Operationalizing Whips
Let’s take the whip discussion and operationalize it. I find a lot of psuedo-science and romanticized opinions are clouding our ability to look at the use of this tool appropriately.

Remember Classical Conditioning? Repeated pairing of any stimuli, the first being conditioned to predict the second. Keep that in mind as you review the next ABC scenarios…

In the next few scenarios find the Antecedents, the behavior, and consequence on the behavior, then predict whether this behavior will happen more or less in the future based on this scenario being repeated. In all of them we’ll use the term “stick” instead of whip or target, but after you’re done assessing determine which you would call the object/stick. The name of the object has a conditioned meaning to humans, as much as the visual effect has a conditioned meaning to the horses.

1) Handler is standing next to the horse’s shoulder, facing their hip. The horse is standing still and calm. The handler raises the stick and points it toward the horse’s hip. At first the horse does nothing. The handler gently swishes the stick toward, but not touching the hip. The horse moves their hip away, stepping their hind legs over. The handler lowers the stick and praises the horse.

2) The exact same scenario happens as number 1, except this time, when the horse moves their hip away, the handler clicks and feeds a treat.

3) The handler is standing next to the horse’s shoulder, facing their hip. The horse is standing still and calm. The handler raises the stick and points it toward the horse’s hip. At first the horse does nothing. The handler puts down the stick, looks to see if the horse is paying attention, and raises the stick again, no different than before. This time the horse steps their hip toward the stick. At this point the handler lowers the stick, clicks and feeds a treat.

4) The handler is standing beside the horse’s hip, with their hand resting on the horse’s hip, but not pressing, they hold their other hand out away from the horse with a stick. The horse sees the stick and turns toward it, first swinging their hip away to make the turn tightly enough, the handler clicks and feeds a treat.

Remember to identify the A, B, C, and Prediction, whether it’s R+, R- or something else, and determine what you would label the Stick.

Answers:
1) A= stick pointed toward the horse’s hip  B= remains still  C+A= stick swishes towards the hip   B= the horse moves their hip away    C= the stick is removed and gentle praise is added   =R- with praise
2) A= stick pointed toward the horse’s hip  B= remains still  C+A= stick swishes towards the hip   B= the horse moves their hip away    C= the stick is removed and a treat is added    =R- with a treat
3) A= stick pointed toward the horse’s hip   B= remains still   C+A= stick lowers and then comes back up the same as before  B= brings hip toward the stick   C= a treat is added     = R+
4) A= hand is rested on the horse’s hip, not pressing, stick is held out to the side    B= the horse swings their hip away, then brings their nose to the stick  C= a treat is added