Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Catering vs Correction on Persistent Pawing

I was discussing the recent pawing video I did of my new 2 yr. old resale gelding and had quite a few comments on Facebook about it. It really can become a persistent problem.

This is the Facebook video I posted on pawing. Note that this video indicates that it's option 1 for correcting pawing. I use option 1 when I know that the horse is new to understanding that pawing is not ok. In other words, I use other options when the horse should know better than to paw.

Dealing with pawing: option 1: not removing him from his current position. Teaching patience.
Posted by Foundation Reining Training Centre on Monday, October 19, 2015

I find problems like these that elicit an emotional response usually are controversial. Why? I even had someone make a nasty comment about it. Thank goodness it's an accepted practise to block those drama queens. After all, if someone doesn't like something they see on Facebook (or elsewhere), then don't go there!

Anyway, I was discussing the problem of pawing with a friend of mine and she brought up a good point about correcting problems like persistent pawing.

What if Option1: Ignore. Leave at current position - doesn't work? How does persistent pawing get created?  How do we stop it? It must be frustrating for you if you have a persistent pawing horse.

Let's look at this together. Here's one scenario to consider.

All Together Now

 This is a common problem I observed when I used to board my horse at boarding stables. I did that for many decades and at many different places. No particular boarding stable is being mentioned here. I don't board my horses out - I have them at home.

 Scenario: Someone's horse is pawing and the owner is correcting it. She has tried every method she can think of BUT the horse is not changing their behaviour. The owner mentions to everyone at the stable who is seeing her horse paw to ignore the pawing behaviour. Do not give the horse attention..  Walk away. That way, the bad behaviour will stop. N.B. Similar to the video above.

But the pawing is now persistent. What happened? Why hadn't it stopped? Maddening, I'm sure! Time for other options.

This is what I've observed myself. The owner is correcting the behaviour but the other handlers are not. Let me say that again. The other people in the stables who handle the horse from time to time (say turnout and/or removal of horse from stall for stall mucking) are feeling sorry for the horse and letting the horse have what the horse wants.

I call that catering. 'Oh you poor horse. You want outside... Ok, the poor baby, let's let you outside.'. The horse gets rewarded for the pawing. The horse will paw every time it wants outside.

So, the problem is that as long as 1 person keeps catering to the horse's pawing, the horse will still paw. It's called 'variable reinforcement'. Everyone would have to do the same thing - correcting or not rewarding the horse for the persistent pawing before the horse will stop.

What to do? what to do? You can't make the other horse handlers, often part time barn help to change their behaviour (I know we wish we could!), so what does the owner do?

What did I do?  I MOVED my horse! That's the only thing I had control over.

I moved any time I knew the barn staff was going to teach my horse deplorable things.

Just saying...

Putting my spin on stopping pawing in it's tracks!
@KISS reiners

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