How Do I Train My Horse to Accept Fly Spray?
A: First I would like to be clear none of this is of my own invention. It’s based on simple behavior modification theory and methods I learned from Dr. Sue McDonnell (PhD, Cert. AAB), Shawna Karrasch, and others, including students who ran with these techniques to do various behavior research projects.
The overall objective is for your horse to know that when he does something correct, he gets a reward. You will simply ignore unwanted behaviors. Begin by rewarding just the tiniest part of a behavior that you like, building from small steps into bigger expectations. This is called “successive approximation.”
You want to be able to tell your horse immediately that the little thing he just did was what you wanted. So to expedite this, you first must get your horse to associate a food reward, which is a primary reinforcer, with what we call a “bridge,” or a secondary reinforcer. A bridge is something that can be administered quickly and lets the horse know “that was right; the reward is coming.” A bridge can be a clicker, a whistle, or your voice saying something like “good.” A bridge will become just as rewarding as a treat, and allows you to be anywhere and figuratively reward the horse. Otherwise, the only way your horse knows he did the right thing is when you quickly shove food in his mouth … and you can’t do that quickly enough if you are anywhere distant from his face
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