Ep 48 // LIMA For Humans and Supporting Change: Part Two
For our 48th episode on the podcast Brie Simpson of PATH Equestrian joins me to discuss "pure" positive reinforcement, LIMA (and the humane hierarchy) for human learners, damage control vs structured training, setting you and your horse up for success, transitioning from traditional training to positive reinforcement, and so much more! We hope you enjoy this episode and would love to hear if you have any questions for Brie and I on this subject. This is a topic that is near and dear to both of us and we hope that this episode helps you, as a listener and potentially someone working to incorporate R+ into your interactions with your horse, and encourages you!
"Brie Simpson is the founder and owner of PATH Equestrian in Ontario Canada. She is studying to be a Certified Horse Behavioural Consultant (CHBC) through the IAABC and has been training and working with horses for over 14 years. She has dedicated her last 4 years to researching and studying equine behaviour, positive reinforcement training, the learning theory and equine enrichment. Brie is extremely passionate about improving the day-to-day life and basic handling of horses and wants to help advance the equine world into using more compassionate, humane and science-based methods of training." https://pathequestrian.com/
Adele: [00:00:00] Hey there. Welcome to the t W Podcast, the podcast where we talk about all things related to horse training, horse keeping, and being better horse people for our horses. I hope you enjoy this episode today, and if you'd like to share your thoughts with me or have suggestions for future podcast episode. Please feel free to reach out to me through social media or the t w website, the willing equine.com on my website. You can also find a ton of great information about horse training and keeping in general, as well as check out the t w services and just learn more about us. Also, we have courses and memberships that you could sign up for. Before you do that, though, I would love for you to listen to this episode, and I hope it inspires you in a positive way today.[00:01:00]
Well, and we're particularly, we're talking about two horses that are a little bit more like keep us on our game, whereas the horses that are more like go with the flow and stuff, I find that it happens even more often and it's just so, yeah. So much fun. And I, I mean, you can ask anybody I talk to, I'm just like constantly blowing up their phones with like, this was such an amazing training session today.
Brie: Yeah, yeah. Pictures. I have pictures and videos and I'm like, I did this today. And it's, it's, most of my training sessions are like that, right? It's like you go into it with a plan and you have all these little steps and then you keep taking these little steps and everything's going your way and it's working and your horse is saying yes over and over again and it's, it's so powerful.
Adele: It is. And you know what's also really beautiful about this is, I don't know about for you, but for me, just because, or I should say those sessions didn't necessarily, or they aren't necessarily without their [00:02:00] flaws, right? So they still had stuff like, we could still go back and be like, okay, but this I could have done here, or this I could have done here, or I could have, you know, whatever.
I could go back and nitpick those things. And I try like, it's okay to have something you wanna move forward with. So hey, next time I'm gonna try and give my cue a little bit more clearly, right? So we have this constructive self-talk kind of thing where we're like, next time we're gonna try this, but look at all this amazingness. And that's what makes it so cool.
Brie: It makes it worth it. Yeah. It's, it's your, you can go back and criticize yourself, but at the end of the day, the session was amazing, right? Like, you can have these little things, but then the whole picture is just, it's just amazing. Like, it's just an amazing feeling. And, and you've, you've put in the. To get to this point too, right? It's, it's building up that training plan and having everything move through that training pan plan. It's just, it's powerful. It's, it's, it's incre It's an incredible feeling to kind of have a plan, go [00:03:00] through it and have everything kind of line up. It's not perfect, but you're progressing and you're feeling that progression and you and your horse are having this just conversation and it's, it's, it's incredible.
Adele: Yeah. And you could even look at it as a relationship as a whole too. So yes, we had a terrible session, but overall, like, look at this relationship I have with this horse and, you know, look, pulling yourself out of that one crummy session, let's say, and really looking at it from the big scale, I, that is so worth it to me.
Yeah. And. , you know, cuz back in the day when I trained differently, I always felt like it was me against the horse. Right? Yeah.
Brie: It was just, oh yeah. It was, it was, it wasn't, it wasn't a conversation. I, I say that I had once started with commands and now I'm moving into cues. Yeah. And it was, I was commanding the horse to always work. And I did get my horses working. Don't get me wrong. [00:04:00] It was effective, but it's not the same as what it is now.
Adele: No. And not at all. And, and I, you know, I try and remind people when you trained the way you did before, , you had your ups and downs, like that's just normal. Yeah. And you're gonna have those same ups and downs here. What you need to do is pull yourself out and look at the overall positive changes that are happening, and also focus on the, in the session, in that moment, right after the session, really try and pull out the positive things. And yes, you can have the constructive things that you're gonna move forward with, but again, try not to let that negativity bias, like really get ahold of you. Cuz that's what creates that paralysis. That's what creates that overwhelming feeling, that feeling of you're never gonna make it to the pure r plus kind of whatever concept.
Brie: Yeah. Because you're, you're stuck, you're stuck at this thinking about all the negatives and you're using negative reinforcement and punishment on yourself and you're, you're not getting to soak up the good that's coming from it.
Adele: Yes, [00:05:00] 100%. That is exactly it. And you know, One thing, and I really wanted to talk on . We've just spent so much time gushing about how amazing and I love it. I could talk about it all day long. I'm like, yes. Oh yeah, absolutely. I, I'll, okay, I'll say this last thing, and if you wanna add to it, you can, but you have for my permission, but , I tr I've trained, I've had horses since I was eight. I have done this my whole life and they're, I am like a 10 year old again with horses. Like
Brie: I just, it's, it's, it's amazing. It's like having a unicorn. Like I have a client who's like, my horse is now a unicorn. Yes. And it's like, it's, it's like you're going back to that 10 year old self that just wanted to like, sit in the field and pet the horses, right? Yes. And you're, you're building this relationship. And I get to the barn and no matter what kind of horse I'm working with, whether it's mine or a client, the horse is at the gate and it knickers at me. Yes. And it's like that will never stop feeling. So amazing. Right. I know. Like that, that [00:06:00] feeling of your horse saying yes and being like, oh, you're here. I missed you. Let's work. It's, it's so different than what I've dealt with in the past where sometimes your horse walks away from you , and you're trying to get to halter on your horse is like, no. But when you start to build up this positive relationship with your horse, it changes everything.
