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.”

Rochais presented her research at the 2013 French Equine Research Day held Feb. 28 in Paris.

Researchers have long known that positive reinforcement using a food reward yields faster and longer-lasting training results than does negative reinforcement (release of something negative, like pressure, not to be confused with punishment). The Rennes research team also previously compared food re