The Horse

FEB 2019

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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Page 47 of 51

48 February 2019 The Horse | particularly shaping relaxation in these positive-reinforcement-based operant- conditioning scenarios, where we ignore undesirable behavior and focus on recognizing and reinforcing gradual increments of desirable behavior. They are exceptionally quick at associating their behavior with positive outcomes. Some are so quick at making associa- tions and patterns of our behavior, they appear to learn that with each successive replication, they must relax for a longer period before you offer the reinforce- ment. At some point they start to relax in general and anticipate reinforcement from actions that imply imminent treat delivery—such as you reaching for the treat delivery bowl. Eventually, they relax entirely, and you can end by delivering one "thank-you treat" for the entire ses- sion. That's the ultimate goal. This ability to make quick associations can also be a disadvantage. For example, if the pace is too rapid at first, and the horse gets really excited for reinforcement, it's easy to accidentally reinforce the se- quence of wiggle/paw/vocalize, then relax, then receive a treat, such that the horse's response suggests he thinks he has to first do the undesirable action before relaxing to get the reward. While it's best to avoid this, it, too, can be fixed. Once the horse is comfortable and re- mains relaxed while I tend to him, doing something he enjoys, I then like to work on reinforcing standing relaxed behavior when nothing is being done. In my ex- perience, this is the stage at which many handlers accidentally teach their horses undesirable behaviors. When a horse is restrained and nothing is happening, it is his natural response to paw, wiggle, or vocalize. The consequences of the pawing will dictate whether this continues. So the trick is to ride out any undesirable behavior as much as is safe. When there is pause, approach and resume working, all while stretching out the pauses. Sitting here writing this response, I worry it sounds like a long, drawn-out process, and it might seem that way at first. But working with students and cli- ents, I am always impressed by how many people have the natural intuition to make this go very smoothly and efficiently. The first and only hurdle for most seasoned horse people is to give up the punitive (punishment) approach and focus only on rewarding the target behavior. For horses with a history of cross-tie problems, the behavior rehab concepts are similar. You know the horse's issue, so you can customize your behavior modification plan. On the other hand, it will likely take longer for the undesirable behaviors to "extinguish" than to prevent them from developing in the first place. Having said that, in my experience, older horses that have been getting into trouble when on cross-ties, loading, or even during farrier work do really well when you change your routine and consistently use a new approach based on learning science. They often respond faster than you would imagine. h GUARANTEED RESULTS or your money back! Ask for them by name or call 800-578-9234 for a dealer near you! Breathe better in only 14 DAYS! TH19 As low as $ 1 29 per day! As low as $ 1 94 per day! Coughing caused by spring allergies? Laminitis from high sugar spring grass? "HEAVE HO is a miracle!" Nancy, PA "Best decision I ever made. I love, love, love HEIRO!" Alexis, CA #1 Insulin Resistance Supplement because it works! • Natural Herbs, NO GMO Ingredients, Gluten-Free • Certified Melamine-, Lead-, Pesticide- and Drug-Free Developed by Dr. Frank Reilly, DVM Horses love ' em! "I got my mare back! Mind and body better." Denise, MI Reduce mare issues in just 14 DAYS! Moody Mare coming into heat? New As low as 95 ¢ per day! Spring IS HERE Muscle Sore from Vitamin E deficiency? " ...the difference in my horse is REMARKABLE." Melanie, IL As low as 97 ¢ per day! 400% more potent at half the cost! Get your horse back to healthy ... naturally ! BEHAVIOR

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