Study: Food Rewards Can Improve Horse Training

Researchers believe positive reinforcement with food rewards helps horses in training learn better.

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Pay attention. Are you listening? Are you looking at me?

Maybe a nibble of feed will get your attention.

Positive reinforcement with food rewards appears to help horses in training learn better. French equine behavior researchers believe this is because the horses are paying more attention to their trainers.

“Our studies show that actions of a positive value induce an increase in the horse’s attention, not only toward a particular stimulus (e.g., food) but toward the entire situation,” said Céline Rochais, MSc, PhD candidate in the equine behavior department of the University of Rennes, in France. “Attention is a key element in the learning and memorization process (as shown by previous researchers); an increase in a horse’s attention can explain the increase in its training performance rates when using food rewards

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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