test 2

Horses that shake their head, move and try to rear up during clipping. In this case it is non-associative learning (habituation) and operant conditioning that regulate the behavioral response.

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 Through habituation, in most cases horses learn that the use of the clippers on the body is not an unpleasant stimulus. For this to happen, it is important that the horse stands still while clipping. But if it shakes, moves to the side, or performs other behaviors, and we stop clipping in that moment, the horse will learn that there are behaviors that it can perform to stop the clipping. In other words, when we start clipping and the horse moves, we should continue the clipping without interruption. When none of the horse’s behaviors cause the clipping to stop, it gets habituated to the clipper and stops reacting. This sequence refers to the application of non-associative learning and works well with horses clipped for the first time, especially when we clip the shoulder and abdomen, because even if the horse moves, generally we are able to maintain contact with its body. Things get complicated when we get closer to the head or legs. While clipping these areas (stimulus), the horse is able to get away with a sudden movement (response) and stop the action of the clipper (reinforcement). If this occurs, even if we try to continue the work of desensitization it will be difficult to solve the problem because, through operant conditioning, the horse has just learned that a behavior can stop the action of the clipper. To prevent this problem it is necessary to release the pressure of the clipper at the proper time. We turn on the clipper and get closer to the horse. As soon as the horse begins to show defensive behaviors, even minor ones, we stop and maintain the position with the clipper switch on. When the horse stands still, we immediately turn off the clipper. This sequence needs to be repeated several times until the horse associates that if he is standing still, the clippers turn off. At this point we can go closer and closer and start clipping, because the horse will try to stop us by offering the behavior stand still. It is important to turn off the clipper often when the horse is still, to reinforce its behavior and clip intermittently, rather than continuously as we would do if we were following the habituation process. However, once the association has taken place and the horse thinks it can control the clipper by standing still, we will simply turn off the clipper every once and a while and the horse will stand still for a longer time while the clipper is running because it has learned that the “stand still” behavior is the only way to stop the clipper. It's important to remember that correct application of the rules of animal learning requires concentration on what the horse is doing and what we are doing. To correctly reinforce a behavior we must intervene in a span of a very few seconds immediately after the horse performed the correct behavior (the closer the reinforcement, i.e. the removal of the pressure, is to the behavior, the greater the possibility of creating the association).