Episode 45 // How R+ Horses Respond to Pressure
In this episode I share with you my experience in how horses that are trained with clicker training, focused on positive reinforcement, respond to negative reinforcement (or pressure & release) training. I also provide suggestions for boarding and other situations where you horse may be handled periodically by people trained traditionally, how to help horses understand traditional handling, and give examples of situations I've been in where I had to switch over to negative reinforcement.
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Hey guys. Welcome back to the T W E podcast. I'm your host, Adele Shaw, and today I wanna talk to you guys about how positive reinforcement trained horses or horses that have had a lot of their training based on positive reinforcement how they respond to situations where negative reinforcement is used, aka pressure and release. So I think it's a common concern for people when looking at positive reinforcement focused training and training with clicker training and all of that, that should a situation arise where the horse requires negative reinforcement or that the situation requires negative reinforcement being used that the horse won't know what to do and may even become dangerous in that situation. And I'm just gonna kind of put this to bed, right. That's not the case, being that they're dangerous or anything like that, and that they won't know how to, to deal with it. I think a lot of this misunderstanding comes from, or this idea comes from the mental, like [00:02:00] the, just the fact that we kind of think about horses having to learn how to learn. And, and I do talk about that. I do talk about how we do need to teach horses, like how to problem solve and all of that. And I'm not saying that you should not think of it that way, but also I think we take it too far. So let me, let me see if I can simplify this or, or make it make sense. Your horse knows naturally by the laws of learning, by the laws of nature, how to respond to pressure and aversive and find relief from it, find release from it. You do not have to teach your horse how to learn from pressure and release. They already know how. Just as they already know how to learn through positive reinforcement and also negative punishment and positive punishment. You don't have to teach a horse that something painful happening after a behavior is maybe, well, you don't have to teach them that. That's punishment. They just know it. This is how learning works, and they're less likely to do that behavior. That happened just [00:03:00] before the punisher again, and that's how it works. So if you touch the hot stove and you feel hot, you know, your finger gets burnt or whatever you were less likely to touch the stove after that. Did you have to learn that touching the stove was painful, and did you have to? Learn what positive punishment was and all of that in order to go, oh, now I understand. I'm not supposed to touch the hot stove. No, your brain just put the pieces together like it just happened. It's automatic. We know how to learn all living beings and in anything that, you know, can learn, learns this way. Same thing with positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement and negative punishment. Your horse automatically understands that if they paw on the stall door and then food arrives right afterwards that they were reinforced for that behavior and they should do it more. And then the food will come. Now may, they may have not been your intention, but they are learning and they know how to [00:04:00] connect those dots automatically, and that's really what it is, is that's connecting, the connecting the thing that happened and then the thing that followed, and then being able to perform the behavior after again, or like connecting those dots like between the reinforcer and the behavior that happened before, or between the behavior and the punisher. It happens automatically. We don't have to teach them how to connect those dots, however, because we want to train specific behaviors. Sometimes we have to teach them the way to find relief from the aversive or the way to find the reinforcer. So this is where it's different. It's not that we have to teach them how to understand positive reinforcement, and it's not that we have to teach them how to understand negative reinforcement. It's that we have to be very structured and intentional with our training using negative reinforcement or positive reinforcement so that they can find the dot, so they can connect those dots in a low stress and quick way. [00:05:00] When I have a horse that I wanna teach with positive reinforcement to let's say touch a cone, look, we'll just pick something really easy or let's do this, let's do lowering the head. Okay. So we're gonna teach them to drop their head and we're gonna eventually put it on cue. But we're gonna just teach 'em to drop their head with positive reinforcement. All I do is, and I'm gonna remove the clicker for a moment cuz that's an added factor, but, so I'm just gonna, they're just gonna lower their head and I'm gonna watch 'em. I'm just gonna be standing there with them and then they start to lower their head and I give 'em food. They're gonna go, oh, okay, what just got me the food? They'll try some different things and then they'll happen upon lowering their head again. So they'll lower head again. They get their food. Then the dots will start connecting. Oh, if I lower my head, I get food. Awesome. I'll just keep lowering my head easy. So we've just taught our horse how to lower their head for positive reinforcement. We didn't have to teach 'em that the food was positive reinforcement. They just like food. They know it. They connected those dots. It just happened.
