In which Patty's new horse learns some weird stuff and earns a bunch of cookies

River is learning a lot in her new home.
"What is this BOO of which you speak?"

 One of the most important lessons is this:  People do weird stuff.

River will yield to a poking finger,
but dressage whip tapping cues are new.

The lesson that came before the "weird stuff" lesson is this:  People have cookies.

She had to figure out how to move away from the tapping whip
without crowding the human.  Hmmm.  

River is a big fan of cookies.

She's never been asked to move hindquarters and forehand separately before,
but she figured it out with some practice (and some cookies)

Therefore, River is willing to do weird stuff with people...

"You hop  on up der, Kid, and I'll keep my nose pointed
at the pocket that contains all the cookies."

...because she knows that the people with the cookies

"Payoff!" to share.

This is her second "hopping" session.  Ever.  Not bothered at all.

The weirder the exercise...

Note that Patty's knee is supporting Sirie's foot...
and River's nose is pointed at the cookie-pocket again.

...the more cookies will be involved.

A lot of folks disparage "teaching with food," but I'm a huge fan of rewarding food-oriented animals with food, intermixed with verbal praise and plenty of petting.  Intermittent reinforcement makes the strongest impression, as anyone who bought a Powerball ticket this week will tell you!

  It makes sense:  the people want a behavior, and the horse wants a cookie.  
It's a good trade for both sides.  

River sheds in TWO COLORS.  

River can even do weird things when other horses are doing weird things.

Hana Banana Wannacookie works on the longeline
while River Gimmecookie works with Patty

She's almost ready to carry a rider.

Stepping away from the tapping whip, but not stepping onto
the person on the mounting block = new skill
 Soon, River will be learning about trails, and puddles, and bicycles and bears.

Take portrait photo, then haz cookie?

She thinks all that stuff will be fine.

After all, she's pretty sure that we'll bring plenty of cookies with us...and she's also pretty sure that we will share.


  1. I am all over those cookies.

    Teeny tiny bit of theory clarification? Intermittant reinforcement is touted as building the "strongest behavior." What it means specifically is that it builds a behavior that is more resistant to extinction than one on continuous reinforcement.

    So Behavior A is reinforced on every correct response. Behavior B has been put on a variable schedule of reinforcement. If all reinforcement were to stop, then Behavior B would last longer than Behavior A. That's actually the ONLY strength of an intermittant schedule.

    What "stronger behavior" does NOT mean in this context is that the behavior on intermittant reinforcement is MORE LIKELY to occur in a "regular" situation where reinforcement is possible.

    It's also worth noting that people sometimes infer that because intermittant reinforcement builds "stronger" behaviors that are more resistant to extinction that continuous reinforcement must, then, create weak behaviors that are prone to quick extinction. That is untrue. In the cessation of ALL reinforcement, the behavior on the properly-added VSR would last longer, but the one on continuous reinforcement may persist for a long time.

    And... now I'll slink back into my hole of theory geekiness.

  2. River is 100% adorable. Sounds like Patty found a good'un. :-) Who doesn't like cookies, really? I know I do.

  3. River is too cute and there is nothing wrong with rewards for doing something good. If you have a food motivated horse by all means, motivate with food. Can't wait to see how River progresses.

  4. Aarene- I saw over on Boots and Saddles that print copies are ready! The link on this page to End101 goes to a "page does not exist" error message.


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