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Episode 27: Single-Subject Design

The function of this podcast is to lay the ground work for a discussion of cribbing. Cribbing is a stereotypic behavior that some horses exhibit. The horse takes hold of a fence board or other protruding surface with its front teeth. Then it arches its neck and contracts its larynx which creates a rush of air into its stomach. This action produces a grunting sound. Anyone who has been around a cribber knows this sound all too well.

Apart from the annoying quality of the sound, cribbing has been linked to a high incidence of colic. It has not been established that there is a direct cause and effect link, but cribbing does seem to correlate with a high risk of colic.

There are many interventions one can do to try to stop cribbing, but most of the time, they are not effective.

One of my Click That Teaches coaches, Michaela Hempen, is working on developing a behavioral intervention to see if cribbing can be reduced or stopped. To understand her study, we must first understand how single-subject-design studies work. So in this week’s podcast Michaela first explains how the type of studies most of us are familiar with - ones that use a large sample size - work. She then compares this type of study with single-subject design. What is this type of study and how does it work? Next week she’ll take us through her on-going research project on cribbing.

Even if you don’t have a cribber, understanding single-subject design lets you truly “go to people for opinions and horses for answers”. You can set up AB reversals to test whether a change you have made is really making the difference you think it is. In the podcast you will find out what this means and how you can use this type of study design to improve your training.

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