Same thing with negative reinforcement. Let's say [00:06:00] we wanna teach them to lower their head with negative reinforcement. We'll use the exact same example. We're going to apply pressure to the top of their head, so right behind their ears on their poll, so I'm gonna put a little bit of downward pressure on their poll area, and they're gonna go, ooh, what is that sensation? I don't know what I think about this. I'm gonna try and avoid it. And then they'll happen upon lowering their head slightly. You release the pressure, you take your hand. So then they're gonna go, okay, what was it that just got the release of that thing that I didn't really care for too much? And then you'll do it again. So you put your hand on the back of the, on their poll behind their ears, and they'll start to drop their head. Or they'll start to do different things and then finally they'll come across, dropping their head again. You release the pressure. This is when they start connecting those dots after a couple of repetitions. If your timing is really flawless and they are truly trying to, you know, find a way away from that hand, that pressure on the back of their poll, they will connect the dots really quickly. We didn't have to teach them that the [00:07:00] poll pressure, whatever, was not comfortable or that it was pressure. We didn't have to say, Hey horse, like this is what pressure is. You know, I know you don't know what it means, but here this is what you're supposed to do with pressure. No, they already understand that what we had to teach was how to start connecting those dots between finding relief from the pressure. and the behavior that we're wanting. So we had to teach the behavior, not so much how to learn from that whole pressure and release process. I'm hoping this is making sense.
So that's kind of the precursor to talking about how horses that are trained with positive reinforcement respond to things with negative reinforcement. Every horse, doesn't matter who the horse is, doesn't matter if they're trained with positive reinforcement. Doesn't matter if they're trained with negative reinforcement, can learn from both methods of teaching it or it's not really a method, but both processes of learning.
So I can teach a horse that has been primarily taught with negative reinforcement how to. Drop their head [00:08:00] with positive reinforcement, even if I've never used it before in the past. Same thing happens in reverse. So if I have a horse that's only ever been trained with positive reinforcement, or do you know to them much as we can, Then, and then all of a sudden this one behavior, this one thing I'm teaching happens to be with negative reinforcement. They can still learn with negative reinforcement, just like you would teach any other horse. Like there's no difference. That doesn't, their ability to learn with negative reinforcement is not compromised because they've been taught with positive reinforcement. It's just that they've not spent the majority of their life and their experiences in learning the different behaviors with negative reinforcement, but that doesn't compromise their ability to learn with negative reinforcement. And actually in a lot of cases, I will say personally, I have found that horses that haven't experienced a lot of negative reinforcement done poorly especially, but any negative reinforcement, actually learn really quickly.
So this is probably because it's novel to them, it's not something that they're just [00:09:00] experiencing on a day-to-day basis. If I have a horse that's trained with positive re. and then all of a sudden I find myself in a situation where you know, let's say the horse is overwhelmed. They're over threshold, they're tired, they're not wanting food anymore, they're stressed and just food is not a thing. Positive reinforcement isn't working, but we're, we're in a situation where they have got to get in the trailer. This is a situation that's actually happened to me and they have to get in the trailer. We have to go. There's not an option as much as I would like to figure it out. Find a different option. There just isn't one, no matter how hard I try. All I had to do in that situation was, just like you would do with, with an any other horse. I set up the environment. I tried to get them to be as successful as possible. I lowered the drop of the trailer. I made sure there was a horse inside the trailer. I had food waiting for them inside the trailer. We took our time. We were very patient and all I did was apply a little bit of pressure on the lead rope and the horse at first went like, okay, what is this [00:10:00] feeling? You could see their head go up a little bit and they kind of leaned back just slightly, but it wasn't very much. It was slightest, little shift backwards, and that didn't get released. So they turned their head to the left a little bit, didn't get released, turned their head to the right a little bit, didn't get released. Then they stepped forward, immediate release, and they go, oh, I figured out the problem. And very quickly from there, it took maybe, Like two minutes, like maybe two or three, you know, little pressure release moments, and they jumped onto the trailer and we were all good to go. That was a horse that, in this specific situation, had never really experienced negative reinforcement before. Meaning that I had never intentionally trained with negative reinforcement, that doesn't mean that the horse has never experienced negative reinforcement or positive punishment or anything else. They experience all the things all the time in their environment. I had just never intentionally trained a behavior with this horse with negative reinforcement. And the experience was low stress. The horse responded very, very well. [00:11:00] It was quick. It was effective. We never really had to do it again. It was just that one time because we were stuck and the horse had to get in a trailer and the response was so, it was just beautiful. It was a beautiful response.
