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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You did not offend me at all but JG did....... :) I'm sorry you took it down.. I just couldn't watch it cuz she was irritating me... the horse seems super sweet.. and I could be crazy as a loon so you don't have to take down your participating video unless you want to Sarah.. I thought it was a good point of further discussing what we were discussing.. I just read her body language as rude and offensive..
Already down and I've learned my lesson. I agree with you that the horse is super sweet and trying, IMO, to tell JG that it's not wanting to be anything but cooperative. JG even made mention at one point how sweet the horse was, and when the horse lowered it's head, that the horse was lowering it's head was a sign of submission, I thought it rather strange that she did not recognize the other calming signals...but then she's human and we humans are far from perfect when it comes to reading horses and understanding their language. She also went on to say that high energy isn't something that needs to be sustained, often not needed at all when a horse is as willing as the horse in the video. I didn't see anything rude or offensive, especially when compared with the LP video. But then again that's just my take/opinion and we all have differing opinions. I'm not saying I'm going to follow JG straight down the line, I don't follow any trainer straight down the line, I take what is, IMO, good and right for me and my horses, and discard the rest...you know what I mean, the stuff that just doesn't ring true or seem right for me and my horses. So, again, while we have differing opinions on the particular video, and again I only shared it because of the calming signals, I felt good about recognizing them and should have kept that to myself...I think we are, in general, on the same page.
sometimes I need to give people as much benefit of the doubt as I do the horse but that is my downfall in life... :) my trainer tells me that us humans missing horses signals is the biggest problem of all... so you are right to try and see the signals and I keep looking for them too..... and thankfully for the horses we care... :)
While I do think humans should strive to read horses, and obviously horses are reading us, I am intrigued by the approach of people like Klaus Hempfling. If I understand him correctly, he is saying that none of us or few of us can read and speak body language consciously. It requires that we have a certain attitude in order to authentically transmit our body language. And then the horse can read us, trust us , and work with us. It requires a fine balance of assertiveness and humble gentleness to allow the horse to not feel threatened, and not trigger that predator/prey reaction. Then the horse can begin to work with us. Especially horses that have been badly treated ever in their past have to be approached carefully so as to build that trust and not violate it. Horses with a non violent experience with humans can be more forgiving and perhaps understand that generally humans won't hurt them, but still relate better if we can authentically behave in an assertive and non aggressive manner. People who pretend to be a horses friend and leader, then violate that with aggressive intentions don't fool a horse. That's why Catwalk was not going to cooperative with PP regardless of what kind of tricks and force he used. Humans will always be outclassed by horses in reading this intention, then humans are tempted to resort to force to look like they have the power to train the horse. How would any human feel if they had been tied up in that way, publicly humiliated, and then forced to do anything? They might submit, but what have you accomplished and what damage was done in the process? I am not saying this video of JG even remotely approaches that level of force or body language disconnect with the horse.
I have two of Hempfling's books, and am waiting for his newest one to arrive. His approach really intrigues me too! His "hands off" approach appeals to me, as does Ellen's positive training.

Have you watched Hempfling's videos on You Tube? Totally inspiring, especially how he transforms the "borderline" horses.
I understand that you have removed the video, but I would like to see it and tell you what I see in it. If you are up for it, could you post it again?
Hmmm, how do you get them to give you their eyes and attention like that?? Kai does it sometimes when I cluck or kiss at her, but I don't think all the time..?
A horse will give you his/her eyes for two reason, and remember this is just my opinion here. One reason is you are acting in a demanding, dominate, aggressive predator like way and they NEED to keep an eye on you. The other reason is that you are calm, confident, happy with yourself and them, you are a trusted leader and they WANT to keep their eyes on you; at that point they may not keep an eye on you all the time, but you can bet they have part of their focus on you.
That sounds much better than the, I dare say, "junk" I read before.. Forcing a horse to look at you hardly seems like a sought-after goal to me.. Not much of a relationship there!
How long have you had horses?
I've been around horses my whole life, that isn't to say I know 'it all', because I don't. I think no one 'knows it all'. There was a time in my life that I didn't own horses, but I was still around them as much as I could be. I will say that 23 years ago, when I got my mare, she started to teach me the best way to 'be' around horses. Star has been the best teacher, she didn't think much of humans because of the rough handling she'd had previous to coming into my life (she was only 18 months old). That in itself opened the door to so many opportunities for her to teach me and me to learn. Since then I've made it a goal of mine to read and learn as much about, to use an overworked phrase, 'natural horsemanship'. I was employed at a boarding/training/breeding facility for a few years, that was a REAL learning experience because I got to observe a lot of different horses, disciplines of riding AND people; I learned not only what to do, but, and this is sometimes more important, what NOT to do. I discarded what just didn't mesh with what Star was teaching me. Star was my only horse until Rip came along, so she and I are sort of like an old married couple and I know I can trust her, which is why I've turned my previously non-horsey husband loose with her, she is now teaching him. The bad thing about that, some of my (dare I say 'skills' ?) became stagnant. My life hit a really bumpy stretch, that stretch really knocked my confidence for a loop, and now I'm in the process of rebuilding that confidence and learning about how geldings think; oh yes, they think like horses...but different than a mare so it's been a VERY interesting journey, lol.
I think it's very interesting when our horse relationship and learning about them seems to coincide with human relationships and learning about them.
I see things about myself with horses that I didn't realize before. As I've had to get braver and more confident with horses I feel like I have grown in the outside world also with those things.
I boarded at a training barn for my beginning three years with horses and I almost lived there. Couldn't get enough! A great learning experience as you said. I'm so glad I had that opportunity for experience.
and interesting to read about this too.... what kind of things would you think she taught you? You have way way way more experience than I do... that is for sure.

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