dancing horses

dancing horses

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Coercive Processes

I've been away for work attending a workshop on developing behavioural support plans for children with Autism. I love behaviour- it was my first area of study so many (many many) years ago. What I often see is how similar behavioural approaches are regardless of the species. I am not comparing children with neurodevelopment disorders to animals. I am saying that we are all animals and respond to behavioural principles.
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. 


17 comments:

  1. Plans are good. Have fun putting it into play!

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  2. It is so easy to get sucked into that vortex! It has really helped me to do ground-driving with Tesla - and to allow her to face her fear of arena traffic in a situation where I can be very firm (you must go forward!), and minimize the chances of me caving to her objections or rewarding the wrong behaviour :)

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    1. You are doing such a good job with her.

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  3. This reminds me so much of parenting. With my girls, I've found if I differ from their usual routine (say, bedtime) even just once or twice, then I've reinforced a new routine that I never intended to start. I have to be very intentional. Same goes for horses! You're always training.

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    1. Oh yes, it's very similar to parenting.

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  4. I hope you find a way to get the Andalusian brain working towards good instead of evil.

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    1. lol, it's a big job fixing the brain.

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  5. Makes sense to me. I can’t wait to hear the plan. When I can’t figure out a plan, or don’t want to do what it would take to implement the plan, I usually stop whatever it is I am doing and do something else until I find a plan or am able to do what needs to be done. I’ve seen that cycle you describe all too often, and it gets heavily ingrained. I had that scenario early on with Cowboy and water. Yes, he came to me with that issue, but we got into that vicious cycle and I ended up deeply ingraining it into him. We finally compromised. I think if someone else had gotten him, and they didn’t know what I already knew, they may have been able to get him further in that particular area. I’ll never know.

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    1. It's hard to know. But I take comfort that we do our best and sometimes wrong decisions are made even though we think they are right in the moment.

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  6. I'm SO glad someone else made that point regarding behavioral principles apply to all species! I've said something similar before (much less eloquently) and offended the crap out of a bunch of people so I keep my mouth shut now. I wasn't being rude or saying people should train their kids like dogs (which isn't offensive if you train the way I do....), but they took it completely the wrong way. I am SO out of my depth around non-animal lovers. That's why I love blogging because I get to communicate with like minded people. :D

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    1. People can definitely take things the wrong way!

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  7. plans are my favorite <3 also i love really digging into these types of ideas bc it helps me better understand what's actually happening with my horse, and why some things work and some things don't. esp bc sometimes i've taken exactly the wrong approach to some issues (like gate sourness!) when i thought my approach was good. it's a constant learning experience...

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  8. I LOVE this. And I can't wait to hear more!

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  9. LOVE this post. It reminds me a lot of my lessons with Anthony - very analytical.

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    1. I do love to analyze. I just have to be careful to over do it.

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