Adele: Yeah. And, and every horse is different too. I'm just gonna add this in there because I know this has been a struggle for some of my students. Some horses this transition into a more positive relationship happens pretty quickly. Like within the first couple sessions they're like, oh yes, new game. We're having fun with this. Yep. Yep. And some of it takes months or much longer.
Brie: Oh, some, like I have one client that's taken about a year. Yeah. It's been, I would say like nine, 10 months. And it's, it's a process and she's seeing small changes, but it's not night and day immediately.
Adele: Yeah. And I'll say the most. Probably from me personally, the most extreme case. I feel like the horse didn't fully embrace or trust the new process, the new [00:07:00] game, the new whatever, training way and people, it took about two years for her and, and yeah.
Brie: And it's, it comes from trust, right? Like it comes from past experiences, how aversive have their past experiences have been.
Adele: Yeah. And hers were quite awful, but she. , and I will say this too, it definitely got a lot better. Like it was getting better that whole time. It wasn't like it took two years of, you know, it being terrible. And then one day we woke up and it was fantastic. Yeah. , it was just like, when I look back at the whole picture, I don't feel like she fully embraced the trust part of it until we right away hit, yeah. Until we hit about like a year and a half, two years. And then it was, it was like this. I came out to the barn and I started getting this feeling. I'm like, okay, this is, this is different. She's different. Like we're feeling this is different. And it was just a really cool feeling, but it was some hard work to get there. And it was worth it though. It was very worth it.
Brie: Yeah. And it's, it's always worth it. Like my one rescue, I think the second that consent actually clicked for him, it was like, like his face [00:08:00] lit up. Like I know the exact moment and I can think to that exact moment where he was like, oh, I, I have a say. Yeah. And you're listening to what I have to say.
Adele: Yeah. And sometimes I'll put this out there, and I've talked about this before, you know, with unpacking, sometimes it gets a lot worse before it gets better.
Yep, yep. That happens and that's a whole nother topic. We won't get into that. I recommend listening to my other podcasts on that. But definitely know that the beginning, it's not just like this light switch, it takes time to rebuild that trust just like it would in another human. If you had a child or another human that had been through some rough stuff or didn't, you know, didn't feel like they could trust people other people, it would take time for them to learn to trust.
So that is something that takes time and it's a little bit of encouragement there for you guys. A little reality there. Oh, okay. So I went on a little tangent. I'm, I'm queen of those, but I wanted to touch on. . How [00:09:00] so? Okay. So in the beginning, a lot of times you and I both, it sounds like, really encourage our students to start off with something that they can all be successful with the horse and them can be successful with, and continue to maintain what they have before. The only time I would say that that is not the case is when I have a really extreme trauma case or if the particular behaviors that they're considering maintaining are highly stressful to the horse or demo Absolutely. To the human. Those, those kind of gotta go .
Brie: Yeah. And you gotta kind of it, I say that on a horse by horse and case by case basis, right? Yes. It, going back to the backup, you might have a horse that loves to back up, but then some horses, you, they, they have pressure put on them and they're pinning their ears and they're swishing their tail. Yep. And it's, it's, you're like, okay, this behavior needs to be changed Now we're not gonna keep building on that negative
Adele: Yes. Mm-hmm. , because that's really gonna be counterproductive to the trust building that you're doing. With your positive reinforcement. I had one mare that the backup was used as a punishment, which is not, not uncommon . [00:10:00] So backups are tend to be a little bit just inherent. Corrective. Yes. Corrective to the horse. They have been used as corrections in the past, so the horse associates them with that. And she would just like totally shut down and just was like, if we could have been doing a full on positive reinforcement, everything was beautiful, gorgeous. And then somebody would ask her to back up and she would just like, oh, shoot, we're back here again. And it was so sad to see. So we had to rebuild that from scratch and it took time. But where I was going with this is I feel like. There is so much benefit to be taken or so much benefit of learning how to train with positive reinforcement that can then be translated over to negative reinforcement training. And I would love if you wanted to talk about that and how we can help, you know, while we're in that transition phase and, or even if people decide, you know, hey, on the ground domin use positive reinforcement, but I'm gonna ride with negative reinforcement. Great, fine. How can we make it all better?
Brie: And yeah, and, and this is kind of for me [00:11:00] and my transition to positive reinforcement. This was kind of my like, eye-opener for me because I am speaking kind of a bit from experience and a bit from people I've talked to. But when we look back at natural horsemanship and the traditional horsemanship and, and the clinics I did and all the, all the education I had in that area. , they don't really talk about the learning quadrants, so you're, you're learning all this kind of technical skills, but you're not really understanding the science behind it. Whereas with positive reinforcement, that kind of goes hand in hand, right? Mm-hmm. . And when you're working with negative reinforcement, sometimes you're not, I mean, at the start, you're not thinking about the release being the reward and the release being the reinforcement. So then you're looking at, let's say someone's lunging a horse. They're not releasing pressure or using pressure even effectively because they're not understanding that the release [00:12:00] is the reinforcement to drive the behavior. Yep. 100%. And, and that's kind of, that was kind of a big one for me is when I learned about the learning quadrants, I'm going, there have been so many moments where, There's been confusion between my, me and my horse because I'm not actually using negative reinforcement properly. Like I'm not reinforcing anything properly. And then you kind of think back to all the things that you've been reinforcing. You're like, oh, like , there's, there's a lot to kind of unpack when you start to learn the science of it. And that was kind of a, at least a big one for me. And I know I've talked to a few clients and it's like they'll look back and go, I wasn't really training effectively back then either. Like they weren't doing training plans, they weren't thinking about the whole behavior and breaking it down. They were kind of just at some points expecting force to get [00:13:00] them somewhere where they haven't really built up to that point, if that makes. Yeah.
Adele: Exactly. And that is my experience as well. If I , if somebody had just sat me down and explained to me that the pressure is what is causing the behavior, and then well not initiates it. And then the release is what reinforces it to make it happen, to encourage it to happen again in the future when you apply that pressure again. If somebody had explained that to me and then showed me how to apply that effectively, oh my gosh. Like things would've been so much better. And I would've been an entirely different trainer back then.
