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As a force-free instructor it becomes my responsibility to intertwine the needs of the rider to the needs of the animal. I can teach a rider how aversive stimuli can lead to adaptation and habituation, which can decrease the immediacy and general responsiveness to cues. I can show a rider that building confidence with enrichment and positive associations can lead to a calmer and more predictable horse. We can differentially reinforce incompatible behaviors, to get the same response with different “cues”. For example, rather than using aversive pressure from the bit, quickly training a default haltbehavior to achieve a stop in which the cue is a release of pressure. Through creative teaching I can demonstrate how letting go of compulsion can increase control. I can illustrate to the rider how reinforcement fuels intrinsic motivation, leading to more engagement and a higher level of performance. Once we enter the rider’s schema, we open the door to a more conscious form of riding.
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Bits are quickly becoming obsolete in the equestrian world, as more humane equipment is developed for communicating with the horse, and knowledge of learning theory expands among horse-people. To create effective alternatives to using a bit, we must first understand why the bit is used and what it does. Bits have long been considered essential to successful communication with the horse, but with advancements in force-free training, behavior is no longer contingent upon equipment.
Intelligent Disobedience is a phenomenon wherein an animal makes a choice to act directly against the instructions from the handler/owner/trainer/rider in order to make a decision that is ultimately better. Intelligent Disobedience has most often been associated with guide animals who make decisions to keep their handlers safe. Such as when a guide dog for the vision impaired ignores a cue to cross the street during a time in which a car is coming. However, this phenomenon is not only present in the horse world, it can help to increase safety in a perilous sport...
It's time to let go of the reins and create reliable behavior that is not contingent upon the presence and use of equipment. We need to teach the horse internal control of their behavior through cooperation, in an effort to lessen or eliminate the amount of external control that is necessary to create the performance that we have come to expect. Here is one way that we can get started...
Why train a horse to steer of a verbal cue? There are many benefits, the first of which being that it creates another mode of communication between rider and the horse. Where the traditional pressure cuing system vaguely translates to "more pressure = more response", a verbal cue allows us to precisely communicate what it is that we are looking for. For this process I used a technique known as shaping, which involves rewarding successive approximations (or small steps) towards the finished behavior.
Cats love to climb! It's no surprise that Christmas trees provide an exciting new opportunity to practice this skill. Here are a few tips for managing this behavior, and keeping your cat safe this holiday season!
Enrichment has numerous benefits for small pets including better health, decreased boredom, and increased activity throughout the day. One way to enrich the lives of the small animals we live with is to provide food puzzles. This particular puzzle is great for providing both mental and physical activity, while making meal time FUN!
Is your dog's barking habit driving you crazy? Don't worry, this is a common problem and there are a number of options for teaching your pup that silence is golden.
Dominance is a common term, that is most often used incorrectly. This miscommunication popularized by television, media, and unqualified pet professionals, can create dangerous situations for owners and pets. Read more to find out what dominance really means, and how it does and does not relate to your pet.