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RPlus | RPlus positive reinforcement
Marlitt Wendt, Conny Ranz, Pferdsein, RPlus, R+, Clickertraining, clicker training, Clicker, Clickern, Positives Pferdetraining, Positive Verstärkung, Pferdeverhalten, Pferde-Ethologie, Pferdeethologie, Equine ethology, Native horses, Shaping, Target, Pferdetraining, empowered equestrians, Wildpferde, positive reinforcement, positive reinforcement training, Zirkuslektionen, Bodenarbeit, Freiheitsdressur, Freiarbeit, Wenn Pferde lächeln, Belohnung, Belohnungslernen
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A matter of mindset


You will not be able to avoid questioning your own mindset if you truly want to live according to the RPlus idea. RPlus means more than a synonym for clicker training in a narrow sense, and more than general training with positive reinforcement. From our point of view, true togetherness that delights all its participants can only happen if we become conscious of the learning behavior of humans and horses, their ways of communication, and the emotions that are involved in these processes. It is in the true sense of RPlus to question whether something requires focused trained first; and to ponder whether it might develop out of itself anyway if we lovingly admit time so that we and our horse can casually find our own way to develop. So to us, the RPlus mindset offers the freedom to not constantly see the urge to change the horse’s behavior as quickly as possible.

Example: Handing over treats


In order to illustrate how we differentiate between focused and casual training we can take a look at the topic of courtesy training. In general, an inexperienced clicker horse should understand as quickly as possible that after the click follows a treat, and that it should take the treat in a calm manner. Apart from that, it should be relaxed and focused on fulfilling a task we demand, and it should not become agitated or be disrespectful and start searching for more treats. In clicker training there are a couple of exercises dedicated to courtesy training; for example, the zero-position exercise, and the halter grip which both serve to establish the desired behavior rather quickly.

Now and then


We frequently are not aware that we are responsible for putting the horse in this complex learning situation in the first place. Initially, when I had to care for a new horse I used to walk around familiarizing it with all the places, with clicks, and with getting treats. Yet, I changed my behavior many years ago. To make myself clear, from my current point of view and in line with the RPlus mindset I would never bombard a horse in its first training session with so many different parts like “behavior, click, treat, handing over the treat in a calm manner, courtesy, and so on”. If a horse is entrusted to me, I first want to familiarize it with taking treats from my hand but without associating the treat with a specific action, and without announcing the treat with a click. In doing so, I casually bring “gifts” in the form of treats, attention, and affectionate touch to the horse that remains in its normal environment. This happens in a calm and self-evident, natural manner. I only take a further step, and include treats into training sessions in a narrower sense if the horse does not react with searching behavior, agitation, or makes a fuss.

Let it happen


Of course, we are learning and training all of the time because there is no moment in our lives in which we as living entities do not learn; our minds are always active, and respond to our actions and to external stimuli. Yet, there are differences: I can try to “make my horse aware of something”, I want to see it as an active participant, and I also get active in this process; or I can take my time so that a topic can grow and develop. The focused training approach always refers to a specific goal, a certain framework and conditions we specify in advance. This means that we give a lot of input and demand a lot of cognitive performance. To some extent this can be compared to teaching a toddler right from the start all there is about the topic “food” by giving a lecture that includes how to prepare meals, how to call the different tastes, how to name the according plant families, what manners to use at the table, which cutlery to use for a certain purpose, and so on. This would be a lengthy, cumbersome process that does not appear to be very suitable for children but would still lead us towards our goal. Or we can just spend our time together, and include many of the necessary contents by using positive everyday experiences, manners, and situational context to breathe authentic life into the learning process. In the end, RPlus means meeting your horse with love.

Marlitt Wendt & Conny Ranz

AUTHOR: Conny Ranz & Marlitt Wendt