However, I've had horses that have been trained with negative reinforcement their whole lives that are like just awful in response to negative reinforcement. They've had so much pressure put on. And potentially also a lot of poor timing and a lot of punishment. So I'm not knocking on negative reinforcement, I'm just saying this is an example of how I, anyway that they had all of this experience with negative reinforcement. They should be pros at it, right? They should be the so quick to respond. They should know exactly what you want and be flawless in execution and just bam, bam, bam, done whatever. No stress. And yet they are the ones that panic and they're the ones that can't seem to figure out like, where are the releases coming from? They go over threshold really quickly. You put on the lightest bit of pressure and they just blow up basically because they have bad experiences in the past that can't handle any more pressure in their [00:12:00] life. It's just overwhelming. They're over threshold. They have been pushed to their limit over and over and over again, and they're done.
So that's an example of how, and that's, that's not that's something I've experienced quite a bit actually with a lot of horses. So this is an example. I'm trying to give you guys an example of how a horse that's trained with positive reinforcement is just as equipped to learn with negative reinforcement in potentially more so because it's not an everyday experience for them. It's not something that they are experiencing. All the time and are overwhelmed by and their over threshold. And also I would say that trainers who understand positive reinforcement understand shaping plans and good timing and setting their horses up for success and all that can actually be some of the most skilled at applying negative reinforcement because we start off at such a low level, because we don't really wanna be in that situation, but we just happen to be, and it's okay. We accept it. It's not the end of the world. It's not abuse, it's just what it is. Like in the situation I gave the experience I had, I didn't [00:13:00] really want to be doing that to that horse. It's just happened to be the situation. So I had to switch gears and I started off with such a low level pressure. I had everything set up for success. I had timing. You know, I was really good with my timing. We weren't in a rush. I wasn't pressuring anything. It wasn't an agenda related, it wasn't ego related. It was just we had to switch over to the next most effective approach to that situation, given the circumstance. And because of all of that, it went really smoothly. There was no stress, there was no over threshold. There was no thrashing around and fighting. It was just really well done. I've had multiple situations where this has occurred where, you know, I have a horse that's trained with primarily positive reinforcement, and I get into a situation where I need to do a little bit of negative reinforcement and it's no big deal. It's just not a big deal. Even punishers, if I've had to get in, if I get into a situation where I have to use a punisher for some reason. It's no big deal. I mean, obviously punishers are aversive, by nature to the [00:14:00] horse. That's why they're effective. That's how they're effective. But it's not like, because the horse has never experienced punishment before or has experienced it very minimally from the hands of a human that they're all of a sudden dangerous and violent, and they're gonna react like in this super abnormal, big reaction. Like the, it's not going to blow the reaction out. I understand the concern in that maybe a horse that's never experienced pressure before, how maybe the thought is, and I can say it my, for myself, I also thought this potentially as well, that maybe if they've never experienced pressure before, they won't know what to do when they feel pressure for the first time. So they will potentially blow up or explode or become dangerous because they've never felt pressure before. Oh no, what is this panic induced, and now we have a dangerous and losing its mind at the other end of the rope, right? Or the lead rope or on the others, wherever. Whatever's happening whatever you guys are working on. This is however not the case. [00:15:00] This, I see this happen though, like I mentioned before, a lot with horses that have a ton of negative reinforcement training, but that are but it ha it has been done poorly or it's been overdone, or they've experienced a lot of pressure, so not just a little bit, and they've not had their thresholds respected and they're and, and just not really good training. Basically, their fear and their worry wasn't respected, their body language wasn't respected and they were pushed really hard, and so the only thing that was responded to was them exploding. And so now they do it a lot and they're just pushed way beyond their limit. I see that a lot in traditionally trained horses and natural horsemanship trained horses. However, I don't see that with positive reinforcement trained horses unless in their past history they have trauma centered around that negative reinforcement around the pressure. And so what you're actually tapping into is not the fact that they're now trained with positive