In the video "Linda Parelli shows how to effectivly hit with the snap" I commented on the horses use of what I call "calming signals". Since there were some interesst in what I wrote I thougth we could talk about it in this forum thread.

I wrote (so I don't have to repeat myself):

Cartoonracher wrote: "When the young woman is trying to back her horse away (under the big tree), he's obviously confused and "over" the whole lesson. He's tuning her out because nothing he's done has been rewarded. It's nothing but non-stop horse-irritating."

I reacted especially to that scene, too. At first the girl is trying to back the horse when he is in front of the tree. Horses don't have good depth perception, especially backwards, so it seems he is asked to back into the tree, something he feels he can't.

After this the horse is seemingly tuning her out, something Linda claims is disrespectful. The sad thing about it is that the horse is NOT tuning her out, the horse is communicating with horse body language that he is not wanting any conflict. I talk about this in my body language clinics a lot, because not many people seems to be aware of the horses
"calming signals".


Horses use these signals when they feel pressured and wants to let the person understand that they perceive them as agitated/aggressive, but that the person can calm down, because they do not pose any threat to them.

Some of the comments here has been about the horse arching away and trying to turn away from the people. What the horse is trying to do is to signal that he's NOT a threat, and by that it's trying to get the person to not be so aggressive. This is the very opposite of disrespect!

The worst thing about the horses calming signals is that it provokes people. People feel ignored and that is for a human a big provocation. Especially when they have been taught that this is a disrespectful sign from the horse! It's a bit off topic here, but I mention it because it's part of the problem with the clip; not only is she using a horrible technique, she is also gravely misreading the horse!

Even a mild correction would have been wrong when the horse is signaling "lets just have peace - I don't wish to fight with you"… if a horse gives you that message and you correct it you are basically telling it "I don't want peace - and I do want to have a fight".

Like I said, it's off topic, but if someone wants me to explain more about these signals I can, we could always make a separate discussion about it.


The horses calming signals is something I haven't written about before although I talk about this in my clinics. There are a couple of reasons for that: one, I don't know how to begin writing about it - in a clinic it comes naturally when a horse displays the signals - and also because I don't know how much people knows about this already. In Scandinavia, where I live and teach, I know that my students says that this is news to them, but for all I know this is common knowledge in Canada :)

Another big reason is that what I am talking about goes against what most trainers believe in, and rocks the foundation of what many people consider natural horsemanship. I think...
Last, but not least; it is a big topic... so to write about it is a big task, but I will do so if I see that people truly are interessted in what I am talking about :)

That is why I want this to be in a discussion form, to get a grasp of what you know about this already, and also to be able to show some video clips to show you what I am talking about.

To not make this text too long I think it's a good idea if I write seperate posts about the different signals. That way I can add on information as I see what people have questions about :)

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Exactly.
Thanks for the encouragement. Sometimes I just need to be reminded. I never expected this to take this long (^6.5 yrs.) but I never thought it would be easy. Well really there is nothing hard about it cause I've enjoyed every stage. When it's hard is when I start blaiming myself and thinking there is something I am doing wrong. I doubt we are the slowest learners and I'm sure we aren't the fastest learners. We'll get it when we get it. I think I'll look into some homeopathic remedies to see if he needs something to help him be calmer....he did not used to spook as easily as he does now.. I'll have the kinesiologist check him out. It's a good idea to have her in periodically anyway just to make sure there's nothing creeping up on us.
6.5 years means he's just about in 4th grade if you ask me... :) not graduating with a masters yet.....
I reposted the clip here to make it easier to follow the comments (under the clip). I don't get into what the trainer is saying in the clip, it's often better to analyse movements in a clip like this without the sound on. I just want to point out all the little reactions the horse is showing.


With this clip I want to point out how the horse asks questions and what happens when we miss them, and worse yet, correct them.

0:12. In the very beginning the horse leans forwards and looks at the trainer. That is a question from the horse "can I come to you and say hello?". The horse is being very polite and friendly.

Horses reveal what their intentions are, and in this case the movement of the horse is slow, she doesn't just start walking, she leans forwards first. That is the question. The trainer can answer in three ways:

She could say "yes, please come here, i would like to say hello, too" 
(and I think that would have been a nice response). 
To give that answer the trainer just moves back a hair and stretches out a hand. Moving away from the horse draws it too you.

