Besides contingency, one of the main determinants of learning performance is contiguity, the temporal closeness between a behaviour and its consequences. Whereas the most effective contiguity depends on the type of the behaviour and its consequence, for the kind of consequences used in horse training it can be generally said that learning occurs in the most effective way when behaviour and consequence are close to each other. This principle is used for example in clickertraining, where the timely precision of the clicker makes it possible that the reward signal follows the behaviour immediately and in that way is associated with it in the most effective way.
Of course we want our horses to be happy. Positive affect is not only pleasant for the horse, it also helps him to be more creative, more flexible in problem-solving and to show a reduced tendency to perseverate on reactions that are no longer appropriate. The other side of the coin is that positive affect results in an increased distractibility and with that in a lower ability to concentrate, compared to a more neutral mood. So if we want to work on difficult exercises that afford a high level of concentration, it might be best to use a medium level of positive affect instead of doing them when the horse is extremely joyful. This does NOT mean, that you should make your horse unhappy
, but maybe choose an optimal timing for different types of exercises.
I wanted to add a text about arousal as well, but IÂ´d like to include something about the task dependence of the optimal level of arousal. Unfortunately I canÂ´t find the corresponding material at the moment and I canÂ´t recall it from memory. So it will have to wait until Thursday when IÂ´m back in the office.
Does this become too much off topic? I am not sure anymore, if this fits into the encyclopedia... Maybe we should create a "Psychological factors for training" topic in the Research Material section instead??