Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky
The trainer must decide the appropriate form of reinforcement to stimulate the proper response when a horse initially learns a new cue. The basic principle of reinforcement is that certain events are capable of strengthening responses to certain stimuli. It is doubtful any learning can take place without some type of reinforcement.
Types of negative reinforcement
|Avoidance||Avoidance punishment is the most popular form of reinforcement used in working with horses. Avoidance works by giving the horse a cue. If the horse responds correctly, there is no punishment. However, if the response is incorrect or late, then punishment is administered. Highly trained horses are making avoidance choices. Well-trained horses require very little negative reinforcement because they have learned the correct responses.|
|Escape reinforcement||With this type of reinforcement, the horse will move away from pressure. An example of escape reinforcement is when the rider squeezes his legs around the barrel of the horse and the horse moves forward in an escape response.|
|Punishment|| Used mainly to break bad habits, punishment immediately follows the unwanted response. The aim of this method is not the acquisition of a new response but to eliminate or weaken a response already in the horse's repertoire.
Punishment must cause the horse to select a desirable alternative response that leads to reward.
Punishment must immediately follow the incorrect response. If too much time is allowed to go by, the reinforcement effectiveness is lowered. Punishment must be administered with care so that it will not become the stimulus for bad behavior. A horse can become panicky through negative reinforcement, causing the trainer to stop training before the desired response is reached. The horse will quickly learn that unmanageable behavior will stop negative reinforcement. The horse can also become so intent on watching and understanding the trainer that its performance may suffer.