reinforcement. It's not the positive reinforcement's problem. It's the past history with negative [00:16:00] reinforcement's problem. But horses that have minimal to no experience with negative reinforcement at the hands of a human, again, they experience this all forms of operant conditioning on a daily basis. But horses have minimal experience in a structured training session with pressure and release, with traditional training, with natural horsemanship, with negative reinforcement. Those are all very much the same that they do not respond explosively and irrationally. They have a moment, just like with any other horse where they go, okay, what does this pressure. and then they find the release from it. They find it and then they give the release and there's the good timing and then they learn and then they know how to do it and they do it faster the next time and voila trained. Right? So some other examples that I can think of is, , it can be really easy for tactile cues, so positive reinforcement, tactile [00:17:00] cues. So meaning we, it's a contact related, like a touch related cue trained with positive reinforcement. We call 'em tactile cues. It can be really easy for these types of cues to inadvertently become a form of negative reinforcement type cue. Let's say for example, you've taught your horse how to stop when they feel contact on their halter and lead rope. Like you've come to a stop, but the horse kind of missed the cue of you coming to a stop, and so they hit the end of the lead rope. Not hit it literally, but they just reached the end of a lead rope and they feel some contact on their nose. In the past you've trained them that when they feel contact on their nose, that tactile cue, it means come to a stop. You've trained with positive reinforcement and we do this through teaching the stop first, then adding the cue to that behavior and then reinforcing anytime the behavior is performed after the cue. That's an oversimplified version, but that's how we establish the cues with negative, with positive reinforcement without it being a pression release tactile [00:18:00] cue but it's, it's a sorry, as without it being a pressure and release cue, that is a positive reinforcement tactile cue. So let's say though that you're walking along your horse is a little bit antsy, maybe they missed your cue to come to a stop with you stopping beside them, and then they reach the end of the lead rope and they missed that cue as well. And they feel it, but they don't necessarily come to a stop right away. They will continue to feel that tactile cue on their bridge of their nose until they come to a stop. Theoretically, let's say that that happens because you can't really let them go and you don't want them to charge ahead and you need to keep 'em safe and whatever. So you're kind of repeating the tactile positive reinforcement cue. You're repeating it like it's a continuous cue until they're responding. Ideally, that's not what we wanna see. We don't wanna see repeated cues or held cues with positive reinforcement until they respond. But in this specific situation, it's necessary for everybody to be safe. Great. [00:19:00] Fine. Okay, so we're giving this continuous cue, and we don't stop giving the cue until the horse comes to a stop and essentially responds to the cue. We could argue then that that horse was potentially only responding to that cue at that point, because at some point it became a little bit of an aversive. It became a little bit of a like, okay, why won't this human stop giving this cue? Why won't they stop putting pressure on my halter and lead rope. I guess I should come to a stop because I know that's what it means. And and then I'll come to a stop and then the pressure will stop and then they'll get the reinforcement. So we had a little bit of a mixture there of like negative reinforcement and then getting the positive reinforcer after. And initially that behavior was also taught with positive reinforcement. So it's kind of like we're, we're looking at potentially a mixture of different things happening for the horse, but my experience with this, cuz I've had it happen before many times, is that they respond just fine. You would think that if a behavior had only ever been taught with positive reinforcement, If they had only ever been taught [00:20:00] to feel that cue once, and then it was, you know, then, then they came to stop and click in reinforcement. The thought is, okay, but what happens if you hold that cue and it's a tactile cue, so now it's branching into negative reinforcement cuz it's becoming a little bit annoying or aversive or whatever. What will they do when you don't let go? Will they panic? Will they not know how to find release from it? Will they not? You know, all the things, all the things, the fears that go through our head, and the answer I have experienced multiple times is that they respond just fine. And in fact, I think they respond even better because they know the answer before the pressure is applied. So they've been taught at some point the answer to the question before they've ever been presented with the question. This is what I love about positive reinforcement training, because we are always teaching them the answer first, and then we pose the question.