Brie: Yes. Like I think back to it and it's like, there are so many moments where I was like, why? Like, why didn't this click for me? ?
Adele: Well, nobody explains it. And then they use all of these like kind of ambiguous jargon terms and jargon. Yeah, yeah. All that. Like, and then of course we have all the labels that get wrapped into it with dominance and respect and all that. Yeah. Which we could go on a whole tangent about that, but it's, it's kind of, [00:14:00] It's like the teachers and the gurus and all of that happened upon being able to train really well without most the science. Yeah. Without the science, without actually understanding how it's working. But they just know it is. And then they're trying to turn that around and teach other people to do that, but they don't even really understand what they're doing.
Brie: They don't, they don't understand the, the ingredients. And they're trying to teach people how to cook . Yes.
Adele: Yeah. You got the, the trying to teach people the recipe without the ingredients. Right. Or whatever you said it was. The And and so now when I have students that are going to maintain some behaviors with negative reinforcement or, or just temporarily or long term, doesn't matter. I intentionally teach. How to use negative reinforcement in what I would consider a much more effective and ethical way where
Brie: Yes, and, and non escalating pressure is a huge part of this too, right?
Adele: Yeah. Or even well, non escalating pressure or even [00:15:00] minor, like, I'm not talking about fast escalating, but just like a, a minor increases fine. It's about timing. It's about breaking things down in approximations. It's about it's about. Having that shaping plan and having a quick release, a timing, approx all of this, all of the stuff that we talk about with positive reinforcement, and we get all into the technical stuff. I love all the sciencey stuff. And then we can translate that over to just a different form of reinforcement. Now it looks a little different because of we have to apply the aversive first and then release, but it can still be so much better than how it's commonly taught and people can actually understand what they're doing and therefore, and they're understanding that what's driving the behavior essentially, right?
Brie: Yeah. They're not just kind of, I, I guess, flopping around and trying to figure out what works is they are going in and understanding that I am applying pressure in this sense, and when the horse has that behavior I'm releasing.
Adele: Yeah. And, and they also, it's very easy for negative reinforcement and positive punishment to get mixed [00:16:00] up. And so a lot of times it's misinterpreted and, and we're actually using punishment when we're, you know, we should be using negative reinforcement or whatever, vice versa. But And a fun example, not fun, but a common example that I see, and I had this happen to me the other day, is a client couldn't figure out why her horse, like, it just looked like what was happening between them was like bantering or bickering. Like he was like an argument. Yeah. It was like an argument. Like he was turning his head towards her and kind of mouthing at her and she would like bat his head away and then he would come back and it was just back and forth, back and forth. And I'm like, stop what is happening? And just like, and so I was trying to, I knew she, you know, whatever this situation, it was better to use. Well, we had like, you know, we enr the environment a little better and I showed her how to reinforce the head staying away and all that. But I was like, if you're going to put your hand up to push his head away, which is fine, put your hand up here, place it flat up against the side of his head, put a little pressure until he moves his head away, then release like it's, it's don't do this whole like bantering back and forth, which is kind of similar to what you were just saying, like [00:17:00] the getting on and just kind of flopping around until the horse ends up going or does the lead change or whatever. We don't actually understand Yeah. What we're doing.
Brie: You don't, yeah. You and you don't. And, and I think back to it and it's, it's, it's almost cringey to me because I'm like, how did I train for that long? without knowing how it actually works.
Adele: I don't know. And this is why so many people get stuck at the more novice levels because we don't really understand how or what we're doing or why whether it's a novice riding or novice training or whatever. We just, there's only a select few that seem to get up to that more elite level. And I think it's cuz they somehow subconsciously or whatever, stumbled upon some ingredients that they, I don't know. I just figured it out somehow. That worked for them. Yeah. Yeah. The other thing that I didn't really understand was the process of establishing cues or commands or whatever with negative reinforcement. And this is a huge gap. It's huge part of it. And it's, yeah. And then, and then you start trying to talk to them [00:18:00] about establishing cues with positive reinforcement, which is a totally different process. I understand. But. Is mind blowing when you then start looking at, okay, so Adele says, creating a positive reinforcement cues goes through this process, right? And then you go, okay, but how did I do this with negative reinforcement? And, and so I, I walk them through that and then that light bulb moment goes off and they're just like, Oh, this is why my horse responds to this and this is why my horse responds to that. I'm like, yeah, cuz you have a cue that predicts, you know, all this stuff.
Brie: And, and it's, it's funny cuz some people don't even realize that pressure is the cue. Yeah. And that's, and that's huge, right? It's like, oh, my horse is backing up and I'm not touching it's face. But maybe with your body language, you're applying pressure with your body to move your horse backwards. Mm-hmm. right? And they're thinking that it's just this magical cue and they're like, yeah, I did it. But it, there's just so much more underneath for it.
Adele: Yes. And cuz I run across this, and I know you do too, where we have [00:19:00] situations where somebody either isn't ready for or doesn't want to or just they're not in a situation or the horse isn't in a situation where they can only be trained with, you know, I say only with quotation marks only be trained with positive reinforcement. And they are going to need to be trained or handled with negative reinforcement That's. First of all, it's okay. Like it's okay. like that happens. That is normal. That happens for some of the horses I have in my care and in my training. It happens for a lot of my clients and students. This is a normal part of domestic horse's life. It's just what it is, and we try, we're working towards making shifts and changes, but it, you just do the best you can right now. The second thing I wanna say is if that's gonna happen, let's look at how to make it as clear and as straightforward and as low stress as possible for the horse. Because now we're going down, right? The humane hierarchy. Yeah. If we're going to use negative reinforcement, let's use it. Well, and let's, yes, let's use it.
Brie: Let's avoid [00:20:00] moving into the punishment. But I even think that when we're using negative reinforcement, we're, we're thinking about the thresholds and the trigger stacking and all that stuff that we were thinking with the positive reinforcement. But now we're kind of applying it. into the negative reinforcement. Yes.
