Positive Reinforcement

To "positively reinforce" as I define it means to seek out a horse's strengths, reward the attempts, and give him / her a choice to get paid for doing a good job. I often receive the following questions or statements  - and I am going to respond here.


Q: Food makes a horse pushy and aggressive.

A: One of my best learning aids has been my errors. If a horse becomes pushy when you carry food, it's most likely because at one point or another it has gotten him the food. The horse was actually reinforced for the behavior hence he believes he has discovered a human piñata! EVERY interaction is a "learning session", even when we think we're off the clock. There are a variety of ways to train a horse to "station" to a location away from you that will get him rewarded.


Q: What is the point / use of tricks?

A: Other than the fact that it gives me another way to spend time with my herd, that THEY enjoy as well, it's stimulating for their minds. It's a confidence builder and a communication enhancer, the horse knows to pay attention so that he may accurately read your cues, perform accordingly and be rewarded.


Q: It's not training, it's bribery.

A:  We go to work 5 days a week, just to receive a paycheck we don't see 'till Friday, because we have made a deal with a company that promises to do so if we do the job. Same exact thing.

A positive reinforced horse has been mentally prepared that he will receive nothing until he has done his job and receives the "yes" cue (or click). Because he has been educated on the "terms" of the deal, he should have no problem executing requests without even needing to visually see the reward, he is confident in his owner's word and is a willing worker. That is training AND relationship!


Q: I don't want to carry a clicker / I cant find one.

A: A clicker is only a sound. You need a sound that is constant, unchanging and easy for the horse to recognize. It will be associated to our human word "yes". This could be any sound you make up.


Q: I don't want to carry food.

A: Some horses are not motivated by food, some have a special itch spot or something else that motivates them. You know YOUR relationship, there is no "Bible" of positive reinforcement that says you MUST use one type of reward.


Gringo demonstrates "back away" at liberty using +R