So what that kind of means is that I taught this horse in this example, how to come to a stop [00:21:00] long before I ever put a halter lead rope on that horse and taught them that feeling pressure or feeling a tactile cue on their bridge of their nose meant stop. So we were walking along. Maybe I used targeting, I don't know, it doesn't really matter, but I clicked and reinforced for coming to a stop, clicked, reinforce for coming to a stop, repeat, repeat, repeat. And then now I say, okay, I'm ready to put it on this cue we've practiced a few times with the halter on and the lead rope but not doing anything with it, and we're just clicking for coming to a stop over and over again. We've been giving the answer. We're saying yes. That's the answer. Yes, that's the answer. Yes, that's the answer. Yes. That's the answer over and over again. And now we're gonna say, alright now, horse, when you hear this question, which is the tactile cue on the bridge of the nose, so you give a little contact on that lead rope and it puts a little pressure on the nose when you hear this question this is the answer. So we've already, it's the same answer you've been doing, you've been giving this answer over and over and over again. But now I'm going to tell you, this is the cue. This is the question [00:22:00] that will occur that re, that should result in this answer. So what we'll do is we'll be, you know, we'll have the momentum will be stopping and getting click to reinforce over and over again, and then we'll say, then we'll start doing is we'll give a little bit of touch on the halter and lead rope right before the horse is gonna come to a stop click reinforcement. We repeat that over and over and over again until they start associating that touch of the halter and the lead rope with coming to a stop and getting the click and the reinforcement. And then what they're gonna start doing is they're gonna start feeling that contact on the halter and lead rope and they go, oh yes, I know the answer to this question. Come to a stop click reinforcement. And so, This is what's, this is again, this is what's beautiful about it, is they never are put into that situation where like sometimes with negative reinforcement where we train the behavior after the question, so we present the question. Putting pressure on the halter and lead rope, and we hold that question, we're like, okay, keep guessing, keep guessing, keep guessing until the horse comes to a [00:23:00] stop. And then we release the pressure and then we're like, yes, that was the answer. Now if it's done really, really well with good timing, a question that the horse is really ready for. Like, it's, it's not a big deal. It's not this like terrible thing. It's fine, it's beautiful, it's flawless, it's fine, but there is still always that moment where the horse goes, okay, what's the answer to this question? Where with positive reinforcement, they know the answer to the question. The answer to the question is already there. It's already happened. They don't ever have that moment of, Hmm. I wonder what the answer to this question is.
So this doesn't mean that the horse isn't, you know, if they're trained with positive reinforcement, that they're not capable of problem solving and finding release from the, to the pressure and finding the answer to the question like I gave you in that earlier experience or earlier example of the horse with the trailer. They had the question. They were like, they were presented the question like, okay, you know, I pulled a little bit forward contact in the halter and lead rope, and they were like, okay, I hear this question. I don't know what it means. And then they look and they're like, is this the answer? Nope. Is this the answer? Nope. Is this the [00:24:00] answer? Nope. Is this the answer? Yes. Okay, great. Fine. I know the answer to the question now, but in, so they, they can do that. They can do it just fine. They do it really well. It doesn't cause this big problem, and I'm just kind of reiterating that what I already said. But in this other situation where we've trained it with positive reinforcement, we've given them the answer first, and they know the answer really, really well before we ever a ask the question, what happens then when they're given that question, but they don't respond to it with the answer. I have found that if you continue to hold the question, if you're like, oops, that wasn't the, you know, I need the answer, like that wasn't the answer, because they already know the answer and it's not this question mark in their head. Even if it takes them a moment to respond cuz they don't really want to or whatever, they do it and they do just fine and they find that answer and there's less stress and it's just really nice and there's not a big explosion, there's not a lot of frustration. They [00:25:00] just do well. And that is my experience that I have over and over and over again. That's my experience I've experienced over and over again. . . That is something that I have seen to happen time and time again with many horses that I've worked with and my clients worked with. And I can just tell you from my understanding of the science and from my experience, that it is not something that I think we should be super worried about, that the horse