Adele: And this is, I actually, there's quite a few negative reinforcement based trainers that I love watching because they're really good at this. They're really good at watching those thresholds, watching the, the behavior signs of stress and, you know, looking at the horses response to things and, you know, controlling the amount of pressure they're putting on and releasing at the right time. They have good timing, they have good shaping plans. They break things down into small bite sized pieces that the horse can achieve easily and that the human learner can also achieve easily. And then building on that. So we're creating that like snowball effect. Right. And they're just really good at applying all that. And so it works really well. And that if you're going to train that way, that's how it should look. That's what it should look like. Just as when we're [00:21:00] saying, when you train with positive reinforc, , it should have all of those aspects as well, because you can do positive reinforcement really poorly without all of those things, and you can make it very, very stressful too.
Brie: Yes, if you can make it, sometimes make it more stressful than negative reinforcement, depending on how you're training .
Adele: When I talk to people about, you know, really. You know, talking when we need to look at what the horse is eating and watching their thresholds and their body language and, and avoiding cause I try and use a errorless learning process Yes. And all of that. I, you know, we talk about how positive reinforcement, technically that's just a scientific term, which is applying a reinforcer for a behavior to encourage more of it. Right. So it's just a science department. It's not an emotional positive, it's just Exactly. And you can make it. Really unfun, like you can use positive reinforcement in questionably a very unethical way. And they used to, I mean, back in the day when they were using positive reinforcement with dogs, they would starve the dogs so that they were so hungry that they would do just [00:22:00] about anything to get the food for the food. Yep. So this isn't, you know, from, again, that emotional perspective, positive, right? Yeah. This is just the science term positive reinforcement of Yeah. Yeah. . Yeah. And yes, applying an appetitive reinforcer. And so for me it's, you know, we talk about positive reinforcement and you know, tying it back into that negative reinforcement, there is going to be a better way and a worse way to apply just about any type of training. So no matter what type of training you're using, let's try and work towards the, you know, The cleaner version, the, the version that the horse understands really well and the less stressful version
Brie: Yes. For the learner and the teacher.
Adele: Yes, exactly. That's what, that's what I meant by cleaner . And so I think that like understanding that and applying that and learning how to use that, those, all of those techniques can really help [00:23:00] improve the quality of learning for the horse. But also I think it's important for the human learners to understand that it's o, that it's not only like okay to do that. It it is done Like we do it, like you and I do this when I, I go to clients' houses all the time where they're like, Hey, we really need this horse to find a lease home. Where they're gonna, you know, be ridden traditionally, but it's not gonna be with positive reinforcement. So what do we do? Cuz we want it to be, you know, whatever. I usually, if I'm put in that, if I'm in that situation, we will opt to do the training myself using all of those aspects that I just mentioned. Because the alternative in a lot of cases is that none of that happens and they end up being put, you know, in a situation where it's about dominance and respect and there's no Yeah.
Brie: And flooding and, and all that. Yeah. And it's, it's, it's, it's, I would much rather [00:24:00] a positive reinforcement trainer use negative reinforcement on my horse than a traditional negative reinforcement trainer who doesn't understand the science doing it themselves.
Adele: Yes. And I agree. And I know that's something we were talking about before that I really thought was valuable to bring up. What are your thoughts on, on that, you know, or hiring a positive reinforcement trainer and then you're in a situation where, You know, we need to work with negative reinforcement. We need to help this horse, let's say lead from the barn to the pasture.
Brie: Yeah. And, and, and I think that, that when you're thinking about Lima, you're thinking about not only your skillset sets, but the owner's skillsets and the horse's skillsets. So if we're kind of working down that hierarchy, if they don't have the positive reinforcement skills, we have to go to the next step. We can teach them those skills and we can help them build those skills, but at that time, we can't stop at that step, if that makes sense. . [00:25:00] Yes.
Adele: Okay. So let's go back real quick to, you know, before we mentioned that we use negative reinforcement as kind of a case by case or how we use negative reinforcement or continue to use it or whatever it is, and it's very case by case situation. What, could you explain a little bit more about your process of kind of what that looks like for you and your clients and how you base those decisions or what you base those decisions off? Yeah, so
Brie: I think that kind of starts with an understanding of body language, right? If you're, you were talking about all those really incredible trainers where they're watching their body language and they're using negative reinforcement and the horse doesn't look stressed, the horse is not anxious, the horse isn't running around. It's, it's still kind of a bit of a conversation. And I think that's a big thing with negative reinforcement is if you're going out to see a client or you're working with your horse and you're using even a little bit of pressure and you're getting so much feedback and body language that they are uncomfortable or [00:26:00] that they're, they're not enjoying it, then that's a point where you're going, okay, well I don't have the skillset to do the R positive, but maybe I do need to build that before moving forward with this behavior.
Adele: Mm-hmm. . And then, you know, cuz in some situations , like, I know I've come across this quite a few times where the. A client doesn't necessarily have the skillset for, you know, being able to lead a horse with positive reinforcement while simultaneously the horse is losing its mind while being led from the stall to the pasture kind of thing. And that's a situation where we might want to maintain, you know, negative reinforcement, but it can, I don't know, it's like such a, a gray area. Like which one?
Brie: The, it's so, it's such a case by case basis, right? Because if you don't ever have to lead the horse and there's no real reason to lead the horse, then you could argue that, go back to your anine and arrangements and work on this in a safe [00:27:00] environment and not outside of the field.
Adele: Yes, that I agree with that. And that's definitely, if I can. The response I will give people, you know, do you have to lead your horse or can they just hang out in the pasture? Could you find them somewhere to live? Or they have a companion water forage and a shelter. Then they're happy. Yeah, they can be happy there. And they don't need to go anywhere right now. Yeah. Like it's,
Brie: it's the same as bringing a horse into a barn, right? That's like, sometimes that's such an aversive experience and you'll be like, well, why do they need to go into the barn right now? And that's just like mind blowing .
