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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And what was Jennifer doing in the video? Something good or bad or just interesting?
What she was doing was comparable to the LP video previously posted on here; she was essentially "whipping" the lead so hard, the snap popped the horse. It was just a likening to the LP video since that got, shall we say, "snatched"? :P
If I might defend JG a bit, at least she didn't have a metal snap, she even mentioned that she did not use metal snaps, but used rope to rope contact, not that I'm defending her, I'm just saying that I felt she was using less aggression with it. Watching the video thru to the end, she spoke of the use of lower energy with that particular horse and later then mentioned the one calming signal she recognized, there were others she failed to recognize. The calming signals were why I put the video up to begin with, and I took it down because no one was focusing on that part of it...I'm just sayin'.
Ohh, I apparently didn't watch long enough! Apologies:)
Her name is not Jennifer, its Julie... :)
HAHAHA!! Must've been thinking about you.. But not like I think of her.. Sorry:)
she did totally relax more as the video went on Sarah you are so right... I noticed that too. you are right about we weren't focusing too.... :) I wasn't..... and I'm sorry for that...
can that video be posted again so we all can see what we are talking about? I don't want to start another rant about a trainer, but it's interresting, and important, to SEE bodylanguage in order to analyze it.
If anyone wants to share a video of their horse that would be great. Words are very limiting... ;)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UBGb7gkOHY
I don't know how to post the video to this site, not real good with computers. This is the YouTube site. I don't want to start a rant about a trainer either. I find JG's energy less aggressive than a lot, although I'm not real into the snapping of the lead thing.

Thanks Sarah for posting the link. I think this is a good clip to watch and analyze, and I embedded it here to make it easier to both comment and see. I will comment on the body language parts in a reply so that I can see the clip at the same time
There are several thongs in the clip that I would like to talk about. I want to focus on the signals from the horse and the persons without getting into the "right or wrong" aspect of the actual training.

We all have variations on how we would like the horse to behave; some wants a horse that is very passive and waits for the next command with a strict set of rules, others wants a more relaxed relationship. I think both ways works for the horse, the problem occurs when someone tries to mix the two, sometimes acting like a drill sergeant and other times like a cuddling buddy.

I think that the conflict between the two forms arise mostly with people that use what we call Natural Horsemanship, because people often seek out that training because they want a personal relationship with their horses, calling it "partnership", "friendship", or something to that effect, and at the same time the training is based on the idea that the dominant horse is the leader and that we have to act in a alpha/boss/military leader kind of way.

People are told that this is what the have to do in order for the horse to, not only respect them, but also to love them. Since the strict boss way of being around a horse goes against these persons ideas of a mutually good relationship and often against their personalities, it becomes difficult for both the horse and the human to find a balance.

This conflict causes frustration and a feeling of guilt I think. They feel guilty when they are as firm as they are told they have to be. They also feel guilty for being sweet with the horse (like not correcting, hand feeding, cuddling etc.)
This is why I think it's so important to learn about the language of the horse, how the interpret us, and what we need to notice in them.

If we really want a good relationship, we have to start focusing on the other side of the conversation, too, and not just what we are trying to say. I also think that trainers should be more aware of the owners wishes in how they want their horse to be. In the clip the owner seems uncomfortable with the very rigid rules of conduct for the horse, and if I am right about that she will not follow through with this training later, feeling like a bad trainer when she doesn't apply the rules, and like a bad friend to her horse when she does.

I managed to get totally off track here:)
I will add another posting later and write about the signals, I just need to do some other things first ;)
I think you're right on the money with the guilt thing. That realization hit me right between the eyes last week with Rip. I do not like being so strict with him, I want him to love me as a confident leader, not because I can 'whip' him into submission (right, like that would happen). I wondered if he sensed the guilt and maybe not understanding it as guilt (or maybe he did) thought of it as a lack of confidence, an uncertainty and that made him leery of thinking of me as a confident leader. I've been working very hard to rid myself of the guilt, replacing it with a true desire to go forward instead of looking back, once I did that things have really smoothed out for us. I agree with you assessment about the owner on the video, I see a lot in her body language that mirrors what I've seen in a previous video, the owner not really wanting to be as strict as directed...truthfully who could blame her, the horse seems very sweet and willing.

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