Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


35th Annual Convention; Phoenix, AZ; 2009

Event Details

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Symposium #375
The Facilitating Role of Science in the Prediction and Management Horse Behavior
Monday, May 25, 2009
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
North 131 BC
Area: TPC/EAB; Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
Chair: Lauren Zverina (University of Illinois)
Discussant: Robin L Foster (University of Puget Sound)
Abstract: Both as companion and service animals, stabled domestic horses are extensively managed animals that very often live under conditions that do not compliment their evolved behavioral predispositions. In addition, horses are prey animals and react with escape responses in the face of unexpected or highly salient stimuli. Because of their size, horses are also able to do great harm to their handlers, their environment and themselves. Consequently, the effective management, prediction and modification of horse behavior has been a concern for centuries. The presentations included in this symposium offer a window into the benefits of the systematic application of science and behavior analysis, both in experimental assessment of behavioral tendencies and learning abilities and in applied behavior change strategies, to the effective management of horses in captivity. The first talk discusses the effects of differential outcome on stimulus association and class formation, the second evaluates the differential contributions of a horse’s health, training, and temperament to owner satisfaction and management practices, and the third provides an example of the application of basic experimental data to the applied management of horse behavior.
Class-specific Differential Outcome and its Effects on Conditional Discrimination in Horses
JENNIFER L. SOBIE (University of Illinois)
Abstract: A two-choice visual matching-to-sample (MTS) apparatus was used to evaluate the effects of differential outcome (DOE) on conditional discrimination and class formation in domestic horses. Studies in children and other animals have demonstrated that conditional discrimination training using class-specific reinforcers can produce equivalence classes that include the reinforcing stimuli. A previous by our group employing the same protocol used here indicated that DOE—as defined by carrot bits versus apple bits—facilitated differential class formation, but controls were not in place to evaluate the contribution of DOE to performance. This study contrasts acquisition and performance between training with DOE and training without. Data collection is in progress. The presentation will include discussion of the study protocol and its limitations, the benefits and implications of the functional effects of the differential outcome phenomenon and the potential application of these findings to effective horse behavior management both in hand and under saddle.
Horse Temperament and Owner Satisfaction
ROBIN L FOSTER (University of Puget Sound)
Abstract: Many horses are kept as companion animals, thus relationship quality is an important dimension of contemporary equine-human interactions. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the extent to which a horse’s health, training, and temperament predict an owner’s relationship satisfaction with the horse. More than 20 horse owners completed a questionnaire packet that included the following: (1) questions about the horse’s living conditions, health, and training history; (2) two published equine personality scales (Momozawa, et al., 2005; Lloyd, et al., 2007); (3) a relationship satisfaction scale; and (4) the extended version of the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (Spence, et al., 1979), which assessed the owner’s expressive (e.g., warm, gentle, emotional) and instrumental (e.g., competitive, confident, superior) personality traits. Equine temperament and trainability were also behaviorally evaluated in 45-minute observation sessions, during which the horses’ responses to novel stimuli and to clicker training were videotaped for later analysis. We predicted that in addition to health and training history, some dimensions of equine temperament would influence owner satisfaction, and that owner personality would moderate the relationship between equine temperament and satisfaction.
The Effects of Marking Choice Responses on Acquisition of a Two-choice Spatial Discrimination in Horses
JENNIFER L. SOBIE (University of Illinois)
Abstract: Two-choice spatial discrimination has been found to be enhanced in rats by presentation of neutral stimuli at choice points (Lieberman, McIntosh & Thomas, 1979; Thomas, Lieberman, McIntosh & Ronaldson, 1983). These neutral stimuli, referred to as “markers,” were presented both for correct and incorrect choices, and therefore were not paired or differentially correlated with reinforcement. Markers significantly improved performance in delayed reinforcement procedures, functioning both as a marking and a bridging stimulus. This study seeks to extend these findings and/or evaluate the marking effect in domestic horses. It has been found that some salient stimuli interfere with learning regarding contemporaneous events, and therefore included in the evaluation is the potential differential effect of salience and modality of the marking stimulus on behavior. Findings will be discussed relative to the effect of marking behavior on behavioral expression in applied settings, and discussion will include data collected on the effects of marking in behavior reduction treatment in applied settings with horses.



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