15. Science Camp – Don’t Fight Extinction! – Jesús Rosales-Ruiz

The feature photo shows Caeli working with Michaela’s horse Asfaloth at the Science Camp last year.

Maybe you can see some of what’s written in the photo below.  This presentation did my head in!    I really needed a Superman  t-shirt like Jesús!   I’ve thought long and hard about this post.  My note taking  could have been better!  I remember being desperate for coffee – but not wanting to miss anything!  That affected my focus.  If others who attended want to add/correct anything in this post – I invite you to do so!


First – what is extinction – or an extinction process?   I’m going to explain this in my simplest of terms – how I understand it.  In terms of horse training – here is an example.   I normally click and treat Danny when he arrives on the mat.  But what if I now want more?  I want him to arrive at the mat – then take a step backwards.  So I withhold the click.  I haven’t explained to him the next step.  An extinction process is when he may try other things.  First he may try other behaviours he has learnt – such as head lowering – or lifting a leg etc. – then  he may paw the mat – he may mug me – or pin his ears back – or walk away.  I have given him a guessing game where he has run out of ideas.  He may regress to behaviours he has learnt long ago – biting, kicking – or walking away.

I went through an extinction process myself last night.  I’m setting up another WordPress site – and I cannot get logos, photos or colours to show.  So what did I do?  I tried about five other themes on offer, none worked… Then I installed the app on my computer – it didn’t work…  I complained loudly while Doug was trying to watch TV, wandered the house, had a drink, sat down again – and thought perhaps it would have fixed itself…. no….

I then looked up ‘troubleshooting’ and found forums discussing so many WordPress issues that I was overwhelmed.  I  swapped  back to my Horse Magic site – all okay.  I then found new problems on the new site!!!  I gave up in disgust and went to bed – almost sulking!!!!  This morning I tried again…. no it didn’t miraculously fix itself overnight!!!   I tried it on my tablet – same problems.  I’ve turned the computer off – then on again!!!    So I’ve walked away from it for now….  I am in an extinction process – I have regressed to behaviours that have helped in the past.  I’m not enjoying this puzzle solving.  Why?  Because the puzzle is way too complex.  I don’t really have any good clues at present.  My next step is to enlist Doug’s help.   So I shut down last night….. I’m back to this blog where I’ve never had major problems…

Does that explain the extinction process?  I hope so…

When I saw the title of this talk, I wondered what we were going to hear. ‘Don’t Fight Extinction’.  What did that mean?

Jesús started by telling us that it is much more complex than we thought….. and I already thought behaviour analysis was quite complex!  He went on – “If you control your conditions, you will find order”.  Okay….  So what does that mean?

Well, I’m thinking about when I do the hoof grinding on the Magnum’s right hind – which he can no longer lift.   We have a ritual.  First I turn on the grinder away from him.  After the noise he gets a treat.  Then I walk across to the big mat I use.  He gets clicked for having his right hind on the mat.  Then I turn the grinder on and start working away.  The conditions need to be right for this.  It is too dangerous to be careless.

I’ve noticed during this process that both Danny and Saadi – who are nearby – tend to  watch.  There seems to be a sense of excitement with the whole process.    So we have created a ritual.

magnum grinder2

Jesús went on to say this:


He talked about the stimulus/ response connection.  How the A-B-C’s are usually talked about in separate terms – that is antecedent – behaviour – consequence… but they are all linked and influencing each other.

He gave some examples –   A drug addict will inject ‘something’-  even if drugs aren’t available – they will use something else – the ritual is as important as the reinforcer. In fact, as a nurse, my daughter has experienced this many times – when they end up in hospital because the ‘something’ they have injected has created a major emergency.

Another example – a dog on a plane flight may normally be drugged – but when not drugged it still staggered because of the influence of the environment.

Memory is recorded in the environment.



Jesús gave four training rules –

Training Rule 1 – Behaviour is never spontaneous!

There is always an antecedent.  The chain can begin way back and the worst place to correct is when it happens – you need to go back to the beginning – and create a clean loop.  What is a clean loop?  Well, if you go back to this post – you can read about it!  Part 128 – Ducati and the Cone Circle – Loopy Training

Here is a slide from the talk…


I recently had a good example of behaviour being evoked by both someone else’s behaviour and a change in the physical environment.

My farrier comes every six weeks.  The horses look forward to his visits and hang around after they have had their turn. He is always quiet and calm with the horses.   On this particular occasion, the farrier turned up in a different car – not his work car..  We started talking about what had happened.  He was telling me the story of a minor car accident and the terrible repair place and his frustrations – he should have had his work vehicle back, but they were messing him around – he was louder than normal as he told the story – and frustrated….  His arms were waving about to describe what had happened.

I went to put a halter on Saadi – his eyes were wide and he didn’t want his halter on.  I had to coax him.  He was nervous during the trimming – and when I put him back in the stable, he continued to watch the farrier with a worried look…

However, last time everything was back to normal – the car and the farrier – the frustration was over!  Saadi was back to his usual self!  So the behaviour I saw was a change in the environment – the different car – and in the behaviour of the farrier.

Training Rule 2 – Behaviour is specific to an environment… so…



An example –  if my horse is most comfortable to learn in his stable – or near his friends – start there…..  My training with Magnum really took off when we had a sheltered area – away from noises and wind coming from the south – he wasn’t distracted by smells – or by noises.  It allowed him to stay calm and focus on the puzzle!

Training Rule Number 3 –  To Change Behaviour, Change the Environment


An example – I cannot get Danny to back more than several steps  in his regular spot – because in the past we have always turned to head to a mat…. so teach the extended backing in a different place.

Training Rule 4 – Begin and Continue with Clean Training Loops

Aim for perfect behaviour from the beginning – and begin with a training loop the learner can do successfully.

Then keep changing the environment while maintaining a clean loop.

Once again I’m reminded of the cone circle with Ducati.  I started with the tiniest circle – and then increased the size – here is the video.  Of course, I see in this video that my  food delivery is sloppy  – the loop could be cleaner … but it gives you an idea…

Jesús added – choose very carefully the beginning step – and train one thing at a time…

Now… there was much more to this talk – but the above gives you an outline… but I have just seen more in my notes that I should add – this table.

Annotation 2020-02-02 125211


Jesús added – If we are correcting behaviours – we are normally correcting in the wrong environment.  This is why learning takes so long – we are training under the wrong conditions.  We need to think stimulus/response connection.

The moment he said that – it hit me that Magnum had taught me this long ago.  When we first started clicker training, Magnum would snatch the treats – he was always ready to run – he wasn’t relaxed… I needed to find a way to change that.  His environment was causing him to be anxious – that was because I was in it!  I had to change myself!  So I started talking to him in a gentler voice – I stopped clicking – I said a gentle ‘good’ and I reinforced for the smallest sign of relaxation – plus I walked away after one response.

I will include this article https://spring2019.iaabcjournal.org/magnums-story/  where I have written in more detail about how Magnum taught me!

There was much more to this talk – but it gives you an idea.  I hear that this year’s Science Camp is booked out – I won’t be attending – but no doubt more great discussions and learning will be had!



2 thoughts on “15. Science Camp – Don’t Fight Extinction! – Jesús Rosales-Ruiz

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s