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Day 52 - Positive and negative punishment

100 days

Punishment is a dirty word, I know but we need to talk about it because a lot of people confuse it with negative reinforcement (discussed last time).

Punishment, just like reinforcement, comes in both positive and negative forms. Again, positive punishment will be adding something (that the horse doesn't want) and negative punishment will be taking something away (that the horse does want). 

Punishment happens AFTER the behaviour (often a long time after the behaviour) and presents a risk to welfare, nevertheless, it is seen, all too frequently, in horse training.

Examples of positive punishment:

  1. Smacking the horse for bucking under saddle
  2. Jabbing in the mouth for failing to stop or step back
  3. Punching in the nose for biting
  4. Leaving horses with their heads tied, via bit and reins to a surcingle
  5. Chasing in the round pen, on the lunge or in the field

Examples of negative punishment:

  1. Tying the horse to the "tree of knowledge" - horse left tied in isolation for extended periods
  2. Depriving the horse of food
  3. Social isolation
  4. Depriving the horse of water (I know what you're thinking but it does happen....)

Can you think of some more? If so, leave me a comment below and let me know.

A question to think about for next time - what's the difference between correction and positive punishment?

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