Challenging the status quo
While all this knowledge is easily accessible on the internet and easy to share, achieving change is a bit more problematic. Like any revolution, we are confronting years of “We’ve always done it this way!” and “It works.” We are also confronted by people who believe that any other approach is dangerous or won’t work with horses. Some people think that learning theory science only works on…whales, or predators, or dogs, or zoo animals. Convincing them that learning theory is the reality behind training is a big first challenge.
The second challenge is letting the more educated trainers know what their options are and then how to choose between them. The learning quadrant is a fine example of the options available and all trainers should be taught it. But there is really no guidance system in which quadrant to use or when. Most riders today use negative reinforcement to train and aren't even aware of it. Even if they do know, they may not know the pros and cons of using any of the four quadrants, and when it is most useful or detrimental to what they are trying to accomplish.
Fortunately, Dr. Susan Friedman of Utah State University has come up with some material that is very useful. Her proposed “Hierarchy of Intervention Strategies”  can easily be used as a progressive flowchart for horse training decisions.
This model starts with setting the horse up success and then choosing what quadrants to use based on the situation or circumstances. It places the most positive and least invasive means to start and only continues on to more aversive techniques for special situations. It is a very ethical approach to animal training as it considers the physical and emotional well-being of the animal. It also allows for a reasonable range of choice in a world that is less than perfect.
(Credit: Inspiration taken from to to Jessica Gonzalez of Empowered Equines“Humane Hierarchy”, which was also inspired by Susan Friedman’s Strategy.)
What is useful is that not only does