Positive and Negative
Reinforcement and Punishment
It took me a while to really understand these principles, so don't be frustrated if you don't understand right away.
So, I will try to give a definition and example for each of the following to help it be easier to understand.
Positive Reinforcement -
Your horse works for something he likes. This one is easy to explain and also what we use most in equine
clicker training. Positive reinforcement is simply giving your horse something it wants as a reward for desired
Example: Your horse performs the behavior you asked him for, you click and reward your horse with a treat.
Your horse learns that you will add a treat to him if he gives you the behavior you want.
Negative Reinforcement -
Your horse works to avoid something he considers unpleasant. Negative reinforcement involves removing
something your horse finds unpleasant the instant he performs the desired behavior.
Example: You poke your horse's side to get him to move over. When your horse moves, you stop poking. Your
horse learns you will remove your hand if he moves over.
Positive Punishment -
This is adding a negative consequence the moment the horse exhibits an undesirable behavior. (Do you see
why it can get confusing? You are adding a negative!! How confusing is that?)
Example: Your horse tries to nip you - you give him a sharp "NO". Or, I guess some people would just slap his
mouth, either way, you are adding a punishment to stop the undesired behavior.
Negative Punishment -
This is removing something from the horse that he finds pleasant the moment he exhibits an undesirable
behavior. (So,now,you are removing a positive - how do they expect us to keep this clear?)
Example: Your horse starts to pester you for treats - you ignore the horse and refuse to give him the treat. So
you are removing the treats as a punishment to teach the horse that his behavior is unacceptable.
Don't worry if this is as clear as mud right now. Watching some of the videos and seeing this in action will make
it abundantly clear.
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
The next section about equine learning theory
explains the difference between positive
reinforcement and negative reinforcement. And
positive punishment and negative punishment.
The first thing to understand is that positive does
not necessarily mean good. And negative does
not necessarily mean bad.
Positive refers to adding something to your
Negative refers to removing something from