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PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2012 10:11 am 
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This is a very intriguing topic for me. I'd like to gather some resources on this over time. To start off, here's a video Dr. Robert Sapolsky talking about Dopamin and the reasons behind the success of a variable schedule:

http://youtu.be/axrywDP9Ii0

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PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2012 4:52 pm 
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Good to have this compressed in such a short video, now I know to direct people if they want an easy-to-understand explanation that still covers the main things. Thank you! :)

Houyhnhnm wrote:
This is a very intriguing topic for me. I'd like to gather some resources on this over time.


In what level of detail? More like a review (like this article for instance) or something more specific?


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PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2012 9:18 pm 
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Houyhnhnm wrote:
This is a very intriguing topic for me. I'd like to gather some resources on this over time. To start off, here's a video Dr. Robert Sapolsky talking about Dopamin and the reasons behind the success of a variable schedule:

http://youtu.be/axrywDP9Ii0



I think I saw this video a while back and it is certainly very interesting. I think the experience of many long term clicker trainers is even more interesting. For some animals not only horses a variable schedule actually creates anxiety and yet for others it works well. This would suggest that as in humans there are animals who react in different ways, this could be due to many factors inherited genes or their experience of life.

There are some horses who become very frustrated by the variable schedule and yet if attention is paid to their level of anxiety it can actually work well if presented in the right context. With a nervous horse I would not move forward until they are relaxed and happy with what is presented. Then I would up the criteria and this usually takes them over threshold, I would then return to the place they found comfort. I would continue to work this way until they were relaxed with the new behaviour so I guess in theory this would be called a variable schedule.

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PostPosted: Sun May 20, 2012 7:35 am 
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To me it is such an important point that you make, Eileen. Personally I have never used variable reinforcement schedules (at least not those where the variability is decoupled from the quality or situational appropriateness of the behaviour). I know that they can increase learning, but in my own interaction with horses learning rate and performance simply are not the only criteria, perhaps not even very important ones.

Then of course you can say that the horses (or some at least) also get positively excited, which probably is what you can expect if the effect is based on the dopaminergic reward system. However, I am not sure whether this expectation and excitedness would be my criteria for the horse feeling good, either. At least not in such a general way. For example, the same reward system forms the basis of drug addiction (or addiction in general), and even though craving might make you highly alert and willing to perform lots of things to get the desired stimulus, I would not say that it necessarily is a very happy state.

For my own training with horses I have chosen confidence and feeling safe as two other important criteria. I want them to be sure that they can get a reward, and I want them to know that it is contingent upon their own actions, and thus completely controllable by them. So whereas I am very interested in the scientific explanations behind reward-based training, I try to be cautious not to draw conclusions about my own training all too easily, but sit back now and then to clarify what my goals are and whether they are met by the inferences I could make on the basis of certain research findings.


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PostPosted: Sun May 20, 2012 9:53 am 
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ET wrote:
For some animals not only horses a variable schedule actually creates anxiety and yet for others it works well. This would suggest that as in humans there are animals who react in different ways, this could be due to many factors inherited genes or their experience of life.
My experience is limited more or less to our two horses, but even they show me that what you said is surely true.

For Lily it was much harder to get used to treat rewards and withholding them easily caused frustration and stress. And I'm not even talking about a variable schedule here. Just rewarding a try in the right direction and not rewarding something completely different.
With Lily I have the impression that her frustration was caused by two factors. She is quite impatient (this has gotten much better with training) and she is very, very creative and headstrong. She likes to imagine a certain exercise in her very own way and will offer that immediately when she thinks she has gotten the cue for it ;). And she will stick to her own plan, no matter what, trying harder and harder as the rewards come less often (Dopamin in action :yes:).
This can lead to some extraordinary results, like she's doing the right thing ad hoc - after literally no training at all. At the same time it makes goal oriented work very difficult and frustrating for the trainer ;).