Adele: Yes. And, and you know, it's in some situations, so like with a leading one, your horse. There's a lot of pressure on us to get our horses to be able to do a certain set of behaviors for their own safety. And it's a welfare concern. So you having a horse that can't ever be led, you are very limited. So I, cuz I've run across this a few [00:28:00] times, or if we have feral horses or whatever, they get injured, they're sick, they're whatever. You can't do anything like you're stuck and unless you're gonna put 'em through a shoot or something like that, which is very traumatic. And we don't wanna do that if we don't have to. So then we are saying like, okay, so there's all this pressure on us now to get the horse leading and that can just create kind of a, a little bit of an issue with the learning process. And for us, cuz it puts a lot of pressure on us. And then we have a tendency to be really hard on us when we're ourselves, when we're not making progress quickly. And so this is where it's so important for the trainer to come in and really analyze the situation and do the best they can to set both learners up for success. And. You know, get them through as quickly, and this is kind of what I would consider, you would intensely work on this one behavior. So if your horse needs to, you know, be led for their own safety or whatever, I might put aside things like. riding or obviously you can't really ride if you can't lead the horse but you know what I mean? Like you might put [00:29:00] aside some other stuff that's less important and focus on the welfare stuff, which is typically when people ask me, okay, where do you start? First, I start with welfare stuff. So yeah, I start with being able to lead, get in a trailer, being able to have medications, have their feet. Cleaned and what, and trimmed, and then being able to have wounds treated like, I think I covered most of the bases there, but you get my idea.
Brie: Like, yeah, it's, you gotta start with what is required for welfare. If something comes up, it, it's just, it's something that needs to be there. Yeah.
Adele: And, and I like what you said about. , you know, when we're doing a case by case, and this is what I tell my clients too, is we're, we're asking the horse. I like to say that I'm asking my horse, I'm gonna ask them a question, is this okay? And they'll tell me, if you're listening, they will tell you, when you put a little pressure on your horse's lead rope to come forward, do they throw their head up, widen their eyes, put their ears back, or straight plastered forward and start switching their tail, or maybe even whatever, like all the things reacting. Yeah. A big reaction to it then. Then the answer's no, . Like, that's not, not the thing. However, if [00:30:00] they just go, oh yeah, sure. And then come forward with a nice soft expression. Headed a level ish position, they're eager to come forward. There's not a big tail swishing, swishing, there's no trying to bite you. Whatever the answer is, yes, we can keep this behavior, we can do this.
Brie: This is okay, and we can keep pressure at this level. Yeah. It's, it's, they're consenting to pressure at that level, but they're also not consenting to you, like pushing it further.
Adele: Yes. And this brings us to another point we wanted to talk about, which was the idea of like non escalating or very mildly escalating or slowly escalating pressure and reading the horse's feedback because it's, we are I know myself, I used to be, and I think a lot of people are, we're very prone to going in kind of guns blazing . We're just like, do this thing right now, pressure on and we forget about, Well, one that our horses are super sensitive. They can feel flies on them. Right. They don't need us yelling at them. Basically with our body language and [00:31:00] cues. And we don't have to start at a 10 . Yeah. We don't have to start at a 10. And we can start off with something mild and ask And you said it's something earlier you said whisper. Tell me what that was.
Brie: Yeah, so Whisper warn pressure. It's, I don't, I think it might be a natural horsemanship. like terminology. Yeah. But I kind of do like to think of it when I'm thinking about our positive and moving into our negative. It's, I ideally with our negative is you want it to be a, a quiet whisper to get a horse to do a behavior. Right? You want a quiet whisper to have your horse move on. You don't wanna be on the horse's back end the second you want your horse to walk on, you're gonna just kick your horse it's, it's about making your pressure starting quiet. So it gives them, in, in my opinion, the opportunity to avoid pressure.
Adele: Yeah. Or, or avoid more pressure even. Yeah. And this is how with negative reinforcement done well, you develop those whisper soft cues because they. [00:32:00] That the whisper comes first, then the warn, then the, what's the last one I keep forgetting?
Brie: Pressure. Pressure, yeah. So yeah, it's, it's that magical when you're looking at those people moving at liberty without our positive and they're just like lifting their finger and their horse is doing a liberty circle that's typically used with that series is they start with the whisper and that subtle cue, and then they escalate pressure until the horse does what they want.
Adele: And then they, they release the pressure. Yeah. And the horse starts to learn that if they just respond to the whisper, nothing else after happens. So then they can exactly. Just avoid all of that. And that's what really well done training looks like from a negative reinforcement perspective. And I love watching, you know, that is done really well. That's always a better route for the horse versus, you know, if we're all over the place or just coming in with pressure first and or even punishments.
Brie: Yeah. Starting at, yeah, starting just guns blazing and going in with, with a whole bunch of pressure. And then the horse is like, okay, what.
Adele: or not having an understanding [00:33:00] of that process. And, and really, you know, this goes back to that positive reinforcement. You know, this tool set that we learned, this skillset and all of the knowledge and everything applying over to negative reinforcement. Because one thing that I've learned is being intentional with our cues and PREAs staff pre thinking about them and planning them. So before it was kind of just kind of, you know, I've just applied pressure here, applied pressure here, plus, you know, whatever. It just go all over the place and my horse would eventually figure it all out. Hopefully. But a lot of horses don't. And this is where we get horses with a lot of behavioral issues and trauma and all of that. Yeah. Cause there's no real communication there. Yeah. And there's no consistency. So they can't figure us out. Cause we're the most confusing beings on the planet. at this point. Where's horses? Horse to horse. They're super consistent, right? They always do the same as far as their communication or usually I should say. And so they figure it out and they do really well, but we tend to be a little. Less organized and planned with our cues, especially considering how most of us grew up without an understanding of how it was working. So [00:34:00] it wasn't really our fault necessarily. We were never taught what we were doing or how we were doing it. And so if you, one of the key aspects here for it to be effective is to be intentional with your cues. Okay. What is your whisper going to be? And stay with that. It is very consistent. And then what is your warn going to be? And then what is your pressure gonna be for this particular behavior? Because it's different for a different behavior and it keeps going.
Brie: And it also depends on kind of where the horse is at too, because you may be able to kind of do whisper and light pressure for one behavior, but maybe even with the next behavior that that pressure might be too much. And it, it, it really varies from behavior to behavior and, and based on body language.
Adele: Yeah. And, and a lot of times we're not, like you mentioned earlier, actually, we're not very aware of how much pressure we're putting on and what our horses picking up on. I've been studying some different techniques recently, you know, with working with feral horses and fearful animals and all that. And one of the things that became [00:35:00] just became very apparent to me is that pressure and can start so far beyond, like where we even begin to register that we're applying it.
