Behaviourist Jenni Nellist shares her go-to equine behaviour problem solving strategies for success. As featured in Welsh Rider Magazine.
Following on from my previous articles, my aim is to limit stress and negative experiences and to promote successful learning and positive emotional experiences in horses and people. Once my assessment is made, any retraining plan is tailored according to LIMA: lessons and techniques that are the Least Intrusive and Minimally Aversive to the horse.
This means making sure the horse is in an environment where they can best cope with any learning that is required. This includes making sure that their living environment is aligned to the Five Domains in last month’s article. A stressed horse can’t learn very well what we want them to.
Once the environment is correct, the next step is to make sure that any triggers for unwanted behaviours are reduced or completely eliminated as much as it is reasonably possible to do. This is very important when it comes to dangerous behaviours because after turning down the dial on triggers the next stages are to reward behaviour that is not compatible with the unwanted behaviour, and to fail to reward behaviour when it occurs. This can create frustration in the horse, driving them to temporarily try harder at the unwanted behaviour - not a good idea if that behaviour is barging or in any other way aggressive!
Punishments and other aversive techniques like negative reinforcement (where we take away unpleasant stimulation to reinforce the behaviour the removal coincided with) are further down the list, because they are by very nature stressful and stress is what we are trying to reduce most of the time.
Jenni Nellist is an Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC) Registered Clinical Animal Behaviourist and a Full Member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors. Please visit the website www.horsestranslated.com or call Jenni on 07974 569407