Lily has learned more patience and even to watch our cues more closely over time and now she's confident and much more straight forward to work with. Now we are able to communicate from a more common base and use her creativeness to our mutual advantadge and joy. Before it was utter chaos most of the time :funny:.

The point I want to make about variable schedules, is that it is very important in my opinion to first establish a foundation of trust and reliability in my positive reinforcement before I can start to use variable schedules at all. When the horse is really confident with a certain task, I can tease him so to speak with the variability to get more quality and not frustration. Only with some horses it can take a very long time to establish that basis of trust. In Lily's case it took us more than a year to establish that. And I think to get there and maybe faster than we did, is what constitutes a good trainer.

Romy wrote:
Personally I have never used variable reinforcement schedules (at least not those where the variability is decoupled from the quality or situational appropriateness of the behaviour).
Is variability used 'decoupled from the quality or situational appropriateness'? I never thought of a variable schedule like that. For me a variable schedule begins only if the behaviour is already established quite firmly (and the horse feels confident with the behaviour) and than I will get more variable in my reinforcement to get more qualilty. What else would I use the variability for, if not for quality?

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PostPosted: Sun May 20, 2012 12:12 pm 
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Houyhnhnm wrote:
Is variability used 'decoupled from the quality or situational appropriateness'? I never thought of a variable schedule like that. For me a variable schedule begins only if the behaviour is already established quite firmly (and the horse feels confident with the behaviour) and than I will get more variable in my reinforcement to get more qualilty. What else would I use the variability for, if not for quality?


I have no idea if there are horse trainers who use variable schedules in the way I meant it, but that certainly is what was done in some of the studies such results stem from. That is, you have a behaviour (say, pressing a key), and once the animal has learned its association with the reward, this reward does not come in total contingency with the behaviour anymore. Instead, it comes for example about every fifth time the animal presses the key. It might also come approximately every 50 seconds as variable schedules differ in whether they are behaviour-locked or time-locked. Depending on that, you get different patterns in which the animals performs the behaviour, and different neuronal responses as well. :smile:


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PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2012 11:10 am 
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Romy wrote:
I have no idea if there are horse trainers who use variable schedules in the way I meant it, but that certainly is what was done in some of the studies such results stem from. That is, you have a behaviour (say, pressing a key), and once the animal has learned its association with the reward, this reward does not come in total contingency with the behaviour anymore.
Hmm... that's exactly what I do all the time when I lead Mucki, or ask him to lift a leg. In the early phase of learning to give hooves I rewarded every time. Now, only very randomly or when the quality was outstanding. Isn't that the same as what you described?

As I understand it in training variability is used to get more, or different quality of an already established behaviour.
Free shaping is a bit of a grey zone for me, because it is not clear whether I train a new behaviour with each step or if it is a part of one bigger behaviour. Karen Pryor also speaks of using 'extinction bursts' to get to the end result faster. I have never experienced something like that which may be due to my way of using variable schedules very late in the training process.

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PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2012 11:30 am 
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Houyhnhnm wrote:
Romy wrote:
I have no idea if there are horse trainers who use variable schedules in the way I meant it, but that certainly is what was done in some of the studies such results stem from. That is, you have a behaviour (say, pressing a key), and once the animal has learned its association with the reward, this reward does not come in total contingency with the behaviour anymore.
Hmm... that's exactly what I do all the time when I lead Mucki, or ask him to lift a leg. In the early phase of learning to give hooves I rewarded every time. Now, only very randomly or when the quality was outstanding. Isn't that the same as what you described?


