Horses are among the most intelligent mammals in the animal kingdom. However, this fact is often neglected as owners fail to realize how intelligent these animals really are. This is most notably seen in horse training. Many trainers refuse to use reward-based horse training methods which will allow you to use your horse’s smarts to their full potential.
The Equine Brain Learns by Association
The equine brain is much more complex than most people believe. A recent article in the Horse & Rider magazine published in April traced back the evolution of the emotional and cognitive abilities of equines. Not long ago, horses were not considered emotional animals like dogs are, for example. However, latest studies have confirmed that horses are truly intelligent and emotionally capable and that the equine brain learns by association. This means that their intelligence has evolved far more than scientists previously thought, potentially changing the way we train and interact with horses.
This new discovery was met with praise from experts, who are now confident that a reward-based training approach could engage their intelligence in a positive way. Approaches used in the past didn’t really let horses enjoy problem-solving or teach them how to be confident. For years, this approach has dominated horse training, but now science has revealed that there’s something much more effective.
Why Use Reward-Based Training?
Most trainers teach horses to respond to commands. It’s an effective method in most cases, but it doesn’t engage all the intelligence horses possess. This kind of training will never help horses solve problems, nor will it develop their intelligence further. As a matter of fact, this type of approach has more negative than positive sides, although it may not look like that on the surface. Thanks to advances made in neurobiology, however, science has proven that horses are highly intelligent, and we should treat them so.
The most common horse training system so far is known as negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is the act of removing a stimulus (which can be anything such as leg pressure) in order to get a correct response from the horse. According to clinician Shawna Karrasch, negative reinforcement doesn’t engage the problem-solving areas of a horse’s brain, and it’s generally seen as a negative approach.
On the other hand, positive reinforcement is introducing something the horse likes (such as a rub or rest) in order to produce positive behavior. This kind of reward-based training system has seen positive results in recent times and is the system all horse trainers should start using. Both approaches will produce different experiences with the horse, but only the reward-based training will engage key learning areas in the horse’s brain and use all the intelligence it possesses correctly.
Clicker training is one of the most commonly used reward-based systems for positive reinforcement in animals. It is the favorite system of many horse trainers including those who use the 1xbet mobile app (review by Efirbet). The same type of training has been used with success in marine mammals and has been developed from a scientific model based on communication.
Shawna Karrasch has helped popularize clicker training and claims it will work great with horses now that we know how intelligent they are. The clinician has successfully adapted the technique to equine nature and is sure that it’s the best approach to training horses.
Bestselling author Temple Grandin, PhD, agrees with Karrasch’s view. She too believes that reward-based training is the best way to train horses, as it uses all of their brain’s power. However, she and other experts note that timing is critical with this approach. The horse must get the reward immediately after expressing the desired behavior or else you might be encouraging bad behavior.
If performed correctly, though, a reward-based system should allow you to make the best use of your horse’s intelligence. Many trainers have started using the technique already and it’s been quite a success so far.