Brie: So Oh yeah. Like if you're even entering the field. Yes. Like even before you enter the field for some horses, that's already pressure.
Adele: Yes. Well, exactly. And so I just think to be effective with training, with negative reinforcement, we really need to be so much more aware of how our horses, there's a lot more room for error essentially. Because you're, you're not only like reinforcing a behavior with an repetitive, you're, you're thinking about where the pressure is coming from at all times and making sure that it's being released as a reward, but it's hard to do that when your presence is pressure. Yeah. And, and I just think that, you know, take home message from this conversation about negative reinforcement is really that there's [00:36:00] so much more. We can be doing to be better trainers with negative reinforcement without even even stepping into the positive reinforcement stuff. Of course, I want you to try positive reinforcement.
Brie: Exactly, exactly. , we'd like to encourage you to go that direction, ,
Adele: but when you're in a situation where you're using negative reinforcement, keep all of this in mind going forward cuz it will help tremendously and it will be less likely to really mess with the positive associations, the relationship that you're building with the positive reinforcement. Cuz if you think about, I found one side, you're like, oh, positive, whatever. And then the next side of things you're applying a lot of pressure and you're coming in really loud guns blazing all of that. It's very Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for your horse.
Brie: I was just about to say that it's, it's very like your horse doesn't know what face you have on.
Adele: and, and this is, this goes back to our, you know, setting the context with the cues up for the horse. Like this is a positive [00:37:00] reinforcement session versus the negative. That helps a lot too because like if you're in the round pens, you're a positive reinforcement area versus the arena. Your horse will start, you know, be able to differentiate and it's become clearer and, and be more consistent. Which horses always appreciate, I find They are. They love consistency and clarity.
Brie: Yeah. Just, and the more information we can give them, the better. Mm-hmm. ,
Adele: Fun story about this, I'm gonna add in here. River, my young mayor, she's the queen of requiring clarity and consistency from me and I love that about her cuz she makes me a better trainer. But one thing I've been working with her on Besides my little slipups and times where I've, whatever, just like little moments here and there. Primarily positive reinforcement trained since she was four and a half months old. So she has no, she's not a crossover horse. She has no other training. Yeah. And one thing that I underestimated going into training her with positive reinforcement was the cue aspect. And also just horses that are trained [00:38:00] traditionally tend to. Tune out a lot. They learn to ignore a lot except for like this very relevant pressure point or whatever. Like, they tend to just kind of like, okay, I'm not gonna do anything unless you hit this turn button right here. Right? Yeah. They, they shut down a bit. Even, even when they're not shut down, they're, they're not as, they're responsive, they're desensitized to a lot, right? Yep. She is not, she's always looking for whatever it is that I'm doing what it means. Right. So she's, you know, we have a lot of stimulus control. She has a lot of behaviors, but she's still, when we do something new, she goes, okay, new game. What is this? What is this cue? She's trying to figure it out, right? And so I re, I do a lot of body work with my horses. This has got to be the most confusing thing to a horse that I way underestimated before, which was, you know, I'm gonna touch your shoulder. That means move your shoulder over. I'm gonna touch your hip. Means you move your hip over, you know, whatever. She has very specific cue points. But then a body worker comes in and just starts pushing and pulling [00:39:00] and whatever and touching everywhere. And she's like, what on earth is going on? Like ? And she's so confused. And then she gets frustrated cuz she's like, this lady doesn't know the game. Yeah. And she doesn't know the cues in where is my food reward? Yes. And so, and I stand there and I'm open bar feeding her and stuff like that. But it's still, it's frustrating to her because there's not, well, she doesn't always know like, Going back to that cue, clarity and predictability and all that. She can't tell when somebody approaches that, okay, this is the body worker. Or you know, cuz she's only had two sessions her whole life and she's five or something, you know? Anyway, it's like two or three sessions. And so sometimes people approach her and they wanna groom her. Sometimes people approach her and they wanna do this and some it's a farrier and sometimes it's the body worker. And so she gets like, okay, I don't wear's the cue. What's the predictable thing they're looking for? It always. Yes. And so what I've done with her is a little fun tip for everybody, that, that I has been working for her at least I should say, is I've created the the mat. So I have a mat for her that it's like a doormat [00:40:00] and if the mat is out, and she steps on the mat. It's body work time. So I've been practicing with her, just I pick up her legs and I push and pull 'em around. I push on her ribs, like I'm doing all the things that a body worker would do. And that only happens when the mat is there. And this is specific to my training cause I don't use mats for a lot of other things. So for her it means body work time. And I tell you, the horse just took this big sigh of relief and she was like, oh, now I get it, and sh she just loves it and I'm so happy cuz I finally figured out like how to provide her with that information that she needed because I was struggling to figure out like, how do I tell her like it's time for her just to stand there and let us pull on her , like didn't make any sense to her. Anyway, that's just like a fun difference between training with positive reinforcement and like a lot of traditional training where the horses, they. Unless pressure is applied and there's that whole release process and all of that, they really just, I mean, a well-trained one just kind of stands there and allows whatever within [00:41:00] reason. But it's very different with positive reinforcement cuz they're looking like, okay, oh yeah, yeah. What do I offer now and what do I do now? Yeah. Have you run into any situations like that that are similar?
Brie: Yeah, it's, it's. I wouldn't say it's, it's more like the standing here and let this happen to you. But there are moments where this is like, this is bad training, so don't do this . But like where you're stopping and you're thinking about something and you're not giving your horse a cue and your horse is like, what do you want for me? Like, and it's, so for me, I, a big thing as I do is if I, if I have to stop the training session, if I, if I have to even stop to think I'm gonna give my horse something reinforcing to do and walk away to think, because if you are standing there and not queuing them, and you're not asking for like a calm default behavior or you're not asking them to stand, they're kind of looking at you. What next? Yeah, like they're waiting for that sequence of, where's my cue? Can I have my cue? So that's something we just kind of [00:42:00] need to be aware of. And, and it's one thing that I say, keep an enrichment activity kind of near you. So if you need to stop and think or sometimes answer a phone call, don't walk away from that conversation cuz your horse is sitting there waiting for cues. Like, they're like, what's next? ?
Adele: Yeah. And it can actually be punishing cuz you're taking away their access to reinforcement. So they're just like excuse me. He just left.
