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Meeting the sprinkler

9 May 2008

Today, the sprinkler was on in the inside arena and I turned Prince Elmelund loose in there with it. He found it exciting!

But soon he learned that the sprinkler and the hose were not going to attack him, so he was used to it quickly. 

This form of learning is called ”habituation”. Habituation is a form of learning where the horse is repeatedly confronted with a stimulus, and where his reaction on the stimulus will decrease. Rewarding or punishing is not part of this form of learning. Habituation is very efficient for an animal. It is important that a horse learns to adjust his behaviour to the surroundings and that he learns to ignore meaningless stimuli. If not, it would cost him too much energy to go through life, because every unnecessary reaction to a meaningless stimulus takes energy (production of adrenaline, heartbeat goes up, breathing goes up, etc.). Through habituation he learns that the stimulus is irrelevant and he unlearns his flight reaction.

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