Perhaps, if you leave away the "when the quality was outstanding" part. However, even then I am not sure whether you do it. This is because I guess that with time you reward for bigger units instead of just arbitrarily leaving away rewards and then adding them again - or at least that's what I do. For example take hoof trimming: whereas in the beginning I reward every few seconds if the horse has left his hoof with me, later on I only reward once I have cleaned the whole hoof or completed trimming a certain part of it. That is, whereas in the beginning I reward for "briefly lifting the hoof", later on I shift to "keeping the hoof still for a while" to "being trimmed calmly" and so on, so the rewarded behaviour changes, not just the frequency of me rewarding it. But perhaps it's also something that differs between your and my training, or at least at the moment I can't think of a sitation where I reward randomly, without my rewards being under the horse's control. But if it works for you and Mucki, that's fine. :smile:


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PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2012 12:02 pm 
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I have to say that most of the time I use a variable schedule as in your hoof trimming example. But in some situations I use a more or less random schedule. When rewarding for calmness over a longer duration for example. I reward for standing still and will reward in random time intervals.
Or when going for walks I reward rarely for just following by my side, but I do sometimes. That's a behaviour that's well established, but still I reward Mucki for just that sometimes. That's a real random schedule with no quality change.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2012 7:00 pm 

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I'll jump in this one, as the topic of the dopamine reward system / implications of operant conditioning has been something I have worked on in my "day job", though related to humans. I first brought this up in my first experience on AND, but have learned much since then.

Key points: operant conditioning (especially +r with variable reward schedules) is VERY powerful but has a potential side effect in SOME contexts.

This is how I describe it to people dealing with people:

If using operant conditioning (like c/t) for behaviors that are NOT rewarding on their own, it is almost all benefit with no downside. The potential side-effect happens when the behavior you are rewarding IS an intrinsically-rewarding (meaning pleasurable all by itself) one. AND is focused ON trying to help encourage more of the intrinsically rewarding behaviors: things horses do for fun, to show off, play, etc. so here we fall into the tricky zone for operant conditioning.

More than forty years of research on humans, mostly, have formed the leading theory of motivation today under the label of Self Determination Theory. In the US and the UK, at least, (don't know about other countries) it is the main theory of human motivation with respect to extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, and provides a continuum ranging from NO motivation ate rough four levels of extrinsic motivation and finally to intrinsic motivation on the end. ( The leading researcher for this was Edward Deci).

Intrinsically motivating behaviors are the most robust -- the most likely to be repeated.
Extrinsically motivated behaviors -- those that are NOT on their own rewarding/pleasurable -- are NOT robust and will often disappear when no longer reinforced.

But the REALLY tricky one (and where I have gone so wrong with my horses) is THIS: when you EXTRINSICALLY reinforce an already INTRINSICALLY motivating behavior, you can replace/crowd out the INTRINSIC pleasure and exchange it for EXTRINSIC reinforcement. In other words, extrinsic rewards can -- in some circumstances -- DEMOTIVATE the previously intrinsically pleasurable behaviors. This has been demonstrated (in hundreds of studies) with humans, but also the first experiment that started most of this work was on monkeys: they enjoyed solving wooden puzzle toys, but when given a special treat for solving the puzzle, they slowly lost interest in the puzzles.

Possible ways to avoid this bad side-effect: (very little research on this with animals, so I am guessing now)

* Use c/t (or any other reward system) with these intrinsically motivating behaviors ONLY for the teaching/marking effect, and up the criteria much more rapidly than you would for a NON rewarding activity. In other words, use the rewards JUST enough to say, "yes, that is in fact what I would love for you to do" and then, hopefully, the rewarding effect of the behavior will kick in and the horse will want to do it just because he loves doing it. We have of course all discovered those of these with our horses, since AND is all about finding and encouraging the things they already love doing (or could love doing) just being a horse.

In this way, the reward functions more as feedback/information, and there seems to be evidence that when rewards are primarily information (rather than reward), the DEmotivating side-effect is minimized.

* Use c/t (or any other reward system) in a way that acts as a RECOGNITION rather than a reward. This is also tricky... Since it is all about how the reward receiver feels about it. For example, when someone studies martial arts, earning a black belt is NOT seen as a reward but rather a recognition of really hard work and "awesomeness" :). No demotivation. But it WOULD be (according to the research) DEmotivating if a child was given a reward each time they performed a simple movement they were learning. It is the DO THIS AND EARN THAT form that -- when used on behaviors that are rewarding on their own -- causes the demotivation.