Brie: And it's, it's it, accidental negative punishment is such a easy thing to do, especially when we're learning and we're trying to sort ourselves out. We might be like, okay, I need to get myself in this position and I'm doing all this stuff and horses going Hello, .
Adele: Well, and from a traditional perspective, from learning history, that is like the ultimate release to a horse, right? I don't have to do anything anymore. Like the first, they're not looking at me.
Brie: They're not, they're not giving me attention.
Adele: Yeah, they're not, they're not playing pressure. They're not asking me to do things. I can just stand here quietly and enjoy this release. Right. This big giant release and letting 'em rest. Right? Or, and like, if you think about. Like when I trained [00:43:00] traditionally, I used to do this a lot where we did this great ride, they had this moment where it was beautiful, gorgeous, whatever.
Okay, stop, get off Untack the horse leave. It was like the ultimate release, right? Yeah.
Brie: If the my presence leaving is the best thing that happens, then there's a problem. .
Adele: Yes, and that's where I'm at now. Cuz like if you, I were to do that to one of my horses right now, they'd be like, excuse me. They'd be heartbroken.
Brie: Thinking of like just me walking away from a training session without like giving a cue or like taking their neck rope off or giving them an enrichment activity. And they would just be like, what ? Like, why would you leave me? Like, what are you doing? Don't you love? Where's love me ? Yeah. Don't you love me? Where's my cues? And like traditional horses are like, oh, thank you for leaving the ring. Like, thank you so much. And your, your our positive trained horses are like, how dare you .
Adele: That's exactly right. And I love to, like you said, leave them something. I usually give 'em like a little jackpot and a food pan. I keep food pants everywhere. I like collect them and then I'll step out and usually I have grass [00:44:00] around or, or something that, or hay that they can munch on so I'm not just like abandoning them with and taking away the food. . Yeah, for sure. But that's really important, like you said, like don't just stop and take a phone call or do anything like that.
Brie: I, yeah, even, even just stopping to sort yourself. Can sometimes be like a thing, like, I know one big thing is that people will fiddle with their cameras to take videos for their coaches. And I'm always like, if you're touching your camera, you better be leaving something for your horse to do during that. Right? Yeah. Because they're, they're waiting for something, right. Waiting for cues and you're just kind of like fiddling with things. Yeah.
Adele: Usually I set my cameras up before and then just let it run the whole time. Yeah. , it's just, and I have to go back and edit lots of editing hours. One thing that it can be really helpful for that is if you get kind of this autopilot, like just default neutral, what I call default neutral. It's just like standing there waiting behavior and I just, I just feed my horse while they're standing there with me, and that gives me time to just like, think about what I'm doing and I'm just like kind of autopilot feeding
Brie: Yeah. And you're, and you're not taking away the, like, you're not doing negative punishment to in order to think [00:45:00] and do that.
Adele: Yeah. And it creates such a, Positive association was standing there with you too, which was really helpful.
Brie: Yeah, especially for, yeah, I do, I do the exact same. I do the exact same thing. Yeah. I'll either like just feed them while I'm standing there and talking to someone, or I'll give them food in the pan, but constantly like, yep, making sure that I'm at least doing something with them so they're not like, where did you go? Why are you doing this?
Adele: To me, that's so important. There's so many little like things, nuances, nuances, things that are different. But ultimately, kind of the point we wanted to cover going back is that you can take so much of this and just the understanding of learning and how learning works and how it happens and all that, and how our training works into all of your training. You don't have to just use it with positive reinforcement and you can make everything so much better for everybody. And. Of course, you know as much as you can. Like, let's start implementing positive reinforcement. Let's start learning new things. Let's have fun with it. But, you know, in the other situations too, I think it's 100% with [00:46:00] within it can be a really good decision, I should say, to maintain some many behaviors with negative reinforcement temporarily. Long term. It's up to you. It's up to the case.
Brie: Yeah. And, and I think it's important to note that there are some cases where you can dive in a hundred percent. Yes. Like if you have someone with you that knows what they're doing and you have a really good understanding, then maybe you don't need to do those baby steps. Right? It's, it's important to know that you don't have to do those baby steps if you are not going to be overwhelmed when you're. I guess thrown in the deep end. .
Adele: I think I will say with a, with a Yes one hundred percent I agree with you, but with a bit of caution because I do find even when people have a lot of help and they're set up for it, there can still be this point, like six months to a year in where there's a little bit of a, like an emotional kind of like, shoot, I'm [00:47:00] just not doing the things I was doing. You know what I mean? Yeah. Like there's a little bit of a grieving process that can happen. Yeah. And so if you're going to go all in, which I support, like I'm not discouraging you from doing that. If you're set up for it and you have the help, be prepared for the fact that it's not gonna look exactly like it did before. And it's going to take time. I mean, think back to when you were a beginner with traditional training. You didn't become an expert overnight. Like it took months, years, whatever, to get to the level you're at. So it's gonna be the same thing with positive reinforcement, especially. And a lot of people are in the situation where they don't have like a writing instructor, you know, right now we're talking about positive reinforcement trainer, like right there, doing coaching lessons with them two to three times a week. Yeah. You know, so it can take a little bit longer because of that.
Brie: Although thankful, so thankful for the internet, and all of that with so much resources out there,
Adele: right? Like there's so many resources and there's video coaching, there's live coaching like I do through Zoom all the [00:48:00] time, like people all over the world. It's amazing cuz I can be there in like real time. That can help bump up the process a whole lot. So. Yeah, definitely. You're not alone, .
Brie: Yeah. It's, it's, it's, I think that we kind of, were gonna touch on this, but it's about if you're going to do it, have a support system. Mm. I think that that's kind of an I. lesson all around is that sometimes the transition can be a little bit lonely. ? Yes. If you're the only person at your barn that's doing it and you are trying to go through all this process and you're trying to go in a hundred percent, and people are kind of, not judgmental, but they're kind of like looking and, and that just adds to it, is if you don't have a strong support system, it's very easy to get paralyzed and back to that paralyzed conversation is that it's very easy to kind of not have that good support system, not have people to talk to, not have people to bounce ideas off of.
