Equine Reward Based Training

Reflections From The Saddle Mission:

concentrate on using the science behind reward based training to bring clarity and respect to the human/horse partnership.

[jbox]We start with train­ing that makes sense from the horse’s point of view and is reward­ing to cre­ate moti­va­tion and desire.  Teach­ing clar­i­ty from the sim­plest of aids & move­ments to the most com­plex of move­ments so you devel­op the ulti­mate part­ner­ship with your horse.  Your horse will clear­ly learn your aids faster with reward based train­ing.  Your horse is devel­oped into a well trained, well behaved horse and the entire process is fun for you and the horse.



Tips on

How to Develop a Relationship With Your Horse

  • Share space and time with your horse with­out an agen­da. This may mean just grab­bing a chair and sit­ting in the field with them or just hang­ing out with them doing what they do. Give your horse time to explore you with­out you hav­ing demands.
  • Use rewards to sig­nal that yes you real­ly liked that behav­ior they just did.
  • Say thank you.
  • If your horse isn’t will­ing, change your approach.
  • Nev­er use phys­i­cal vio­lence.
  • Always be patient.
  • Always look at the sit­u­a­tion from your horse’s point of view.
  • Nev­er train when your horse is scared or uncom­fort­able.
  • Learn your horse’s per­son­al­i­ty and work with it, not against it.
  • Keep it fun!


Why Reward Based Training Works

Pos­i­tive rein­force­ment is the addi­tion of a reward after a desired behav­ior in order to increase the chances of that behav­ior hap­pen­ing again. It is based on oper­ant con­di­tion­ing and is an excel­lent train­ing tool. It can be used when shap­ing behav­iors, devel­op­ing behav­ioral chains and counter-con­di­tion­ing. The fol­low­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics make it a great way to train any ani­mal.

  • fast learn­ing
  • pin­points exact behav­ior
  • fun to learn, fun to teach
  • cre­ates a bond and mutu­al respect
  • encour­ages curios­i­ty and friend­li­ness
  • alle­vi­ates fear
  • rec­og­nizes the intel­li­gence of the horse
  • gives the ani­mal con­trol over its cir­cum­stances
  • moti­vates
  • sys­tem­at­ic for train­ing and prob­lem solv­ing
  • con­cen­trates on what is right
  • hon­ors the hors­es spir­it


The Marker

Sig­nals are used to tell the horse that a reward is com­ing. Pair­ing the signal/marker with a reward via clas­si­cal con­di­tion­ing is the first step. It gives mean­ing to the sig­nal. Using a mark­er such as a click­er, imme­di­ate­ly and clear­ly links the behav­ior to the food reward.

Once the horse under­stands the sig­nal and reward, you can begin teach­ing behav­iors that will illic­it the sig­nal and reward. Once the horse has the behav­ior learned, you can begin cue­ing for the behav­ior. This tells the horse when it will get rein­forced for doing a spe­cif­ic behav­ior.

In order to clear­ly tell the horse what behav­ior they will get reward­ed for, train­ers use a “click­er”. The pre­ci­sion that the train­er can mark a spe­cif­ic behav­ior is what makes the click­er so use­ful. It is the clear­est way to say “YES” to the horse.


Take the next step and add equine reward based training to your horses education.  So I ask you…


Can we watch the horse try with­out rep­ri­mand?

Can we ignore mis­takes?

Can break our lessons into small seg­ments that are eas­i­ly under­stood?

Can we notice what the horse did right?  Notice the dif­fer­ence?


Can we extin­guish pun­ish­ment and fear, for it sab­o­tages the out­come in the long run?

Can we real­ize the active indi­vid­ual horse with inten­tions, pref­er­ences and con­tri­bu­tions?

Can we approach the horse with ever increas­ing hon­or and respect?


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