Also, this demotivation in humans is subconscious. It is as not a decision the person makes to say "because I am being rewarded for doing this, it must not be rewarding on its own". It is, the theory for now assumes, somehow a process of the brain that -- without our awareness -- says, "I am doing this for the reward, not because I love doing it or it is worth doing."

I was once skilled at c/t and carefully tuned and timed reward schedules and believed I was successful at shaping and building incremental behaviors. BUT I had a horse that responded in the most extreme way when I crossed over into rewarding him for the behaviors that SHOULD have been intrinsically rewarding: like moving with energy. ALL use of c/t or any form of operant conditioning with +r produces an initial SPIKE in motivation as the dopamine system kicks in, REGARDLESS of whether it is an intrinsically rewarding behavior or... Something that is not on its own pleasurable. If the behavior is not in itself pleasurable on its own, then the reward system is a big help, and continues to be a big help.

So you do not see the DEmotivation potential at first. When it happens, it can look like a plateau (or in my case worse, a total backwards slide in the behavior). It can begin to feel as if the horse is simply "phoning it in", going through the motions but NOT demonstrating a love of the behavior itself. This can be difficult to see because the animal is simultaneously STILL INTERESTED in the rewards, and possibly still enjoying the "game" of getting rewarded, BUT he is not finding the behavior/activity being rewarded especially stimulating and motivating.

We often see this as just a difference between horses rather than a bad side-effect of operant conditioning when used for motivating behaviors.

I ended up with Draumur in such a demotivated state that he was diagnosed with EPM. Obviously I eventually turned this around, as you could see in his "fancy trot" video. But it was such a dark time for us that it prompted me to spend a lot more time figuring out what might have gone wrong. At first I had no idea there was such a strong body of research on the DOWNSIDE of extrinsic rewards, and how subtle it can be... After all, it is almost impossible for us to imagine ANY scenario where rewards will not HELP.

What I try to do now that is different from what I did before:

* if the behavior is NOT likely to be FUN TO DO on its own for a horse (fun as in AND behaviors that are those demonstrated in play or flirting, etc.), then I may still use c/t for its MARKING/TEACHING behavior, but the reinforcement schedule is MUCH less reinforcing than for other behaviors. If the behavior is just hard work but not necessarily fun on its own (a lot of lateral work can fall into the Safe-to-Reward category because for a horse it may feel like weight-training in the gym... Good to HAVE DONE, not really good to do while doing it.)

* If the behavior is NOT necessarily fun to do, then reward like crazy (following operant conditioning principles) as it is the dopamine reward system that makes it worth doing. Again, this is like us going to the gym vs. skiing -- two different difficult physical activities, but one is (for most people) a necessary but not fun while doing experience while the other is pleasurable by itself, even though both are strenuous.

* If the behavior is REALLY physically challenging AND intrinsically pleasurable, like really high energy high speed or high prancey things like passage, THEN it is possible (I am guessing now) that the reward takes on a DIFFERENT role. -- but only if given for the REALLY big efforts -- and functions as a recognition rather than reward. In other words, it may be like the horse saying, "DAMN RIGHT I DESERVE THIS FOR MY AWESOMENESS. You are a perceptive, smart, respectful person for having noticed this..." There is a related bit of research which may be working here, which is that animals given two different but equally-favored rewards will begin to prefer the one given during the physically strenuous work vs. the one given during less strenuous work, even though initially both were preferred equally. They tested this via brain scans to show that the animal actually began perceiving the treat given for harder work as MORE TASTY.

* So, the attitude I try to take now is that I am rewarding a spectacular athlete for spectacular work the way you would give a gold medal rather than "oh what a good boy". I am looking not for the higher *quality* but the higher big show-off effort to reward.

* if the behavior is not going to be a big awesome look-at-me behavior, then all normal operant conditioning rules apply. I use c/t for these things as most do.

