Spaced training enhances equine learning performance.
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.
Holcomb, FR; Multhaup, KS; Erwin, SR; Daniels, SE
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