2014 Student Research Conference:
27th Annual Student Research Conference

Evaluating the efficacy of positive and negative reinforcement while introducing a novel obstacle to horses (Equus caballus)
Megan R. LaFollette*, Kaitlin A. Cloonan, and Taylor Stimac
Dr. Kelly Walter, Faculty Mentor

Positive reinforcement (PR) is becoming common in training operant tasks. This study is designed to test the efficacy of PR and negative reinforcement (NR) when teaching horses (n = 22) to walk through a novel and potentially frightening obstacle. Subjects were used in a randomized complete block design blocked by age and assigned PR or NR. Subjects are led through a novel obstacle until calmness criterion is reached. PR horses are given food for forward progress. For NR horses, pressure is first applied and then released for forward progress. Trials are timed and horses are scored based on their approach to and contact with obstacle, pace, vocalization, and hoof movements. Trial times, total time to reach calmness criterion, and behavioral scores will be compared between treatments to determine their merits. We predict that NR horses may reach calmness criterion faster but display more undesirable behavior than PR horses.

Keywords: Equine, Clicker training, Food reward, Training, Operant conditioning

Topic(s):Agricultural Science

Presentation Type: Poster

Session: 2-3
Location: GEO - SUB
Time: 3:30

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