* NOW the controversial part... I have re-introduced pressure into my training for these big intense things, but only AFTER I developed the relationship with my horse where instead of "owner" or even "trainer" I took on the role of "Olympic Athlete Coach". When doing things I never wanted to do that someone else wanted me to do, the last thing I wanted was pressure, and rewards at least made it tolerable. BUT... As a college (and later) competitive athlete, having a coach that was not abusive but still REALLY pushed and pressured you to to more than you thought you could -- but made you grateful they pushed you -- was suddenly a BENEFIT and PLEASURABLE. They made you better than you were before, in ways you found gratifying, and yet they did it through pushing you.

I do not know if this is an actual useful idea or if it simply worked well with MY two. However, I have spent the last year with one of the most spectacular trainers I have ever seen, and he consistently gets horses to no just step up to his expectations but appear to really really love it... They all end up acting far more proud of themselves, despite his use of pressure. Or... Risky as this may be... In part BECAUSE of the pressure.

However, he does NOT use pressure at all with horses that are already proud and sensitive and extremely athletic. He simply helps them. It is with the horses that are NOT showing a lot of pride that he does use pressure, but in a way that says, "You are a fabulous athlete. You are the best horse in the herd. Let's show them what you can DO!" and sure enough, even the least motivated horse starts acting like, "Damn right, about time SOMEONE noticed!" and then they start trying really hard and acting really into it. Ears change, interest changes, etc.

About tail swishing: both of my trainers do not necessarily see all tail swishing as a negative thing, but rather the horse expressing his opinion which is a good thing. A horse that is being forced into a frame and consistently pushed to do work that is uncomfortable is not expressing a good opinion, but a horse that is working hard and then maybe you ask for a little more than they are ready for and they swish their tail, may NOT be a really bad thing but just part of the conversation between coach and athlete... Part of a partnership. I am sure I DO NOT know where the line should be drawn, but I know my two trainers do.

I would never advocate the use of pressure to increase a horse's true intrinsic motivation, because I have no idea exactly how to figure out the boundaries, and because too much pressure seems more harmful than not. However, I absolutely do NOT see pressure as AlWAYS a negative thing for the horse, and all I have to do is imagine my former -- and favorite coaches -- as a model for how it CAN work wonders in the right situation.

The one other area where pressure may be a net gain is when the horse has a lot of physical problems and does not KNOW he really can feel better, but he needs to push through pain that even the best tuned operant conditioning reward schedule cannot break through. HERE, the model is a physical therapist doing rehab. If you have ever been through physical therapy, you may understand this feeling -- you might sometimes thing your therapist is a mean, heartless person and yet part of you recognizes that they are helping you and when you DO make the breakthroughs, this person becomes your hero and the person you are grateful to for life. Even while you were sometimes swearing during the process. Of course this assumes the trainer knows absolutely that this pressure in this way WILL lead to a breakthrough the horse will recognize as a good thing. BOTH of my trainers can do this, but I cannot. Or at least I am not confident that I would be pressuring them at the right time and in the right way...

OK, long long post just to say where I am right now about all this. Grateful to have a place where people actually CARE about the horse's intrinsic motivation for doing intrinsically rewarding behaviors. This is rare today, though of course Xenophon a couple thousand year's ago was all ABOUT inspiring a proud, show-off horse...


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2012 8:27 pm 
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Thanks for your long and thoughful post, Kathy! Very nice to read it, and I didn't know yet that there were studies on intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation with animals as well. Can you post the link to the monkey study you mentioned?

