Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Animal, Dairy, and Veterinary Sciences


Larry M. Slade


This thesis is compromised of three studies in which basic principles of operant conditioning were applied to horses. Autoshaping was examined as a method for horse training. Observational learning was investigated to confirm that naive horses can, in fact,

acquire novel behavior by observing experienced horses, and the rate of acquisition with observation is more rapid than spontaneous responding without observation. A third study examined the effect of discriminative stimulus intensity on the acquisition rate of novel behavior.

All subjects learned to use an operant conditioning device. Subjects in the first study autoshaped. Observational learning was also demonstrated to be a means by which horses can learn. The rate of learning was significantly improved through observation. Intensity of the discriminative stimulus affects the acquisition of novel behavior. The subject exposed to the higher intensity stimulus acquired sustained manipulandum pressing significantly faster than other subjects.

It was concluded that horses acquire behavior in much the same manner as other species.