Trivia Challenge: Do You Know About Rewards, Punishment in Horse Training?

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Cartoon horse ponders true or false

1. What is THE most powerful horse-training tool?

A) A balanced, independent seat.

B) Planning each riding session.

C) Rewarding correct responses.

2. True or false: In training your horse, negative reinforcement means punishment, whereas positive reinforcement means a reward.

T / F

3. True or false: The best horse trainers use both reinforcement and punishment about equally.

4. In order for negative reinforcement to work, the cessation of pressure (the reward) must…

A) be followed by a brief period of rest and relaxation.

B) come immediately after the correct response.

C) not be given in connection with a food treat.

HOW’D YOU DO? (Answers below.)

1. C is correct. Consistently reinforcing the behavior and responses you want in your horse is the best way to get more of them.

2. F is correct. Both are rewards. Negative reinforcement is the removing of discomfort (such as leg or rein pressure) and positive reinforcement is the adding of comfort (such as pleasurable stroking or a food treat).

[DID YOU KNOW? The reward your horse loves most.]

3. F is correct. The best trainers tend to avoid punishment, using instead both negative and positive reinforcement. Punishment is reserved for when the horse presents aggressive behavior. This approach works because adding a good thing and removing an unpleasant one are both more effective in molding a horse’s behavior than punishment is.

4. B is correct. The reward must instantly follow the response. For example, when your horse takes that first step backward in response to rein pressure, your brief, instantaneous softening of the reins tells him, “That’s right—that’s what I wanted.”

[LEARN MORE about positive and negative reinforcement.]

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