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The Science Behind The Work

It's not just all fun and games! It's also about the science behind the fun and games! Here we have compiled a multitude of studies and scientific journals that support the EquiSpeak™ method of teaching horses.

It's not just an opinion, it's not just a fad. Positive reinforcement training is a scientifically supported movement towards a brighter future for the horse world!


Paying the Wait

October 25, 2020

Here is a link to a great podcast by the famous Ken Ramirez on end of session and paying for the wait. Enjoy!

But We Don’t Give Our Kids a Cookie Every Time they Tie Their Shoes!

January 01, 2020

A great article from a great trainer on how to answer those folks that give you this argument about clicker training. Same applies to horses. Enjoy.

January 01, 2020

How round-pen, lunging, and high-speed liberty work may compromise horse welfare

Learned Helplessness

February 16, 2018

David Stang, April 19, 2017

"Some horses who struggle with the task of avoiding unavoidable discomfort learn to give up and become mindlessly compliant, apathetic, dull and listless. Yank hard on the bit, and they won’t turn and bite you. They’ll just suffer. Kick them hard, and they won’t buck. They’ll just suffer. A horse who believes it has no control over painful stuff may give up trying to avoid the pain. It willingly does whatever nonsense their rider asks of them. It seems to tolerate everything without excitement. This condition is called learned helplessness. We have created a lesson horse. I have met many dull horses who seem to have no life left in them. I do not like those who made him this way. I do not want such a horse. Seeing them breaks my heart."

Acts of punishment are stronger than rewards (and the repercussions)

August 25, 2014

 Jennifer Cattet Ph.D

"With the animal brain wired to give particular attention to negative experiences, it is essential to understand how much this phenomenon impacts our pet’s behavior. Helping them feel safe, develop coping skills and positive associations with their environment, is a prerequisite to their wellbeing. They will endure discomfort, fear and pain no matter how careful we are. Although we don’t need to become helicopter guardians, using an aversive, should always be of last resort when working with animals and more generally, when relating to others."

If You Give a Horse a Cookie...

October 03, 2010

By Mary Hunter, Study by Dr. Hockenhull and Dr. Creighton

"The researchers also investigated the relationship between clicker training and the five behaviors listed above. Eleven percent of respondents used clicker training occasionally and 3% used it often. Interestingly, they found no relationship between clicker training and any of the five food searching behaviors."

Scientists Study Horse, Human Heart Coupling

November 02, 2017

By Christa, Lesté-Lasserre, MA

These horses just learned to communicate with humans

September 26, 2016

By Melissa Breyer


"What may be the most heartening aspect of all, however, is that once the horses understood they could express themselves, they seem to have loved it! "When horses realized that they were able to communicate with the trainers, i.e. to signal their wishes regarding blanketing, many became very eager in the training or testing situation," the researchers write. "Some even tried to attract the attention of the trainers prior to the test situation, by vocalizing and running towards the trainers, and follow their movements."

Is a Clicker Necessary?

April 28, 2017

By Ken Ramirez


"So, back to my original question, is a clicker necessary? While it may not be necessary for learning to occur, a clicker is an excellent tool that, when used properly, can facilitate better training. Animals can and do learn without deliberate human-created markers; a marker may not be needed when reinforcement can be delivered immediately. Below are some general guidelines and thoughts about marker signals that I have shared in response to the many recent questions I have received."

Dominance and Leadership: Useful Concepts in Human–Horse Interactions?

May 01, 2016

By Elke Hartmann, Janne W. Christensen and Paul D. McGreevy​


"This article reviews the empirical data on social dynamics in horses, focusing on dominance and leadership theories and the merits of incorporating those concepts into the human–horse context. This will provide a constructive framework for informed debate and valuable guidance for owners managing group-kept horses and for optimizing human–horse interactions."

