Applying learning theory to the management of the horse: the difference between getting it right and getting it wrong.

Mills, Daniel (1998) Applying learning theory to the management of the horse: the difference between getting it right and getting it wrong. Equine veterinary journal. Supplement, 30 (S27). pp. 44-48. ISSN 2042-3306

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Horses constantly modify their behaviour as a result of experience. This involves the creation of an association between events or stimuli. The influence of people on the modification and generation of certain behaviour patterns extends beyond the intentional training of the horse. The impact of any action depends on how it is perceived by the horse, rather than the motive of the handler. Negative and positive reinforcement increase the probability of specific behaviours recurring i.e. strengthen the association between events, whereas punishment reduces the probable recurrence of a behaviour without providing specific information about the desired alternative. In this paper the term 'punishers' is used to refer to the physical aids, such as a whip or crop, which may be used to bring about the process of punishment. However, if their application ceases when a specific behaviour occurs they may negatively reinforce that action. Intended 'punishers' may also be rewarding (e.g. for attention seeking behaviour). Therefore, contingency factors (which define the relationship between stimuli, such as the level of reinforcement), contiguity factors (which describe the proximity of events in space or time) and choice of reinforcing stimuli are critical in determining the rate of learning. The many problems associated with the application of punishment in practice lead to confusion by both horse and handler and, possibly, abuse of the former. Most behaviour problems relate to handling and management of the horse and can be avoided or treated with a proper analysis of the factors influencing the behaviour.

Keywords:animal, animal behavior, horse, learning, psychological aspect, reinforcement, review, Animals, Behavior, Animal, Horses, Reinforcement (Psychology)
Subjects:D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D422 Equine studies
D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D210 Clinical Veterinary Medicine
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
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ID Code:9105
Deposited On:03 May 2013 09:17

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