The research team that demonstrated yearlings perform much better if their training included feed rewards as positive reinforcement is now back to let us know that positive reinforcement gets ingrained in young horses’ minds for the long haul.
Several months after specific training with positive reinforcement, the same study horses were much more likely to remember what they had learned in the initial study compared to a control group, according to the group led by Carol Sankey, MSc, a PhD candidate in ethology (the study of animal behavior) at the University of Rennes in western France, who presented her findings during the 2009 Equine Research Day in Paris. These horses were also generally friendlier with humans, including humans they had never seen.
The initial experiment, also led by Sankey, tested 23 yearlings divided into two groups: positive reinforcement and no reinforcement (control). The horses were taught to stand still following a vocal command ("Stay") while an experimenter (Sankey) performed various handling tasks with them (grooming, putting on a surcingle, checking temperature, etc.). The positive reinforcement group consistently learned faster and showed more docile behavior towards the experimenter. (Read more: "Study Correlates Food Rewards with Positive Responses during Training")
Six months later, the ho