Perspectives on assessing the emotional behavior of animals with behavior problem

August 01, 2017

By Daniel S. Mills, PhD


"The field of clinical animal behavior has a growing scientific basis, with three main paradigms having different perspectives on the assessment of animal emotion. The Behavioral approach, grounded in classical behaviorism, makes little reference to emotion in assessment, despite covert recognition of its importance. The Medical approach, drawing on human psychiatric approaches, emphasizes the importance of physical evidence (behavior descriptions and physiological parameters) for validation of diagnoses centred on abnormality and disorder."

Neurons never quite recover from ‘Pavlov’s bell’

March 23, 2017

By Taylor Kubota-Stanford​


"Using Pavlov’s dogs as an analogy, this would mean that, as the dogs learned to associate the bell with the food, the neural network activation in their amygdalas would look similar whether they were presented with food or just heard the bell. The findings also reveal that the neurons never returned to their original state, even after the training was undone. Although this was not the main focus of the study, the results could have wide-ranging implications for studying emotional memory disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)."

The Dopamine Prediction Error: Contributions to Associative Models of Reward Learning

February 22, 2017

By Nasser HM, Calu DJ, Schoenbaum G, Sharpe MJ

"Phasic activity of midbrain dopamine neurons is currently thought to encapsulate the prediction-error signal described in Sutton and Barto’s (1981) model-free reinforcement learning algorithm. This phasic signal is thought to contain information about the quantitative value of reward, which transfers to the reward-predictive cue after learning. This is argued to endow the reward-predictive cue with the value inherent in the reward, motivating behavior toward cues signaling the presence of reward. Yet theoretical and empirical research has implicated prediction-error signaling in learning that extends far beyond a transfer of quantitative value to a reward-predictive cue. Here, we review the research which demonstrates the complexity of how dopaminergic prediction errors facilitate learning."

The Science of Emotions

November 09, 2013

By Jaak Panksepp PhD

"Given an inherent subjective nature, emotions have long been a nearly impenetrable topic for scientific research. Affective neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp explains a modern approach to emotions, and how taking seriously the emotions of other animals might soon improve the lives of millions."

An Introduction to Emotional Bids and Trust

August 31, 2012

By Ellie Lisitsa

"Every time you turn towards your partner’s bids for emotional connection, you are making a deposit in what Dr. Gottman calls your Emotional Bank Account. You add value to your account when you create and build on positive moments between yourself and your partner. These little moments add up, reminding the two of you of the feelings you have for one another, and of your commitment to supporting each other through all of the experiences you share."

Amygdala: the Neurophysiology of Clicker Training

August 01, 2001

By Karen Pryor

"We clicker trainers see similar patterns of very rapid learning, long retention, and emotional surges, albeit positive emotions rather than fear. Barbara and I hypothesize that the clicker is a conditioned 'joy' stimulus that is acquired and recognized through those same primitive pathways, which would help explain why it is so very different from, say, a human word, in its effect."

The Power of Overlearning

February 28, 2017

By Victoria Sayo Turner

"When you want to learn something new, you practice. Once you get the hang of it, you can hopefully do what you learned—whether it’s parallel parking or standing backflips—on the next day, and the next. If not, you fall back to stage one and practice some more."

Emancipated Behavior

January 03, 2017

By Terry Golson

Trailer-loading of horses: Is there a difference between positive and negative reinforcement concerning effectiveness and stress-related signs?

December 28, 2016

By Payana Hendriksen, Katrine Elmgreen, Jan Ladewig

"In conclusion, the PR (positively reinforced) group provided the fastest training solution and expressed less stress response. Thus, the PR procedure could provide a preferable training solution when training horses in potentially stressing situations."

The Science Behind 'Licking and Chewing' in Horses

October 05, 2016

By Sue McDonnell, PhD, Certified AAB

Horses: Behaviour, Cognition and Welfare

September 01, 2009

By Pickett, H.

Latent Learning: The Original Definition

December 19, 2016

By Eileen Anderson

Food More Effective Reward Than Scratching Withers in Training Horses

December 28, 2016

By International Society for Equitation Science

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