Discrimination is the ability to choose or differentiate between things. We make it hard for our horses to discriminate when we’re wishy-washy with our cues.

Dr Camie Heleski, Michigan State University, describes a study that illustrates this point…

In a study by Flannery, ponies were conditioned that one of two symbols on a feed box would gain them access to a treat (e.g., a star on the box versus a circle). The ponies did learn to discriminate between several pairs of symbols; however, if the symbols became too nearly alike, the ponies became very agitated. When the symbols were highly similar to one another, ponies become frustrated and began swaying back and forth between the choices…almost like weaving.

Learning happens quickly when we’re careful to be deliberate and distinct with our signals.

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