Day 53 - When does correction become punishment?

100 days Nov 19, 2017

Last time we talked about punishment, with positive punishment being the addition of something, such as a smack with the whip, and negative punishment being the subtraction of something, such as food. But when does correction become punishment? And, what's the difference between the two?

Positive punishment is the addition of something, such as a smack with a whip, after the behaviour has occurred, for example, a buck.

Correction is the addition of something, such as a smack with a whip, after the behaviour has occurred, for example, a buck.

Gosh, they're looking like the same thing....

So, perhaps the difference lies in the severity of the pressure being applied, the smack. A small smack is a correction and a massive wack, a punishment? I'm sure that's how most people think about it but the scale has never been defined. There's no measure of severity to mark the tipping point - where the correction becomes a punishment and by definition (something that the horse does not want, added after the behaviour has occurred) both the small smack and massive wack are forms of positive punishment.

I'm not saying don't correct your horse (although not having to correct your horse should be your ultimate aim), I'm just suggesting that you think about in these terms. This will help you become a more proactive rider and trainer. Correction/punishment is reactive - you're responding to what the horse has already done rather than guiding the horse and rewarding them for obeying your cues.

If you'd like this series delivered directly to your inbox, click here.