Equine Behaviour term of the week: Primary and Secondary Reinforcers

Reinforcing a behaviour is something a trainer does to make the response more likely to happen again.  When a builder reinforces a bridge or structure, he’s making it stronger. And that’s what I want to do each time  gets the right answer.

A primary reinforcer is giving the horse something he naturally likes with each correct response, such as release from pressure, or a treat. A secondary reinforce is a payoff a horse learns to like.  A clicker, a voice command or a pat.  To get these straight, I ask my students “What would a wild Mustang naturally find rewarding?”

Being aware of what motivates a horse has been a useful tool to help me get my points across to my equine partners more efficiently.

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