Correction vs Punishment Part 3

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In this three part article a discussion of identifying the type of leader you are, examples of correction and punishment, and the side effects of each will be covered. To properly maintain equine relationships it is important to be able to look and notice the way you interact with the horses in your life. In noticing your actions, you should then be able to see the horses reactions and side effects happening- which will lead you to see correction vs. punishment. You’ve identified what type of leader you are, the difference between correction and punishment- so now it’s time to learn more about the effects. In learning more about how our actions are perceived by the horse, we can learn how to also improve our horses training and welfare.

Part 3: The Affects of Correction and Punishment

By now some examples of dictators and punishments have probably popped into your head. I want you to pause and think through the specifics of a situation when punishment occurred…. Seriously, think of a situation…….Now what did the leader lead the horse to do? What did the teacher teach? What did the horse remember?_________ Um, Yikes! Nothing good, nothing that you would want your horse to remember or repeat! These punishment memories can lead up to stress, anxiety, fear, anger/aggression, and more. Stress can be learned and felt by the horse, often times turning into anxiety of a specific action. When tension is felt, one can also become fearful of the feeling that stress causes. Anger and aggression are learned most deeply and easily when the horses welfare has been compromised in some way. Basically what all this boils down to, is what your horse remembers from any situation- and when punishment occurs the horse has bad memories. These bad feelings will cause your horse not to remember the lesson planned to be taught and cause their focus to be on the bad feelings connected to that lesson. It is very easy for the dictator to use punishment, since the dictator typically has and causes stress while working with their horse. It is important to note- that other types of leaders can exhibit dictator type behavior in times of emotional/physical stress.

Other types of leaders can have a difficult time developing a goal and sticking to making it happen. These leaders will often switch their plan during the training session and forfeit the goal. These actions will cause your horse to lack self confidence and learn they don’t need to look to you for guidance. Horses need self confidence to feel comfortable to look for the correct answer during the training process and have a good state of welfare. This lack of confidence will create a reactionary follower of other horses in their surroundings, often making them more scared. Also, if your horse isn’t being required to do normal routine activities- the horse will loose self confidence and can lower their state of welfare. If your horse isn’t looking to you for guidance, then you are at a 1,000lb animals mercy (which they don’t possess the ability of). Less aggressive type leaders can use more methods of training, since they normally stop at any sign of stress/anxiety/fear. They are less likely to use punishment and can be too sensitive to properly correct a pushy horse. Instead of a dictator wanting to much from the horse, the friend doesn’t ask enough of their horse.

By making a correction in the learning process, this should help guide the horse towards a positive reward. When this type of reward happens, an actual physical reaction happens in the horses brain. This physical reaction is an endorphin release, which makes the horse feel good. Every correction that leads to a positive reward- which will also leave a positive memory for the horse. Both of these positive feelings and memories provide the horse with the desire to do well again. While making corrections- it is possible for the horse to make incorrect choices, however these choices are made by looking for the correct answer and not from reacting to punishment. A horse looking for the correct answer will be in a learning state of mind, not a reactionary state of mind. The horse should exhibit a willing attitude and be acting calmly. The horse will retain the most amount of knowledge in this state of mind. The horse should retain 80-90 percent of the lessons learned in this frame of mind. By using correction instead of punishment the horses welfare will greatly go up. It is this type of training process that creates the horse of our dreams, the one seen in the movies, and the one we enjoy working with everyday.

To sum up all three parts of this article keep in mind what type of leader you are being for your horse, look at how your actions are being received, and do your best to stay in a teaching or leadership role with your horse. I’ve found when we loose our forgiveness of teaching our horses, we turn into following their actions and become upset more easily. If you find yourself questioning is that correction or punishment- think about what the horse is learning and would remember from the process.

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