I especially loved what you said about using the rewards as a recognition. I guess although I never really thought about it this way, that's what I am doing with my horses. For me it feels like it is my own need to give them the treats, just to show them how amazing I think they are and how thankful I am when they offer an exercise. Not giving them a treat really makes me feel bad and ungrateful. :funny:

For me that also is one of the reasons why pressure is not for us. To me this would feel like pushing someone who is bringing me a gift, and no matter how rationally good this might be, I simply couldn't make myself do it. Perhaps also because I feel this would take them out of the position of being the initiator of our training activity and put me into that more active role instead. I guess that partly is a personality thing, because I have that in other areas of my life as well: I will be there for others and support them if they come and initiate the interaction, and then I happily interact with them. But if they don't come, I am not doing it either, so the responsibility is on their side. That works better for some than for others though, and perhaps Titum for example could do better if I was different, but then that's the way it is. :smile:

Great that you have found a way that is working so well for you, and Draumur indeed looks stunning and proud. :)


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2012 12:56 am 
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Loved your post Kathy! It makes a lot of things I have been thinking about lately a lot clearer! Your post touches on a few things similar to a discussion in this thread
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=4064
Here I was talking about how sometimes I need that little bit of pressure to get me going and then I find the activity intrinsically rewarding, but would never have got that far without that bit of pressure. But you are very right, it is such a fine line between constructive and destructive pressure, and very hard to navigate. So I tread lightly and try to take in as much feedback as I can from my horse (or myself when it comes to doing yoga).

We were discussing the downfalls of extrinsic motivation in a lecture I had for my teaching degree a couple of months ago. And yes, the biggest downfall we were discussing was he demotivation that can happen when you extrinsically reward a behavior that was otherwise intrinsically motivating. Very interesting that this conditioning and these effects happen across a variety of animals. I have definitely seen this happen with Billy at times. For example I think early on in my adventures with AND and clicker training I over rewarded walking next to me. Before I started this type of training we could go for big walks together without pressure or 'reward'. It definitely seemed that the activity itself was rewarding. However, for a long while after I started treating for walking with me we could barely get anywhere without him becoming disinterested and walking away. The activity seemed to lose its meaning completely.

My instructor is a big believer in 'good vibes' and positive energy being a big motivator and attractor for horses. It is interesting thinking of this in the context of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and wondering whether sometimes food rewards to take away from those good vibe rewards a bit.

This is something that I am not sure anyone has been able to measure yet. The subtle impacts on the horse of the humans attitude/feelings/energy. I believe it has a huge impact and is something that doesn't seem to be considered as a factor in training experiments.

For example, do you think the horse will react differently to someone positive, joyful training with R+ compared to someone stressed, negative, depressed, anxious training with R+? What about each of these using R-? And how would the happy R- person compare to the unhappy, anxious R+ person?
For me I believe these feelings, energies, emotions, attitudes have a much higher impact on horses than training methodologies. Horses have evolved to read intentions. They are highly sensitive to emotion. But research doesn't yet seem to be able to focus on these subtle changes.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2012 12:14 pm 
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I have been thinking a little bit about the trainer analogy, because it seems so compelling at first glance. However, I must say that I find it a bit difficult to directly compare this to pressure training. One point of course is that the setup is different, with athletes typically choosing to go to a trainer because they want him to help them achieve their goals, instead of the trainer seeking out the athlete who is then supposed to achieve the trainer's goals. I think the situation is the opposite in many horse-human interactions.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, I think that the mechanisms of what these trainers do and how it affects the athlete is quite different from pressure-based horse training. It does not seem to me that there are that many sports coaches who calmly stand in the middle of the gym and tell their athletes that they will hit them or inflict any other pain on them if they do not perform. The threat component that is at the heart of pressure training (even if it is just as "mild" as following the horse with a whip during lunging) does not seem to be present, and even if it was, I do not think that this is what is driving the athlete's behaviour. No "if you don't... then I will..." so to speak.

Instead, I wonder if the effect a pushy trainer has on his athletes might not be explained, at least partly, in the framework of ideomotor theory, where goal states prime the behaviour that is associated with them. It has been shown numerous times that stimuli that resemble the consequences of an action (by sharing features with them) prime the actions that usually result in these consequences – presumably by activating a mental representation of the goal state, which then triggers the corresponding motor programs. Taken to the trainer example, I wonder if a pushy trainer might not simply activate certain effect features like "strong" and "powerful" in the trainee, and thereby automatically trigger or at least facilitate actions that bring these effects about. That is, if a trainer shouts "Now jump!" with a high intensity, this facilitates all kinds of actions that have high intensity effects as well. This could be shouting or jumping high or hitting hard, and many other things.