She could say "no, I want you to stay there". (that would be OK, too). 
To give that answer the trainer just moves, or even just leans forwards towards the horse. Moving towards the horse pushes it away from you. 
For this response to work it has to be given immediately after the question from the horse, once the horse has moved the feet, the horse thinks the answer is given already.

She could do nothing, neither move away or towards. 
In that case the horse will interpret is as a "go ahead" but not a direct invitation, so it usually comes with a little hesitant step. This is the most common response from people since most people miss the question from the horse in the first place...

Our problem is that these questions are very fast, the time between the horses question and them thinking we have responded, is often a fraction of a second. If a horse makes an "unauthorised move" the odds are pretty high that we simply missed the question. That will happen, but it's not a problem unless you correct the horse for your mistake. If you correct the horse for coming to you after you told it yes (it doesn't matter if you didn't know it, that is still your response) the horse will end up with ...

Insecurity - you can't be trusted when you say yes.
Confusion - when do you mean what you say and when do you not mean it.
Eventually it stops asking the question all together, it stops wanting to come to you, and that is the saddest consequence of all in a way. For both.


In the clip the trainer misses the question and therefore gives the third response. The horse takes a careful step forwards, it got the go-ahead, but not the invitation. The trainer corrects it for "taking an unauthorised step" which is not really true; she really had said yes to the horse. The horse is corrected rather harshly considering it really didn't do anything wrong. The trainer could have stopped the horse with a small gesture at that point since the horse wasn't really sure that she wanted her to come over.

The horse didn't understand the correction, in her mind she did as told, and gets insecure. You can see the ears hanging out to the sides, and she starts looking away a bit. When the trainer makes a gesture (not directing it at the horse, but during her talk with the owner) the horse flinches and throws the head up a little like she is waiting for the rope swing again.

It's hard to see the connection between the trainers movements and the horses response in the next few frames because of the camera angle, but then there is a moment that shows something interesting.

1:00. Around the minute mark the trainer steps towards the horse and it steps back. Then the trainer steps back again. Notice how the horse moves her weight forwards when the trainer steps back, and again she asks a question "Do you want me to step forwards?" watch her intense focus on the trainer at that point: she is trying to read the trainers body language and find out what she wants. The horse has not figured out that she is supposed to stand still yet, she is still looking for cues from the trainer, and they are hard to figure out since the trainer is mostly focusing on the owner and not the horse and she is gesturing with her hands while she talks, making it hard to figure out if that is a signal for the horse to move or not.

The tension in the horse can be seen especially in her breath, pay attention to her nose and underbelly, she is taking fast and swallow breaths like she's been running. She blinks a lot too. After a while she starts to think that the gesturing is not related to her, the trainers focus is still on the owner, and the trainer seems a little more relaxed in her posture, so the horse starts thinking about making a calming signal...

1:49. The horse starts thinking about turning, but moves back and watches the trainer again, the trainer makes some new gestures (looking at her feet a couple of times) and the horse is watching closely. She then very carefully starts turning, fully showing her intentions to turn around, and the trainer gives no response (in other words telling the horse to go ahead) and then the horse starts moving, thinking it is OK. Again the correction comes as a surprise to the horse...

The horse still hasn't understood the concept "stand there", but understands that the trainer IS paying attention to her even though she is talking to the owner, and again the horse is trying to figure out the movements of the trainer. The slightest shift of weight back by the trainer gets the horse to think about coming forwards, and the slightest shift forwards gets the horse to think about backing. Those cues and naturally understood, so this "stand there" command could have been easily explained to the horse using those signals. The rope shaking is on the other-hand NOT understood naturally and is certainly NOT something a horse would do to communicate with another horse.

Horses reacts to movements, the concept of just standing there when someone apparently isn't talking to them isn't something they understand easily. The punishment is telling the horse it's in trouble, but isn't showing the horse what she is SUPPOSED to do. A pretty bad job description...

