Welcome to the Leslie Horsemanship Blog.
Here we will talk everything that is part of force free horsemanship, which doesn't just include training, no. It includes equine welfare, lifestyle, health and much more!
Today however I want to talk about why you should choose to integrate positive reinforcement in your horses life, and the benefits you and your horse can expect from it!
Positive reinforcement training activates a different part of the equine brain than traditional training, called the “seeking system”. It quite literally lights up a different part of the brain! This system, which is one of the seven "primary process" emotions, is responsible for exploration. It also comes with the release of dopamine and this affects the horses emotional response to their environment.
So horses switched to/started with R+ training will often be less fearful of new things, because they tend to see scary objects or situations as opportunities to receive a rewards rather than something that may cause them distress.
I’ve found R+ horses to be more curious and more interactive with their environment, and me. They freely offer behaviours regularly, and like interacting with objects presented to them, because they learned that offering behaviours can get them good things, and they are not afraid to make any mistakes, as mistakes/wrong answers don’t have any consequences. And no worries, this does not mean your horse will be rewarded for those wrong answers, it simply means we reward the 'correct' answers only.
This in turn usually means they are getting better at problem solving too, since they aren’t afraid of giving wrong answers, they’ll happily give you several different tries to figure out which is the right solution. This makes teaching new behaviours so much easier!
If done right, you get to be “lazy”! Compared to traditional training, R+ will require much less movements on your part, especially due to the elimination of escalating pressure. Swinging ropes is no longer necessary, chasing after a horses hind end or backing them up quickly isn’t needed. It requires less pushing, less pressure and no need to punish. Mentally you'll find there’s so much more going on, which can be overwhelming in the beginning, but on the outside looking in, it'll be much calmer. Trust me, your equestrian joints will thank you for it!
Understanding how positive reinforcement works will give you a whole other system you can utilise,. It will give you the ability to get more creative with which behaviours you want to teach your horse and more importantly, how to achieve those behaviours in completely new ways. Plus you just may be surprised at how much enthusiasm will emerge from your horse, and how infectious it can be to us. R+ is so much fun for both of you!