Good Horsemanship

Scientific Study of Positive Reinforcement (Clicker Training)

Equine Research Foundation

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The Equine Research Foundation (ERF) needs your help. This nonprofit organization studies learning, cognition, and perception in horses and makes their findings available internationally through scientific journals and popular horse magazines. They also offer public programs (learning and riding vacations and internships) where horse enthusiasts from all around the world travel to their facility to participate in the research and also learn -- through hands-on experience -- about horse training, handling, behavior, bonding, care and welfare. Their methods are based on equine social systems, herd behavior, psychology, natural horsemanship, and they use and teach positive reinforcement training, which has been very well received.

One project the ERF is very interested in starting up soon involves scientifically investigating positive reinforcement (clicker) training.

Clicker trainers are, of course, aware of how effective this method is but there are still many, many horse people out there who refute it; some even get downright hostile discussing it. Clicker/PR enthusiasts often end up sneaking sessions when no one is looking and many are afraid to show the amazing things they can do.

There is very little published about this method in scientific journals with regard to horses. The ERF wants to change this by doing an in-depth study that explores and quantifies positive reinforcement in order to demonstrate that this is a highly effective training method for horses of any breed -- Arabian, Thoroughbred, Quarter horse, Appaloosa, Paint, Warmblood, Gaited and Draft horse -- and for any discipline or desire -- dressage, jumping, pleasure, trail riding; grooming, handling, veterinary procedures, and overcoming fear and resistance. Positive findings will give scientific backing, thus, added credibility, to this type of training and can only benefit horses and humans.

To run this study, the ERF needs funding and this is where you can get involved. You can be part of this project -- and help promote positive reinforcement throughout the world -- by sending a tax-deductible donation of any size to:

Equine Research Foundation
P.O. Box 1900
Aptos, CA 95001

Take a look at the ERF website for more information (and photos) about what they do http://www.equineresearch.org.

Feel free to email the ERF with any questions EquiResF@aol.com.

  • Photo 1: Trailer loading at liberty made simple using positive reinforcement.

  • Photo 2: Horses can be taught in a stress-free way to accept just about anything.

  • Photo 3: Even nervous horses become calm around bouncing beach balls, twirling umbrellas, crinkling balloons, and rock-filled rolling barrels with good training methods.

  • Photo 4: One of the studies at the Equine Research Foundation investigates concept learning and generalization.

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