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Episode 122: Enriching Your Reinforcement Choices

This week Dominique launched us into an interesting conversation about reinforcers. If you don’t want to use food, or you want to use food creatively, what are some of your options with horses.

With dogs there can be so many fun ways to reinforce behavior besides using a food reward. You can toss a ball, play tug, give a belly scratch. With horses because feeding treats is such an easy reinforcer to use, we seem to get into more of a rut in our thinking. So this week we explore different options.

We begin by talking about how grazing can be used as a reinforcer. It’s still using food, but often people fight against grass instead of using it. Just like any treat delivery process, if you want to use the opportunity to graze, you have to go through a teaching process with your horse.

Many people close their pastures at this time of the year to keep their horses from churning them into mud. Especially if you board your horse, you may be doing a lot of hand grazing. That means this is a great time of the year to work on this lesson. You’ll be turning grass into a powerful reinforcer you can use in your training. And your horse will be learning a lot about polite manners and emotional control.

We talk about non-food reinforcers, as well. It all helps to make the training more interesting for your horse.


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