Habituation vs. Learned Helplessness in Horses
Q.I saw a trainer “habituating” a mare to scary objects at a clinic last year. When he was done with the process, the mare looked as if she’d simply given up or zoned out about the tarp-flapping, etc., which to me looked a lot like the “learned helplessness” I’ve read about on TheHorse.com. Approaches that could lead to learned helplessness seem unethical. Is it possible to desensitize a horse in a welfare-friendly way?
—Carole, via e-mail
A.Unfortunately, in the dog and horse training worlds there has been a fair amount of misunderstanding and misapplication of the scientific principles and terminology of animal learning. So your question offers an opportunity to explain these very important principles and their
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