I am writing this blog post right before I start positive reinforcement (+R). I learned about +R recently and knew I wanted to do it with our two horses, Lila and Josey. I was going to do pressure and release, but when I learned of +R I realized that pressure and release wasn’t for me – I wanted the horses to want to train and spend time with me. In order to start training, I ordered treats, a target, a food pouch, and a clicker today. I am going to quickly explain what all of this is for.
- Clicker: When the horse does something right when you are training, you click and give them a treat. When you do this the horse learns to associate the noise from the clicker with a treat.
- Treats: In the beginning the treat is the reward, but eventually you can just click and give them a pet and once you train long enough the horses will only need the click once in a while, if at all.
- Target: The target really is just something long with something bright at the end. You teach your horse to follow the target and, ideally, you have a long target and a short target, but I have 1 long one that I will hold closer to the end with the bright side to make it seem shorter. You can also use an extending pole and put a piece of fabric on the end. I got a long, skinny, metal pole and put fabric on the end.
- Food pouch: I ordered a silicone food pouch. It has a slip going through the middle to get the treats out. The food pouch is for holding the treats while you train and the slip is so your horse can’t get into the treats.
Positive Reinforcement (+R):
Positive Reinforcement is a way of training that uses a noise and a reward. When the animal (in this case a horse) does something right, you make the noise and give them the reward. At first the reward is a treat, but after a while you can change it to something else like petting the animal. You use the noise because you have about a 3-second window from when the animal does something right or something you want them to do before they forget it. When you make the noise before those 3 seconds are up and you do that every time the animal learns to associate the noise with them doing something they are supposed to, and getting a reward. Eventually you won’t have to use the noise and reward because the animal will have learned what they are supposed to do.
Pressure and Release:
Pressure and release is another way of training where you do something that makes the animal uncomfortable and when they do what you want them to you stop. This type of training still gets the job done, but in my perspective isn’t based on trust and friendship. I was going to do pressure and release training, but that was before I learned about positive reinforcement. An example of using pressure and release is when you have your horse on a lead rope and they aren’t coming with you or aren’t going fast enough, you pull on the lead-rope until they start to walk or walk faster/trot and when they do you release the pressure on the lead rope. Looking back I am glad this isn’t the training I decided to go with because, like I said, it isn’t based on trust in my opinion.
Positive reinforcement and pressure and release are the two major ways to train that I know about. I am sure there are other ways and crosses between these two ways, but I have decided to go with positive reinforcement and see how it works.
I am happy to answer questions if I can and I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Thanks for reading and have a great day,