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Exploring Positive Reinforcement
& Targeting as Training Tools


How do we use positive reinforcement & targeting 
as training tools?

Positive reinforcement, by definition, is the addition of something appetitive to increase desired behaviour. By incorporating rewards that our horses find enjoyable and appetitive, we can boost their motivation in the training process. 


Learning how to use positive reinforcement well is a great way to improve our timing in the training process, as we need to be able to look for and pinpoint specific moments with our reward marker, create "clean loops" showing our horse's successful understanding of cues, and fine-slice our requests into small approximations that our horse can say yes to.


It also teaches us how to provide choice in the training to reduce frustration and increase a felt sense of safety for our horses. Using positive reinforcement does not mean that we don't use negative reinforcement or that there is no longer any use of pressure during the training. Pure positive reinforcement is not possible and not realistic for a variety of reasons outlined beautifully in this post written by "Hear your horse whisper". Click here to read.


By developing our skills in the principles of choice-based positive reinforcement, we become better partners to our horses. We can provide a training experience for the horse that is less coercive and more cooperative, less aversive and more attuned.


Targeting is a tool of positive reinforcement. We can use targeting as a way of shaping behaviours, postures, and activities in an appetitive way. Through the use of targeting, we can replace the need for aversive pressure by teaching our cues to our horses through a strategically placed target. In this way, the cues are learned in an appetitive way. So even when we are using touch, non-escalating pressure, or yielding away cues, our horse does not associate them with an aversive experience.


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