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Horse Training - Cause and Effect Training

Sep 11, 2008
All basic training is built upon cause and effect. Horses can not think in a logical fashion. They cannot consider that something might happen because of something that occurred hours earlier. Instead they learn from immediate results.

Imagine an experiment where a bell was hung in a stall. The horse would have to ring the bell in order to get his dinner. If food were delivered each time the horse rang the bell, he would quickly learn to ring the bell when he is hungry.

Now, if the horse were to ring the bell, causing a person to come over, then to go to the feed room and prepare dinner, the horse would not likely make the connection. This is because there is too much time between the ringing of the bell and the delivery of the food. A horse can not logically think that their action of ringing the bell called the person who would bring food.

When training, it is essential to understand that horses need immediate, consistent reactions from their trainers to understand what is being asked of them. If a trainer is slow to respond, or reacts differently to the same response to the same cue, the horse will become confused and not learn.

Every cue we give a horse is a form of irritant to the horse. The horse will seek a way to make the irritant go away. For example, a squeeze with the leg is responded to by going forward. Once the horse moves forward, the rider stops squeezing. The horse thinks, if I go forward that tight squeeze will go away.

When a new lesson is being taught, a horse will try whatever he can to make that cue go away. If you are teaching a horse to turn, he will work to find a way to get rid of the pull he feels in his mouth. To so this he might try raising his head, he might try pulling back, or going backwards. As long as the irritation is there, he will seek a way to get rid of it. Finally, he will try the right solution, giving to the bit, turning in the direction the rider has asked for. The rider then will relieve the pressure on the rein, thus rewarding the horse. After a few tries, the horse will have learned that if he turns in the direction of the pull, the pull will go away.

This is why you can't teach a horse by talking to it. You can't chatter away and expect it to understand. That is not to say that a verbal cue can't be established, but that communication needs to be direct and clear.

The same goes for chattering with the aids. If you constantly fiddle with the reins, the horse will not understand what you are asking for. He will try whatever works to get rid of the irritation, possibly resorting to misbehaviors like rearing or backing. After a while, the horse will decide that nothing can be done, and will stop listening to the aid.

Treat training is much the same, with the irritant being the desire to get the treat, and the release from the irritant being the successful capture of said treat. Many horses can learn tricks through treat training methods.

Whenever you plan to teach your horse something new, take the time to break it down into small stages that a horse can learn through cause and effect thinking. There is little that a horse can't learn, if taught with patience and an understanding of how they think.
About the Author
Lydia K Kelly is a writer for HorseClicks, classifieds of horses for sale Delaware, horses for sale Florida, horses for sale Georgia and other states. Lydia is also a featured author at www.ArticleKing.com
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