won't know how to respond to pressure, that the horse won't know that they'll have this big explosion, that they won't be safe and all of that. It's not usually, again, from my experience, the result, that's not what happens unless there's past baggage there. that the horse just doesn't do well with pressure, which is very common with crossover horses. Horses that are coming from a traditional or natural horsemanship background, they have a lot of baggage with it, and then they're trained with positive reinforcement and then all of a sudden somebody uses negative reinforcement [00:26:00] on the gin and then they go, oh shoot, I remember this. I don't like this. I'm gonna , right? So that can happen, but that's not, that's not the, that's not what happens with horses that are primarily trained with positive reinforcement from the beginning and don't have all that baggage in my experience. Again, I'm gonna keep putting that disclaimer in there. And also, the other thing that could potentially cause that explosion, that dangerous behavior, is when we don't understand, as the trainer. How to use negative reinforcement in the same way that we're using positive reinforcement, meaning that we need shaping plans, we need good timing, we need to set our horse up for success. We need to give them questions that we feel very strongly that they can get the answer quickly, to not give them too big of a question, and we need to give them that reinforcement, which is the release as quickly as possible and not cause 'em a lot of frustration and stress and confusion. So if you carry over your good [00:27:00] training from positive reinforcement to your good training and negative reinforcement, your horse will do just fine. And if your horse isn't dealing with a lot of baggage and trauma from old training, then they will do just fine if they're in a situation where negative reinforcement is involved.
Now, last part I wanna add here, a lot of people are in situations where their horse has to be handled with. That they're gonna be in a boarding situation or they have to have friends or family handle the horse that don't understand positive reinforcement, all of that. I get that. That is very common and I get that question a lot. My answer to this, my suggestion for this going forward for you is to intentionally train your horse's cues to look very similar to negative reinforcement cues. So it's really easy to transfer to people. So that example of me using the halter lead rope, I teach all of my horses to respond to lead rope cues, just like a traditionally trained horse with positive reinforcement though, [00:28:00] even though I don't really use halters and lead ropes a lot, I only use them really. I'm going to the vet, or I have to go out on the, you know, I could take my horse somewhere and then anytime I'm practicing in between those. But at home, I don't really use halters and Lean ropes pretty, I, I walk my horses from their pasture to the arena or to the barn at Liberty. Like we don't, we just don't use 'em. I mean, actually the other day, my vet was giving me grief. No, my vet, sorry, my farrier was giving me grief because my halters were looking a little bit shabby. They were kind of old and I was, and she's like, you need to get new ones. And I'm like, why? I don't ever use them. Like I literally don't use my halters. And , but I still take the time to train all of my horses to respond to a left lead rope cue, a right lead rope cue, a forward lead rope cue, and a back, or a stop lead rope cue. They need to know how to respond to all of those. That way if they're ever in a situation where they need to be handled by somebody who is traditionally trained, who understands lead rope cues, it will look just like that, and they'll know exactly what to do. They won't be, you know, I'm giving them the answer to the question before the question [00:29:00] is. . That's basically what's happening there. I may not ever really ask that question much, although it does happen sometimes. But I know it's very likely in our modern day world, a horse world that or any horse anyway, in the current horse world, it is very likely that this horse, at some point in their life, will be asked a question of, you know, the question of if I pull on a lead, what are you supposed to do? And the I want the horse to know, oh, that means come to a stop, or it means back up, or whatever. I also teach other cues like my leg cues when I'm riding are very much, looked exactly like traditional cues. I also teach them tactile, like body cues. So if I touch your shoulder, your shoulder walk moves to the side. If I touch your hip, your hip moves to the side, something that somebody else would use. I try and keep him super easy and easy. Well, two reasons. One, I wanna be able to easily tell this person, Hey, if you do this, the horse will do it. Cool. Awesome. That's really easy. They don't have to get out targets, whatever. They just know [00:30:00] if they touch the hip, which is something they do all the time anyways for their horses, the horse will do it and. Also, if I'm not there, they are, that person is more likely to opt for those cues. So, because that's, again, something that they do pretty often. So I try and keep it easy on everybody. Yes. If the cue is given often enough, if