|this is the beginning of her response to going into corner:|
upright, tight neck, pricked ears, tight back. See how I'm tightening too?
As I'm sitting there taking in the information I had an 'aha' moment as it related to my work with Carmen. It refers to a process of mutual reinforcement of a negative pattern of behaviour. And I could see how I fell into that with Carmen's spooky behaviour.
Here's how I analyzed it based on this learning:
1. I ask Carmen to trot into corner (irritant to Carmen)
2. Carmen resists going to corner (avoidance response)
3. I increase my ask (escalation of irritant)
4. Carmen spins/bolts/stops dead/run backwards/threaten to rear (strong aversive stimulus)
5. I move away from corner to a work elsewhere (reinforcement to Carmen)
6. Carmen stops behaviour above (reinforcement to me)
You may recall that my initial rides on Carmen were fine and then gradually the spooking got worse and worse until we were only able to ride on the middle circle of the ring and that was even getting problematic.
I now see how we were engaged in a coercive pattern where we were both being reinforced for avoiding the corner. This has also creeped into other areas of training (like when things are difficult).
Clearly I didn't mean this to happen (who does? whatever the process is). And we have made huge gains towards this.
It has been a point of frustration to me that the spooking still pops up. Now I see why the behaviour has not been completely eliminated. Every now and then I reward Carmen (who then rewards me) for spooking at the corners.
Behavioural theory teaches us that an intermittent reinforcement schedule is the single best way to solidify a behaviour.
With understanding comes an ability to make a plan. Clearly we are not starting from scratch. But I need to be more proactive about this if I want it to go away.
So I've drafted a plan (I do love a plan) and we shall see how it goes.