Equine Emotions

discussing neuroscience and equine emotions – and how we can strive for better

Every Horse?

 Is CT Right for Every Horse?
Sometimes people ask me if clicker training is really right for EVERY horse? Are there times you don’t use clicker training? Do you ever use negative reinforcement? Punishment? Continue reading →

Posted by Jessica in Clicker Training, EE Horses, Equine Emotions

Food Related Anxiety and Over-excitement

Food Related Anxiety and Over-excitement
Most horses start out at least a little thrilled about the clicker training experience. Teaching a safe, alternate behavior to mugging, such as stand facing forward, is a fantastic way to keep us safe and help the horse learn to relax around food. A key element in this first behavior MUST be relaxation. A horse can tuck their chin or look away or stand facing forward, but be boiling over, trembling with excitement.

Continue reading →

Posted by Jessica in Clicker Training, Equine Emotions, Ethics, Troubleshooting

Poisoned Cues

Poisoned Cues

The idea of poisoned cues first requires a good understanding of what a cue is and isn’t. A Cue is defined as “a discriminative stimulus (SD) established through positive differential reinforcement” this means the learner knows that cue/antecedent=behavior X=positive reinforcement. Remember our ABCs? Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence (loop). A “cue” is one that results in a positive (addition of appetitive) Consequence. A cue eventually becomes a conditioned positive reinforcer, just like a click. Remember Classical Conditioning when X=Y? When a neutral stimulus is paired repeatedly with an appetitive stimulus is becomes a classically conditioned appetitive. So when Cue=Behavior=R+, Cue=R+! As simple as that! We can also test this – the animal will work for the ability to get the cue that results in R+, remember this is how behavior chains work! Continue reading →

Posted by Jessica in Behavioral Science, Equine Emotions, Ethics, Troubleshooting

Importance of Choice

Importance of Choice

Does positive reinforcement (R+) and negative reinforcement (R-) present the same amount of choice and partnership? We all want a good relationship, we all want partnership and love – no matter which quadrant we’re using.

What is choice? Is there such thing as free choice? If we really want to get into it there is no such thing free choice – every behavior has consequences, consequences influence behavior. No matter whether humans are involved or not. The horse can choose not to run from the predator, but it might not be a smart choice. So honest and complete free choice doesn’t really exist. Add in domestication and choices are further limited, because there are some things that are needed for their own well being. Continue reading →

Posted by Jessica in Behavioral Science, Equine Emotions, Ethics

Stimulus Stacking

Stimulus Stacking

Fear based reactions from horses can be a real danger to humans working closely with them. This is where working with horses differs greatly from working with exotics, as they’re almost entirely trained in “Protective Contact” (training with a physical barrier between trainer and animal). While I am a strong advocate for using protective contact while working with horses, especially those new to CT, horses with strong or frequent fear responses, or impulse control issues with aggressive behaviors. Protective Contact is a valuable tool to use in many situations not just for our safety but to help encourage a horse to open up and feel safe (especially those with poor human history). It also really forces us humans to communicate in a way that is clear and concise with a proper rate of reinforcement, because the horse can easily just walk away if things aren’t just right, I truly believe protective contact work makes us better trainers. Continue reading →

Posted by Jessica in Behavioral Science, Equine Emotions

Dealing with Fear

Dealing with Fear
Make sure to read the article on Stimulus Stacking as well.

There are four basic ways of helping our horses overcome fear. Our goal is not to remove or teach them to ignore their instinct to defend themselves (through the freeze-flight-fight responses), nor to teach them to tolerate every stimuli in the world, but rather to help them build a sense of self confidence and encourage curiosity. Continue reading →

Posted by Jessica in Behavioral Science, Clicker Training, Equine Emotions, Troubleshooting

Conditioned Aversives

Conditioned Aversives
“The whip is just an extension of my arm”, “The whip is just encouragement”, “The whip just provides direction”, “my horse isn’t afraid of the whip”. Continue reading →

Posted by Jessica in Behavioral Science, Clicker Training, Equine Emotions

Terminology

Some common terms you’ll see in the other articles.

Aversive
Any stimulus that is avoided or unwanted (fear, pain, discomfort, annoyance) Continue reading →

Posted by Jessica in Behavioral Science, Clicker Training, Equine Emotions

Two way Communication Tools

Two way Communication Tools
We as clicker trainers have reached a new level of communication with kindness and empathy. With R+ we are able to give our horses a new level of choice and control in their own training than ever before. With R+ if the horse chooses not to comply the worst that happens is they don’t get their reward. But a new and exciting trend in the clicker community is the use of “start buttons”, “initiator signals”, “stop buttons”, “empowerment training”, “choice training”, “yes/no signals” and so on. These are amazing and so exciting to see us humans coming up with more and better ways to empower our animal learners to have more choice and control in their learning. The Clicker Expo had a number of incredible lectures that trended on these themes (Peggy Hogan had an incredible one with a lab, so awesome to see). Continue reading →

Posted by Jessica in Behavioral Science, Clicker Training, Equine Emotions

Trauma in Horses

Trauma in Horses
“I finally summarized the most amazing lecture I’ve been to in a while… This was a lecture from Dr. Frank McMillan focused on Post Traumatic Stress in animals. Let’s just say we discussed this for over 2 hours and I left absolutely buzzing with thoughts, ideas and questions. This is a summary of just the basic overview of trauma, the causes, and ways to help – I tried to angle it particularly to horses, but of course most of it overlaps species. Continue reading →

Posted by Jessica in Care and Management, Equine Emotions