The Art of Natural Dressage

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 Post subject: Discriminating objects
PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 4:56 pm 
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This is an exercie diary for all kinds of object discrimination tasks. Please feel free to share your experiences with us!

For inspirational videos see for example:
McKee and Peggy Hogan - Match to Sample
Lukas and Karen Murdock - different object discrimination tasks
(please add other videos that you know and I will edit them into the first message)

Today we did a color discrimination task with Pia for the first time. We started with two color cards, a blue one and a yellow one.

Image

In the beginning of each trial, I either said "search blue" or "search yellow", and Nora rewarded when Pia touched the correct card with her nose. Perhaps we started out too difficult, because I guess if you were very systematic, you would work on targeting an object first (which I think Pia and I have not done before in any systematic way), and then doing it on cue (stimulus control) and only then include a discrimination task. However, I usually prefer the messy way where we work with all the task components right from the start, and then tidy up later during the process. But you can see the consequences of this approach in today's video, where Pia sometimes goes for a target before my cue and sometimes tries to bite it instead of touching it.

I also made sure to switch sides now and then to prevent that Pia learns direction discrimination instead of color discrimination (which could happen if "search blue" was always associated with the left card for example). If we ever get that far, we will test the limits of Pia cognition by later introducing a left/right task as well, and then letting her switch between the two tasks in response to the same stimuli, so that for example when I hold a blue card on the left side and say "blue" she has to touch it, whereas when I say "right" she has to choose the yellow one on the right side.

Her learning process of today's simple version was ever so interesting. First she moved her head around unsystematically and then by accident touched a card sometimes, which we rewarded if it was the one we had named before. Later her head movements became more and more restricted to the area where the cards were, and still later she began to intentionally touch them, but still her discrimination was at chance. Her next step was to understand that when we did not reward for touching the card she touched, the best strategy was to switch to the other one. Well, actually there was another intermediate step of trying to bite the card instead of touching it. Until very late in this session I still had the feeling that she did not really use the color but just became quicker at trying one by chance and then recognizing whether we would reward or not, and switch to the other one in the latter case. In the end I felt she did make some use of the colors, but we will learn more about that next time.

I am so excited to continue working on this, and especially about the things that I will learn. My plan is to test different kinds of alternative explanations once she perform the task almost perfectly (e.g. reaction to body language), and then hopefully find out more about the way my little pony girl is thinking.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2013 12:32 pm 
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I've been, meaning to reply to this, I've been so busy.

I tried teaching this to Bear a while back using two different objects (I used a bucket and ball I think). I tried for a bit but most of the time it felt like he was just guessing and if he guessed wrong he just tried the other one. I tried again the other day, but he was pretty much doing the same thing. I think the hardest thing was getting him to touch something based off a voice command rather than through body language. If I try it some more I might try just getting him to touch one object with just voice commands rather than body language.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2013 8:19 pm 

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Just something that occurred to me. If you want to be sure whether the horse is really going for the color, why not use different objects with the same colors? Let's say I wanted to train discrimination with Funky (which I might just do one day, I think that'd be fun :D ), I'd use different-colored cards at first, then would exchange, say, the yellow card for a yellow bucket. Then the blue card for some other blue object. Then exchange those again. That'd give me a clue if my horse has really understood the exercise. At least, I think so :yes:

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2013 8:26 pm 
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Yes, that is what we are planning to do later. :) However, last weekend we tried the color task again with the cards and Pia was not interested very much and thus completely at chance, so it was not a good day for introducing anything new. But then Nora and I were just as distracted, so we decided to leave the whole thing for another day and do something else instead. I have not tried it again since then, because during the week I always train when it's dark and then also opt for working on her moves most of the time. But thanks for the suggestion, we will do that soon and then report back. :f:


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 11, 2015 8:51 pm 

Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2011 7:24 pm
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Romy, I was wondering if you ever tried the color discriminating with the cards again?
Did Pia learn the difference between blue and yellow or was it still a 50/50 chance?
I am very curious how it worked out for you and your horses, before I try this with Farao (sounds like a nice exercise for a wet autumn or winter).

Regards :f:


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2015 10:45 am 
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I did this with Mucki too over a long period of time. I guess we worked on it sporadically over the course of a year. We tried different approaches like combining it with "match to sample", which I also have recorded once: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfMfgq-QB1s

For most of the time, I had rather ambiguous results. It often seemed that in the beginning of the session (like the first five to ten tries), Mucki did very good. Then it got very inconclusive.
Overall, it seemed to be a very abstract exercise, which got quickly boring or too tedious. Moreover, the setup is very error-prone. There's a high risk of Clever Hans effect and of superstitious behaviour on the side of the horse.

I have to admit that my beginnings with colour discrimination were quite sloppy. Once I have started with a better set-up and clearer cues, results got better, until I was convinced that Mucki grasped the concept.
Reminds me that I should try it again one time ;)

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2015 11:51 am 
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We did not continue this - it was one of the many things I started very enthusiastically and then somehow forgot about.

I guess the approach you choose would also depend on the goal you have with that exercise. For example, for me it would not matter at all to have Kluger Hans effects as I am not interested in colour discrimination performance per se (why would Pia need to be able to do such a thing?). Instead, I saw this as a fun thing to do, and therefore I did not worry a lot about consistency, precision and all these things. It was an opportunity for us to admmire Pia and for her to be the queen of the cards. But then for us the fun somehow decreased when the exercise was not new anymore. So for a while Nora and I still said that we would train again ...later... and then simply forgot.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2015 3:16 pm 
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Romy wrote:
I guess the approach you choose would also depend on the goal you have with that exercise.
Definitely! I approached the whole thing like a scientific experiment. My goal was to see if I can figure out Mucki's concept of colours and if I can transfer my own concept to him.
I'm sure that horses can discriminate colours in some way. They tend to group by colours in mixed herds, don't they? But I also think that the difference between yellow and blue must seem pretty irrelevant to a horse. The point where it gets interesting for me is: can I make the horse interested in an abstract concept, that is otherwise of no use to him?

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2015 7:28 pm 

Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2011 7:24 pm
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Lovely video Volker! I think I saw that one earlier, but could not remember where, thank you! I really like how Mucki seems to get that he has to put the ring on the circle, and matches the color as well.

The putting things on top of each other sounds like something I could enjoy, so maybe Farao could like this also. As a kid I remember playing with lego or sand to build barns and towers and sandcastles. So maybe in the winter when its too cold or too wet to go to the pasture or arena, we could play with those kind of little games that actually require a lot of thinking from the horse perspective (and for his playmate!) Maybe I'll try and see if I can find big wooden blocks and such as you have for baby's (or maybe for dogs?) and see if we can play “build a tower” and “collapse the tower”. Who knows we can work towards selecting things on color and put those in a basket or something. Getting lots and lots of idea's now for when we are stuck in the horses backyard! Thank you so much both! :green:

About the approach, I just want to have fun with my horse, but there is a little bit of a scientist inside me who wants to experiment and find out what my horse can or cannot do. Or likes and does not like. Just like the painting that bear does or did. Would love to try that as well! Also something that we can do standing still and thus inside the “house” or inside the big barn.


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