Adele: And then you get paralyzed because you're like, I wanna go forward with [00:49:00] our positive, but I'm stuck. Well, when I think back, Back in my lesson barn days when I was 8, 9, 10, or even all the way up till, you know, 20 something. That's more when I started training mostly on my own. I had a bad ride. All of the other people that were in that group lesson were there to support me. I had a bad ti day with my horse. My trainer was standing right there. Like, there was this huge support system that unfortunately just because of the nature of the, you know, r plus movement still growing. It's just not very local right now, but we can find it long distance through so many different wonderful communities online. And sometimes there's people locally too, which is wonderful to take advantage of that if you have it.
Brie: Yes, exactly. Yeah. And I think a big thing. is like, for me as a trainer, I, I like to extend my inbox and say, if it's not about training, but if you need support with this decision and this process, like there are people here for you. Like [00:50:00] there we get what it's like to be the only one at the barn training this way, right? Mm-hmm. , like we've, we've been there, we've kind of done that and there are a lot of us out there that are supportive and, and I think that's a big thing in the paralyzation is that don't be afraid to kind of reach out. Like, I, I would never be opposed to someone coming to my inbox and saying that, you know what, they had a, a rough time and they're having, they're, they're kind of struggling with the, our positive. Part of it, like not the training, but the whole picture. Mm-hmm. . And I am happy to offer that kind of support and talk people like through that. It's, it's, we should be doing that. And I think that it's something we should all kind of be conscious of is, is the support system. It's, it's a big part of that picture.
Adele: Well, and as people who have been down this road a little bit longer I think we, talking to you guys, talking to people who've been doing this a little bit longer we need to remember how [00:51:00] difficult it can be in the beginning and also be very self I'm looking for a word, it's not coming to me, but just reflective on the reality of what we do on a day-to-day basis. Cause I think it's very easy to kind of have these rose colored glasses about, like, when we look at our own training and our own environment, like, oh yeah, we never use punishment, we never use negative reinforcement. It's all pure positive reinforcement. If we're viewing our own situation that way and then turning around and portraying that to everybody around us and then it can, they're not getting that, go ahead,
Brie: Yeah. So, so, and then they're at the point where they're not getting that right?
Adele: Like, well, yeah, and they, well every Hmm two twos kind of parts to it. One is, okay, they start coming to ask for help and we're not actually giving realistic or honest. Impression of what's going on in [00:52:00] our Yeah. With what we're doing. And so they think something's wrong with them because they're not able to do this pure r plus. Right. And then this can then turn to, turn into almost like a punishment situation for them, because every time they come ask for help, they feel like they're not good enough because we're Yeah. Critiquing and saying, oh, but if you just did this, or if you use, you reinforce this, or you should have a different setup or just on and on and on. It could become so punishing for them when they're just trying to get help and support. They're trying. Right.
Brie: Yeah. And, and that's about using , using positive reinforcement with like our teaching, right? Yeah. Is we wanna make sure that we are balancing out the feedback with Praise . It's, it's a, it's a careful line because we don't wanna be at any point, I don't wanna be the person that's discouraging you from this transition. That's, that's not my place.
Adele: Yeah. And if we wanna look at it, Again, through shaping plans and approximations and stuff. Okay, so we don't start. You know, training the end goal [00:53:00] behavior. When we're training a backup, let's say it's four Stephs backwards backup for a horse that's in a straight line or whatever. Our first approximation is a weight shift backwards. Right? We click and reinforce that, or whatever it is. Maybe for that particular horse, it's actually just standing in front of you. That could be your start point. Yeah. We need to look at human learners the same way. So you have somebody that's coming to you asking for help to get started doing this. Their first approximation, and again, it's case by case, but their first approximation may just be, you know, go get a clicker and some food and just, you know, whatever. Just something very, very simple like teacher wears to touch a target or smile, I don't care what it is.
Brie: Just something and just start somewhere that's gonna give you a success.
Adele: Yeah. And like, let's reinforce the living daylights out of that. Like, amazing. Keep going. And then we can build and we can build and build and build until it's this much bigger thing. And then let's try not to punish the moments where things don't go. The way we want them to or they wanted it to or whatever. Just like, so if you have a [00:54:00] horse, I'll have to relate everything back to horse training , but obviously a horse training podcast . But if you have a horse, let's say they have a behavior that you wanna kind of replace, right? So let's say they they get a little bit stressed out during feeding time and they paw at the stall door right? During feeding time. So we say, okay, we don't really like that behavior. It doesn't, doesn't have to have a, you know, a moral value attributed to it. It's, it's not good or bad, it's just we don't want that, right? So we don't want that. We're gonna replace that with standing quietly with all four feet or stationing, ats, target, doesn't matter. We'll, we'll say stationing at a target until food goes into the bucket. You know, we're gonna, or. Yeah, so that, or standing. So we'll go standing still cuz that makes this analogy a little bit better. So standing still all four feet. So we're gonna start reinforcing standing still with all four feet. Great. It's going well. We've got our, shaving plan, our approximations, whatever. And then on like the 10th session or even the third session, I doesn't really matter, they paw briefly for a second before they go, whoops, I forgot. Stand still quietly, right? And then we [00:55:00] reinforce that. And so what happens is over time, You just start to see that, you know, pawing behavior become less and less often as, or like relapsing and like it doesn't happen as often. It never gets fully erased, but it just happens less and less often until it almost never happens and we've essentially replaced the behavior and everything is good and. Glorious, and we've got what we want. The same thing is gonna happen with us as trainers when we decide, okay, I don't want to use negative reinforcement to ask my horse to back up anymore. We're gonna do it positive reinforcement. We've got it going, it's great, smooth. We've got our shaping plan. We're positively reinforcing. And then we have this session where we have a little bit of a relapse and we're like, ah, shoot. Try again. And we just needed to do that. And eventually what's gonna happen is that it's gonna happen less and less often over time until it's not really happening anymore. To be honest. I've been doing this for long enough that sometimes I have to stop and go, how would I ever train this with negative reinforcement? Like I have to actually consciously, yeah.
Brie: Oh yeah. [00:56:00] You have to consciously go through like, how had I trained this in the past and how could I train this with negative reinforcement? Because you're in this mindset where you're like, solutions are all positive reinforcement.