Spaced training enhances equine learning performance.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

This field experiment examined whether the well-documented benefit of spaced over massed training for humans and other animals generalizes to horses. Twenty-nine randomly selected horses (Equus ferus caballus) repeatedly encountered a novel obstacle-crossing task while under saddle. Horses were randomly assigned to the spaced-training condition (2 min work, 2 min rest, 2 min work, 2 min rest) or the massed-training condition (4 min work, 4 min rest). Total training time per session and total rest per session were held constant. Days between sessions (M = 3) were held as consistent as possible given the constraints of conducting research on a working ranch and safety-threatening weather conditions. During each training session, the same hypothesis-naïve rider shaped horses to cross a novel obstacle. Fifteen of 16 horses in the spaced-training condition reached performance criterion (94% success) while only 5 of 13 horses in the massed-training condition reached performance criterion (39% success). Horses in the spaced-training condition also initiated their first obstacle-crossing faster than horses in the massed-training condition and were faster at completing eight crossings than horses in the massed-training condition. Overall, task acquisition was higher for horses undergoing spaced training despite both groups experiencing the same total work and rest time per session. These findings generalize the learning-performance benefit observed in human spaced practice to horses and offer applied benefit to equine training.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Holcomb, FR; Multhaup, KS; Erwin, SR; Daniels, SE

Published Date

  • December 3, 2021

Published In

PubMed ID

  • 34860336

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1435-9456

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1435-9448

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s10071-021-01580-7


  • eng