it's a positive reinforcement trained cue and it's given often enough without a reinforcer that follows it, it will begin to deteriorate because what was maintaining the behavior is a positive reinforcer. Just like with negative reinforcement, what's maintaining the behavior is avoidance of or finding the release from the pressure so their reinforcement is released from the pressure. But if the behavior wasn't trained, looking for release. , then it has, then it needs the positive reinforcement. So with my horses, my personal horses, this is really easy because 99% of the time it's followed by a reinforcer. [00:31:00] So that one time that doesn't happen. It's not the end of the world. But if you're in a situation where your horses are regularly handled by somebody else who isn't giving positive reinforcement, you might try and intentionally. Put this behavior on a variable reinforcement schedule, meaning it doesn't get reinforced every time, but every, you know, couple of times. You might also try and teach the people like, Hey, when he does what you want him to do, give him a good scratch. If your horse like scratches, that acts as a positive reinforcer and yeah. So I think those two things is a really big, make sure when you're training the behavior initially though, it's on a continuous reinforcement schedule, and then you can switch over to a variable reinforcement schedule. Or you can put it on like a, like chaining the behaviors together. So let's say you're at a boarding facility and you need, you know, your horse regularly gets led from their stall out to their pasture. That's a series of behaviors that have to be performed. They have to put the halter and lead rep on. They have to walk next to the person, you know, stop, go, whatever. Then they have to go in the gate, they [00:32:00] have to let the halter to come back off and all of that, right? So there's all of these series of behaviors you can intentionally teach your horse that the reinforcer comes after that whole sequence of behavior. So just tell this person that's leading your horse, Hey. When they go out to their pasture, just give 'em this one treat. Or maybe you have something waiting out there for them or give 'em a nice big scratch. Or maybe just going out to the pasture is the reinforcer that maintains the behavior. Especially if they only get turned out every once in a while and there's grass out there, it's probably sufficient for maintaining those behaviors.
So I hope this gives you some ideas and also maybe answer some questions about how horses that are trained with positive reinforcement deal with negative reinforcement and. Yeah, maybe it's answered questions and maybe it's also created more questions. I get that completely. But if you have any follow up questions, feel free to ask them and I can maybe clarify on some, some points that I made. I hope that it was clear enough and concise enough. It's a broad [00:33:00] topic that has a lot of factors that come into play. A lot of individual aspects, meaning how is your horse, like, how is, what's their learning history like? How fluent of a trainer are you? Like, what's your experience level like? There's so much that goes into play here that there's not this really black and white answer. And also, I wanna be careful just making a blanket statement that all horses respond this way. Cuz again, individuals and individual learning histories and all of that. So that's why I say like in my experience, which is an extensive experience, but it is still my experience and so I just want you to just think on it. Think on it. Think if you have any questions. Think about how you could prepare your horse for potential and then give it a try. I mean, worst case scenario, you give it a try. You work, you know, prepare your horse for this and that, and you do the best you can. And maybe your horse is struggling a little bit with it, and then you say, okay, back to the drawing board. You either hire a coach or you decide to train that specific [00:34:00] behavior with negative reinforcement, there's nothing. I mean, that's fine. There's nothing wrong with that. It's not the end of the. You know, maybe at your boarding facility you just decide to maintain the leading with the halter and the lead rope that the staff need to do as a negative reinforcement behavior. That's perfectly logical. If your horse is responding well and not stressed and all that, then go with it, roll with it. Like it's fine. But if you wanna retrain it and, you know, problem solving, but set everybody up for. So prepare a horse with cues that are easy to transfer. Get those behaviors, long duration and flawlessly execute and all that. And then let the horse know where the reinforcement's gonna happen. Set the staff up for success so they know how to reinforce all of that. So just think about it. Create a training plan. And figure out what's best for you guys, and I hope this was helpful and answered some questions today.
Thanks so much for listening. If you'd like to [00:35:00] find out more, head to my website, the willing equine.com. I'm also on a lot of different social media platforms, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook. So check those. And I'd love to hear from you, so don't hesitate to email or send me a message.