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Horse Facts and Tips
First Posted June 2, 2010
Jul 31, 2010

Using Positive Reinforcement to Train Your Horse

by Debora Johnson
What Does That Mean?

Positive reinforcement is a method used in training. It can be used in all animals including human beings! In fact, we use it with our children all the time. We use words, body language, smiles, hugs, kisses, food, bribes, rewards of all sorts, etc. No punishment is used! Sometimes negative reinforcement can be used. An example of negative reinforcement would be a stern "No!" Tone of voice, facial looks, body language, etc., can also be used as negative reinforcement. It is meant to deter the behavior, not to encourage the behavior.

By using positive reinforcement you win a bond with your animal. The animal wants to please you. They are not afraid of you! You end up with a wonderful animal/human relationship. The animal is highly motivated to learn and do as you ask. There is always the hope that the reward will be forthcoming, as well. Often food treats are used as the reward. I always give a treat, right away, when the animal responds in a positive manner. After the animal gets to understand what you want, you can give the treat every other time. This is called variable interval training or scheduling and is the hardest to break, once learned. The animal will not know if he is going to get a treat or not. He will continue to do what you ask and will anticipate that the treat (positive reinforcement) will be given. Timing is very important. The treat or positive reinforcement has be to given right away, not a few minutes down the road.

Using positive reinforcement takes patience. We tend to get angry and frustrated if we do not see immediate results. We lose our temper and lash out. That is a BIG no, no. Eventually, positive reinforcement will become rewarding for you as well. Every time you overcome your desire to scream or lash out, and wait for the animal to respond in a positive way, you can give yourself strokes, too. You overcome your negative desires and turn them into a positive. BRAVO! This will become second nature to you and when you see someone else using punishment it will be difficult for you to watch.

For More Information:

Burrhus Frederic Skinner

Horse Facts and Tips