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Principles of Learning Theory in Equitation

A.N. McLean, P.D. McGreevy, J.W. Christensen

The following 10 training principles are presented as ‘First Principles for all horse training interactions. As first Principles, these stand as non-negotiable obligations for trainers to maintain optimal welfare in trained horses as well as optimal training efficiency.

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Training Principle 1

Take into account the horse’s ethology and cognition

Training Principle 2

Use learning theory appropriately

Training Principle 3

Train easy-to-discriminate cues

Training Principle 4

Shape responses and movements

Training Principle 5

Elicit responses one-at-a-time

Training Principle 6

Train only one response per signal

Training Principle 7

Form consistent habits

Training Principle 8

Train persistence of responses (self-carriage)

Training Principle 9

Avoid and dissociate flight responses

Training Principle 10

Demonstrate minimum levels of arousal sufficient for training

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