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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I've also learned that I don't have to be like my trainer.... I can be much more inspiring and less controlling and get just a good response out of my horses...... he is gifted in many ways, but he isn't really working on the relationship, he's working on the performance.
I just spendt a week with my husband while he trimmed... hmmm... 24 horses. Some of them where a bit nervous and two of them were really really scared. I used one of them to demonstrate how I work on that (together with my husband) in the clinic. I know there were a lot of pictures taken, and as soon as I get them I will have a little "show and tell" on what we did. Unfortunately we didn't film it, but hopefully the pictures will help you to get the idea:)
I agree with you that more often than not the behaviors that we see in a lot of horses, and been labeled as disrespectful, are just learned behaviors the turn into problems, and right now I'm experiencing some of those learned behaviors, luckily they've not turned into huge problems, that someone else taught. I have found, as you've stated, that by using calmer methods, and I should say that Ellen O. and her descriptions of calming signals has REALLY helped to communicate with my gelding in a calmer way, we are now making progress every day and forming a wonderful bond, a much different/deeper bond than before. To Cyndi, I have not watched any of Hempfling's videos, but I shall take a look, always intrigued by different training approaches that use a calm approach...and we can never learn enough when it comes to horses can we? Just one of the things I find so wonderful about horses, we are always learning.
Your right Sarah, horses will teach us till we die. You can always learn something from them if your open to it. And by the way , the reason they have not turned into huge problems is because your calm and listening so the poor behaviours don't escalate. Be like a wet rag on a fuse, the fire just fizzles out.
Cheers Geoffrey
I've always said the training of the horse only stops when I no longer own the horse, and me learning about horses only stops when I no longer exist. Thanks for the encouragement, the last five years have been a time of trials for me, I started questioning all my abilities, not just with horses. I think working with Rip has helped me 'right' myself, so he's helped me as much as, I hope, I've helped him. I really like the wet rag on a fuse idea, lol.
I am so happy to hear that you have found my descriptions helpfull! :)
I hope that you can show me a video clip with you and your horse, maybe I can help you further.
I put up a video of me and my horse..... I thought it would be cool if we did that so I took a chance in getting criticized... I think the purpose of it was just to show that horses are willing with minimum energy... :) what did you think of it? I can't even find it anymore this thread is getting so wonderfully nice and long... :)
can you post the link again?
Hi Geoffrey.... :) it is nice to see your point of view.. I miss you when we don't have a good chat going. I think disrespectfulness is such an ego manical way of thinking too..... one of the reasons why I had to stop watching Clinton Anderson though I adore him was that he was getting me too worked up about disrespectfulness...... actually making me on the defense all the time with my gelding.... Oliver is a very forward horse.... just pushing his nose on everything and in general being a pushy in his behavior...like his attitude.... this whole past year I thought.. I wonder if I can teach him to back up on his own by thinking about it on his own and then rewarding him for it..... tada the beginning of behavior management and change.. it has been fun... now you see the horse and even think "back up Oliver" and he takes a few steps back, waits for the acknowledgement and then he is rewarded... now you see him backing up all over the place by himself, LOL... and also from his ears back to more forward... so your lin of "the horse has learned these habits through rewards" is really genius.... :) it is so true.... one time I trained him with a clicker to stop rubbing his tail on my gate that he might eventually bust through.... my trainer said, "he doesn't even go over to that gate anymore"..... I said, I know he has a new behavior.. anyway, with my clicker, which I think we talked about on another thread I taught him alot of behavior modification... it's really cool... :)
Training doesn't have to be a battle, that's something I learned with my first dog when I was thirteen. I had a poodle which I trained to lay down just as you did oliver to back. I got her to lay down easily with a treat held a certain way, then told her to down, simple eh? I also happened to be in an obedience class with an experienced trainer who asked during class if she could use my dog to demonstrate how to teach "down". She commanded my pup, got into a tug of war with the leash, and I knew she was not going to make that little dog down because she didn't respond to forceful methods well. Then the traiiner hands her back to me and said "Here I'll show you how to make her down, go ahead." So I just gave my dog the signal and command she had just learned with me that week, and she instantly dropped to the floor. The trainer was pretty flabbergasted, and then laughed, and said " I guess she doesn't need any more training on that!"
I think that is interesting Marlene...... I have a very shy gelding, Toby..... one time my trainer was here, on his back trying to get Toby to go under the tarp..... I think, well, he's the trainer so I'm sure he can show Toby how to go under the tarp with his "skills".... the horse would not go.... I went under the tarp, called him and he came right to me... Steve said, well, that goes to show that professionalism does not take the place of trust.... the horse trusts you so he will go under the tarp eventhough you might not know how to ride him like me, you sure spent the time to get him to trust you.... so now, my horse, while he doesn't trust my trainer much still, will do pretty much what I ask.... back to time spent versus skills..... in some way don't you think.. like your poodle... she didn't just do it because a pro asked her... she did it because the person that trained her and spent the time with her asked her..... so cool...
At the time that didn't occur to me. But years later when the same poodle was quite elderly, she suddenly had a very inflamed eye. I took her to the vet to be examined. He did a quick exam and said he would have to actually lift the membranes to be sure there wasn't a foreign thing in there, but it would be extremely painful so she would need a sedative or light anaesthesia. Because of her age and a heart condition I was reluctant. So I said, I'll hold her and you can look. He said it was too painful, I said go ahead, she won't move. He did what he had to do and she didn't even flinch. He remarked that she must have an extraordinary trust in me to do that. Well after 13 years I would hope so.

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