Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Horse Training with Radio Controlled Toy Cars

Researchers at the University of Sydney developed an experiment in which a radio controlled toy car was used in place of a trainer in a round pen.  When the horse stopped moving away from the toy car, it was rewarded by having the toy car stop following it.  By using the radio-controlled toy car to apply or take away pressure, the researchers were able to train the horse to approach the car—hence “mimicking” the human bonding process of Monty Robert's Join-Up®.  Since no human-horse bond was possible, the experiment demonstrates that the horse responds due to operant conditioning and not from the creation of a human bond through the use of equine body language. 

As Cath Henshall (University of Sydney) states, "Put simply, pressure-release works because the horse finds the pressure applied unpleasant and therefore the removal of the pressure rewarding… Although neither Monty Roberts' method nor ours uses pressure applied directly to the horse's body, both apply a form of emotional pressure by scaring and then chasing the horse.  Our results indicate that because these methods rely on fear and safety, the horse is forced to choose between being repeatedly frightened or remaining with the trainer. We question whether it is humane to rely on fear and its termination to train horses." 
Thanks to Kathy S. for pointing out this video.

University of Sydney. (July 13, 2012).  Researchers urge rethink of 'Monty Roberts' horse training method.  Found at

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