What initiated this topic are recent articles suggesting ways you can reward your horse, using natural horsemanship strategies, or combining NH with reward training. While these articles are trying to be very forward thinking, which is great (we all want for our horse to enjoy training), I have also found them to be misleading. There seem to be some strong misconceptions about what constitutes a reward vs. what is a release of pressure, and this could be impactful to training results. To be fair, these authors weren’t intending to confuse anyone, but they were unfortunate victims of colloquial thinking. Understanding these nuances no matter how insignificant they seem, can make a huge difference in animal training.
So let’s start with some science based “learning” definitions.
• Reinforcer: Something that increases the probability of a behavior being repeated.
• Punisher: Something that decreases the likelihood of a behavior being repeated.
(Taken from http://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html)