Positive, Negative Reinforcement in Horse Training Compared
“Both methods (positive and negative reinforcement) proved equally effective in young, inexperienced horses with limited prior experience to handling,” said Kristina Hiney, PhD, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, who described her study on the topic at the 9th Annual International Society for Equitation Science, held July 18-20 at the University of Delaware, in Newark.
In their experiment, Hiney and her fellow researchers taught eight yearlings and seven weanlings that had never been exposed to a trailer how to load into a stock trailer. To keep the stress level as low as possible and to avoid influence from environmental factors such as separation anxiety, the researchers used a trailer next to the horses’ pasture where they could stay close to their herdmates, Hiney said.
The team randomly divided each age group into a positive reinforcement group and a negative reinforcement group. They gave the positive reinforcement horses a food reward each time they stepped toward the trailer. They tapped the negative reinforcement horses lightly on their hindquarters with a whip until they stepped
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