That is, I wonder if a trainer really is a mere stimulus which then causes some action simply by his own behaviour, or whether he acts like just a prime for certain concepts and goal states in the athlete who is experiencing him. If that was the case, this might explain why people like Bianca who are purely enthusiastic and full of energy but do not push or threaten their horses at all also get these levels of high energy behaviour and motivation (and despite giving treats ;)).

But I think that ideomotor explanations also have something to say about the effects of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. By now it is well established that individuals code their actions in terms of their effects. However, they are very flexible in terms of which effects they use for coding. Now if you encourage your horse to code his actions only in terms of the treats he gets for them, it is not really surprising that all the other effects of these actions (e.g. feeling powerful) lose weight. But still this does not necessarily mean that you cannot give treats without the animal losing interest. At least in humans there are some studies showing that simply by the way you direct people's focus to one or the other effect of their actions, you can vary how they mentally represent the action. So to me this does not imply that I should give less treats if I want to keep my horses motivated, but that I must make sure the horse's focus does not get directed on the particular action effect of a treat while ignoring all the others. If instead I want my horses to feel good about their power, I must make the powerful feeling they get from an exercise very salient, for example by being all enthusiastic about it and admiring them for being so powerful. Well, at least that's my Monday morning take on all of this. :)


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2012 2:03 pm 
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Quote:
Taken to the trainer example, I wonder if a pushy trainer might not simply activate certain effect features like "strong" and "powerful" in the trainee, and thereby automatically trigger or at least facilitate actions that bring these effects about. That is, if a trainer shouts "Now jump!" with a high intensity, this facilitates all kinds of actions that have high intensity effects as well. This could be shouting or jumping high or hitting hard, and many other things.


I really like this and I think this is key especially with horses. As you said, Bianca is a a great example of this, as are Marina and Zoe in terms of encouraging that playfulness by being so much that way themselves.

Quote:
I think that the mechanisms of what these trainers do and how it affects the athlete is quite different from pressure-based horse training. It does not seem to me that there are that many sports coaches who calmly stand in the middle of the gym and tell their athletes that they will hit them or inflict any other pain on them if they do not perform. The threat component that is at the heart of pressure training (even if it is just as "mild" as following the horse with a whip during lunging) does not seem to be present, and even if it was, I do not think that this is what is driving the athlete's behaviour. No "if you don't... then I will..." so to speak.


When I am using R-, I don't feel like I am telling Billy to do something or I will inflict pain if he doesn't perform! I don't understand R- and "pressure-based" training to mean inflicting pain. To me, it just means applying a "pressure" stimulus and removing when they have performed/reacted. In my mind I don't tend to link R- with threats and pain at all, and I suppose that has a big influence on how I apply it. Again, I think it comes back a lot to the attitude, energy and intention of the human applying the "pressure".
For me, when applying "pressure" in this sense (i.e. like a trainer), I feel very much like an athletic trainer, encouraging Billy to try a little harder, often with words and intention in body language (and energy) more than actual physical pressure. And there aren't any consequences if he doesn't put more effort in, just that I will rethink how I am asking because it is obviously not working. I think that constant reflection and evaluation is key in both R+ and R- (well any sort of training), and where it is absent is where I have seen the most bad examples of either.

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If instead I want my horses to feel good about their power, I must make the powerful feeling they get from an exercise very salient, for example by being all enthusiastic about it and admiring them for being so powerful.

