought Amira was trained with -R before she made the switch to +R? Maybe I’m wrong, I’ll have to go back and check. But yeah, all in all I loved that video. I definitely hesitated about making the jump into doing +R for a while. It's opened a lot of doors for me and I kinda feel like the wool has been pulled from eyes when it comes to the way in which we work with horses. My whole philosophy on horses has been (and still is) changing, from how I view the use of pressure, dominance theory, and interact with my horse. Once you take the ropes off its hard to unsee what your horse tells you. Right now I'm on the edge with considering whether or not I should completely retrain my horse under saddle.
If you're looking for more information, JETequitheory and The Willing Equine websites both have resource pages with links to websites, articles, podcasts, and books. Also, Mosie Trewhitt is a really neat trainer as well, the way she interacts with her horses is very inspiring.
 
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