I have some issues with what the trainer is saying in the video, but that's not relevant to the body language in the clip. It's too long to comment on the whole thing at once, but notice the horses reaction when the owner just has taken the lead-rope and the trainer stands close to the horse and makes a gesture. The horse jerks her head up, thinking it will get the rope correction again. The horse will eventually figure out that she is supposed to stand still, but in the meantime THAT is the lesson the horse has learned here...
I really appreciate you addressing the horse's signals and the lack of understanding those signals in this video. I caught a few of them the first time I watched it, but by far didn't catch all of them and even the ones I caught I wasn't sure I was interrupting them correctly. I've since watched the video several times and while I saw more of the signals every time, I still didn't see all of them because I was watching the trainer more than the horse, good idea about turning off the sound. This time around, as you walked me thru, I was able to see the correlation between what the trainer was doing, the horse and the signals given by the horse became very clear. I also watched the horse when the owner took the lead, I agree with one of your previous statements about the owner's body language, I doubt that she will continue along this vein of training, simply because it's just too strict and not for her and her horse...I'm not even a little bit saying that will be a bad thing. As you've said to me, it's best to do what feels right for her/me and her/my horse.
Hi Ellen... someone put this video up while you were away...... and then took it down again because I commented that I couldn't watch it.... I think it was Sarah..... I'm so glad that it's back!! that way she can learn from you what she was asking.... this lady, in my view, was almost as awful as the last one and these people are pros....

my comment the last time I watched it was that not only was she not watching the horses signals but she was actually provoking her to lift her head each time she stepped back which is technically an agressive response to an aggressive answer, no? :) I learned from my trainer that I asked Oliver to come in but then got mad at him for doing so.... when I was just getting to know him, and that was fear...... now when he comes into me I learned to keep my feet still and let him come and say hi.... usually this initiates him nibbling on me which I do not like... so I combated that by putting my hands up over his nose so he can smell them, then he licks and chews and then he walks with me.... do you think that is an okay response to the HELLO? I certainly would be very sad if he quit coming up to me... since he is all over me from the get go... :) I also quit taking him personally or thinking that he is disrespectful... he is a horse looking for direction... so whenever he does something irritating I just ask him to focus and go back to following me.... I don't know what else to do with him at this point but at least we aren't fighting that yin yang of you asked me to come in and now you are getting mad at me... I figured out what to do with him when he comes over to say hi now... :
[URL=http://s466.photobucket.com/albums/rr26/jenniferlamm/?action=view&current=022.mp4][IMG]http://i466.photobucket.com/albums/rr26/jenniferlamm/th_022.jpg[/IMG][/URL]

you asked me for the URL of my video and here it is..... to answer some other peoples questions too at the same time, I worked with him and worked with him to "get his eyes" which now has gotten us to me practicing pulling him away from things he was distracted by, to trusting me that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, and now this sweet horse will come to me whenever I call him... i walk towards his tail to get his head..... which is another huge topic we can talk about later...... this was a few months ago when I would get him but he would get a little too close and I am admitting I would get fearful and stupid and push him away.... ... now instead of him getting in trouble for nibbling on me which I was probably over asking him to come over, I started reminding him sooner that he can come to about 2 feet away...... but these things take time so for anyone that is learning this, realize, that it can take awhile to get all your signals right... I have a lot of videos of myself and my horses just for this purpose of learning and showing, so I hope this one loads for you Ellen... Jen, Toby and Oliver

I just did this video here so people can see what a nice horse he is in coming when called and then what mistakes I made in our communication, but also what good things happened...
the url of this video becomes a photo not a video.. I'm sorry Ellen, I'm not sure you'll be able to see it...
seems like a nice horse:) It's hard to give feedback on the communication when you are filming yourself though. Do you have a clip where someone is filming the two of you?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYly1YUbVc0


enjoy laughing at me you guys and please be kind... I am in a constant state of experiment and trying things... here I'm trying catching him from behind and also seeing if I can get him to trot... what do I think about Oliver? That he is trying so hard to be patient and he's probably saying, oh me oh my she is such a wierdo...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5Fys3ymOAY

here is one from 2 months earlier.. it was Olivers birthday.. my trainer had been away and I had worked with Oliver on building our trust with one another and this was a demo we did for him.... also, next step, since I've worked with him at Liberty for so long and he is so jerky on the lead rope is haltering..... he used to grab the whole thing out of my hand and run off.....

to the other viewers... this might be a "why is she doing that?" kind of a thing... but I'm interested in liberty work and also in riding bareback and this was a horse that would not move his feet before..... isn't he trying so hard???? Our timing and communication and energy is getting better... I'm more nervous here than 2 months later.
That is so awesome! There is definitely lots of love there.. I get the feel of there being tons of understanding and curiousity there.. I don't know much, but I do know that was so cool to watch..:)

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