This is great and very much what I was getting at. I suppose this is how I see those "good vibes" as often being the biggest reward for horses. :)

Not sure that any of this has made much sense. Not really trying to get to any point at all, just thinking while writing, and hoping to not have drifted too far from the topic. If I didn't have this silly cold I might be able to tie it back to the topic a bit more! :sad:

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Jessie and Little Billy


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2012 6:49 pm 

Joined: Thu Jan 06, 2011 5:39 pm
Posts: 14
Wow, what a wonderful thing to be discussing this with people who have so much more experience and knowledge than I have. Grateful.

One other possible (again, guessing) related idea that might be exactly what Romy is talking about with helping the horse be / feel his power: (I will post a link later when I am not on my mobile device) The recent research on how to INSTANTLY change the chemistry of an animal or human to make it more "alpha". Manh of you are probably already familiar with this, or have seen the TED talk, etc. but I will summarize here.

Not done with horses, but still every reason to assume it also applies to horses.

Short version: the "fake it until you make it" appears to be physiologically real. In other words, if you ACT powerful, it starts to make you *actually more powerful* by changing two things -- raising testosterone and lowering cortisol.

Alphas have higher testosterone and lower cortisol. Which means MORE confidence and LOWER stress. Animals on the bottom are exactly the opposite: Lower testosterone and higher cortisol -- meaning LESS confident and MORE stressed.

The fascinating part is when they began to ask if alphas were alphas BECAUSE they had this chemical balance or if being alpha *caused* this chemical balance. They were able to artificially manipulate the hierarchy of a group and found that the formerly low animal suddenly *made* the alpha immediately shifted to having higher testosterone and lower cortisol, and the opposite happened for the formerly-high animal -- it's testosterone went down and cortisol went up.

But the really cool part was when they found they could INSTANTLY change this in humans simply by having the humans adopt a particular posture. Blood tests confirmed that if you -- a human -- adopt a "superhero" pose, meaning one that is open and expansive "making yourself bigger", (think about standing tall with your arms open and straight out to the side or a "wonder woman pose" with hands on hips and shoulders back and out) -- will RAISE your testosterone and LOWER cortisol. And the opposite is true, if you adopt a more protective posture (making yourself smaller) cortisol goes UP and testosterone goes down.

This sort of confirms what AND practitioners already know -- that helping the animal display the behaviors a proud confident horse would display begins to make the horse start feeling and being more proud and confident.

So, while the ends does not justify the means if there is abuse, I do believe that is why my trainer (far more able to do this than I would be) can create a context where a horse suddenly "wakes up" and says, "Yes, I am REALLY badass, thank you for noticing, let's now go show off together...". And they become his strong and willing partner.

Maybe the coach model does not work as well since Romy is so right, a lot of coaches can be just frightening. Maybe another model is something more like Yoda training Luke Skywalker, or the the martial arts trainer. But a big part of how we respond to our own coaches and teachers is based on whether we trust and believe that they have our best interest at heart. Even if we do not feel good about what we're doing in the moment, we KNOW it will be for our benefit. A horse will not necessarily know this. My trainer somehow gets them into a state quite quickly where they DO believe him. Mine, well, it has taken me a very long time to make this change with Draumur.

And now I am trying this with my other boy, Vafi, who is complicated in a different way from Draumur. So far, chase the tiger has been the biggest changer. I may be imagining this -- or seeing what I want to see -- but even my husband swears that Vafi already is starting to walk and stand with more confidence... Like he suddenly has more "swagger" and is interacting differently with the other horses. I had thought that because the "prance with an arched neck" worked so well with Draumur that THAT was the big secret, buy of course I see that this is not the case... That "arched neck prance" was merely ONE possible example of "display pride", and while that particular pose and movement was the thing that moved Draumur into discovering his inner badass :), with Vafi it may be the striking and pouncing on the tiger... (not to mention that his shoulder freedom has changed dramatically from just eight sessions of chase the tiger).

Thanks all. And if I did not say it earlier, I am still just barely past a total novice, so while I am studying and communicating about this, I am not any kind of expert and have very limited experience with only a few horses. Fortunately, my horses are great teachers.


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