Understanding Primary and
Conditioned Reinforcers
Conditioned Reinforcers -

This is also known as secondary reinforcer. This is something that the horse learns to equate with a primary
reinforcer.

Such as, "The click means a reward is coming".

Unless taught this, the clicker will mean nothing to the horse. So the horse becomes "conditioned" to know that
the click is a good thing. He will then learn to "operate" in his environment to make the "click" happen so that
he can get a reward of a primary reinforcer. In most cases - food.

This is one reason it is so powerful to use food treats in the beginning. The horse does not need to learn that
food is a reward. Using verbal praise or physical affection (such as pats or scratches) may not be that desirable
of a reward for some horses. But, over time, they can be taught that these non-food rewards are a good thing
and may become willing to work for them as well.
Information presented is for educational purposes only and is not intended
to replace professional opinions or recommendations.
Consult your veterinarian for advice about any medical condition or
treatment needed for your horse

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Primary Reinforcers-

This is an unconditioned reinforcer. This is
something that is essential for the horse's
survival. Or it may be something that he really
likes. Either way, the horse does not need to
learn that it is rewarding - it just is.

Some examples of primary (unconditioned)
reinforcers are:

- Food
- Water
- Air
- Shelter
- Being with other horses