Another clip from my last time working with Harvey. This one is of great interest to me because it shows the use of negative reinforcement coupled with positive reinforcement for a dual reinforcement of the behavior. He learns from both the release of pressure and the click and treat at the end.
I move the stirrup to approximately where my leg would be when asking for his haunches to move and apply slight pressure. This is his first time doing this, with me at least, we have no idea what he did before but he doesn’t seem to know what I’m talking about. I hold the pressure waiting to see if he will offer a response. He doesn’t. So I escalate pressure. I take a step towards his hindquarters applying pressure with my presence. I have a hold of the lead, not pulling on it but by lifting it at all, asking his head to come towards me escalating pressure further. In turn he takes a step away from me with his hind end.
I drop the stirrup releasing all pressure while clicking and offering lots of treats.
This is of great interest of me because of the general stance in the much of the clicker/+R world that any pressure or use of -R (negative reinforcement) is bad. That combining the two will only create poisoned cues. Here I combined the two, with escalation of pressure, to make my request very clear to my horse in, what for me is, the simplest, clearest way possible. I am using -R which by definition does require the use of +P (positive punishment). For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Applying pressure of any kind counts as +P, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. I’m not saying that it’s ok to go beat our horses or go after them in a clinton anderson style fit of rage. I am saying that we need to work on how we apply our aids and learn to work in the calmest kindest way possible speaking to and listening to the horse instead of casting blanket statements over entire communication methods.
Would it be possible to teach this same thing using only +R methods? Possibly. There is the whole thing where I don’t believe it is possible to apply +R without using -P. The whole equal and opposite thing. In order to offer +R we have to first not have the reward there. If working with a horse he gets upset with ears pinned and/ starts mugging you’ve taken the -P too far and they are showing you how they feel about it. As with the +P involved in offering -R it is possible to do it kindly and well or to mess it up and end up with a very upset horse.
I’m sure many people will disagree with me and I am, as always, happy to hear your opinions!
- Harvey 10th Go, First Saddle
- Harvey 10th Go, Yielding To The Rein