Dave Hickman February 3/2019
This is the third of the operant aids:
1) Negative Reinforcement – Designed to INCREASE the likelihood of a behavior reoccurring.
2) Positive Reinforcement – Designed to INCREASE the likelihood of a behavior reoccurring.
3) Punishment – Designed to DECREASE the likelihood of a behavior reoccurring.
Punishment is probably the most difficult to administer correctly because of the side effects, the timing and mostly the human temperament when it is applied.
It can teach the horse to escape (if he runs away). It can teach aggressiveness (if he can’t run away – remember fight or flight instinct) and it can teach apathy if he can’t run away and can’t fight back. (He just absorbs it inside – Learned Helplessness). And it can destroy bonding if the horse associates the punishment with you.
If timed correctly (and I mean during the unwanted behavior) as I said above it can make that behavior less likely to reoccur. The problem is it tells the horse to stop doing something but it provides no other aid to tell it what to do. This can lead to the horse trying other unwanted behaviors.
Using Negative and Positive reinforcement I can increase a low level pressure until I get the required response. If I immediately (key word immediately) release the pressure the horse begins to associate the release of the pressure with the requested response and therefore he is likely to repeat the requested response in order to remove the stimulus.
Remember whatever the horse was doing immediately prior to the release of the pressure is what he has learned to do to get release of that pressure. That is why timing is so important and why Punishment doesn’t work.
Rather than punishment which is usually done out of anger, uses extreme force, and usually done with extreme attitude, try using what I call “CONSEQUENTIAL” training.
An example would be – Make the horse move as a consequence of bad behavior. You cannot get a horse to stand still (which he likes to do) but you can get him to move his feet. Control the feet and you control the horse. This can be done with appropriate rhythmic increasing pressure (suggest-ask-demand), proper trainer attitude, proper positioning and body language of the trainer and it can be continued until you get the required response.
The difference between this type of training and punishment is:
- In the appropriate pressure used,
- Where the pressure is applied (towards the rear of the horse),
- The attitude and the body language of the trainer.
There is no anger, no extreme attitude, no instantaneous reaction (usually at the DEMAND level) and no resentment (loss of ego) such as punishment uses.
By using PREDADOR language I would push my horse and I would push him from the rear – a language he can understand. I am Playing Horse Games by Horse Rules and in their world – “who pushes who wins”.
I have no need to punish my horse at any point. I can use both POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT to build courage, confidence, and competence, to create a bond with my horse, and to provide a caring, consistent, clear leadership role.
Visit my website www.rein-beauranch.com and take a look at the available videos demonstrating the building block approach to training your horse.
Remember FOUNDATION BEFORE SPECIALIZATION.