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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Jennifer, that is so awesome! That's an incredible bond to have, to be able to do that just through pure energy.. What a cool place to be when you can see him stop to think like that, instead of just react react react--Reading that made me happy (for you, and just at the coolness of it:)) How long did it take ya'll to get there?
I feel the same way as Megan - this is my first horse and I want to do things right!!

Ellen, thank you, thank you, thank you for this thread!!!! I am learning so much and thoroughly enjoying it!! I, am a gentle person and have been told over and over that I needed to toughen up and be a stronger leader. I've been beating myself up for being such a weak leader, and have had people offer to help me teach my horse through some "tough love". In my heart, I knew I didn't want to do things that way, and from reading your posts as well as others, I now know that I don't "have" to do things their way, even if they think I'm weird.

My mare will stick close to me in strange surroundings - something others would consider disrespectful. There are times that she will crowd me, and I would love to know how to work on that properly, but that would be a whole new thread! Any chance we could have a question and answer time with you? :o) Honestly, I'd pay for your input and advice!!

To get back on track...lately I've been hanging out with my mare in the field with the herd, where she's more comfortable (I moved her to this barn the middle of August). I've been trying hard to let her walk away when she wants to, but the burrs are so bad, and I don't have as much time as I'd like to spend with her, so I do end up invading her space so that I can get her combed out. I see so many of the calming signals from her that you have talked about. I feel terrible for ignoring them (because sometimes I am aware of what she's trying to tell me). Today I let her move away when she wanted to quite a lot. There were people riding a dirtbike and a "quad" in the other fields, which the horses didn't care for. Every once in a while they'd all go on alert and would trot around a bit. I stayed where I was and remained calm. My mare would always come back to me (probably helped that whenever she came back to me I gave her a treat). At one point, all the horses came back over to me and started grazing. When they'd become alert, sometimes my mare would just keep grazing. If they trotted off, you could see that she was torn with who to be with, and would end up going with the herd. Finally, they got wound up so much that they galloped off to the far reaches of the property, so I had to wait quite a while for them to come back to the big field.

My mare is still low man on the totem pole, but if I'm with her and another horse comes over to threaten her, I will step in and ask the other horse to leave. My mare will be in the process of moving off from the other horse, but will circle back and come stand behind me.

I'm hoping that these instances are a glimmer of hope that I am doing something good once in a while :o)
years ago somone asked my daughter if she 'practiced natural horsemanship' after they saw her doing something or other on her horse. i never really knew what it was about, but have been looking at some videos here on barnmice, and have decided that overall, it suits newbies. maybe a bit harsh.... but ive had horses for yonks and rode western, english, drove them etc. common sense and trust are critical as is treating them fairly, respect both ways, and the odd treat and lots of praise. in training, repetition to help them understand what your' asking, but also variety so they don't loose interest, and they get to practice their developing training in other situations.
ground work is essential, but not to the detriment of riding and as ive found out, doesn't take the place of riding, if its a riding horse you want. just some thoughts.
i seldom see the need to use a snap like in the parelli video- training ensures that you never get to that stage. i have bred and trained several horses since i was a teen and never had the issues many people seem to have. common sense is not over rated. cheers from down under
Today I had one of the the best days with my mare in a long time. I had her in the indoor arena where it was nice and cool, and the breeze pulling through helped keep the flies off her. She needed the burrs combed out of her mane and tail again, but this time I let her walk away when she wanted to. When she showed me some of those calming signals and turned away, I turned away from her too. Before I knew it, I could hear footsteps in the sand behind me and there she was! She did that a couple of times, then stayed put. She dropped her head and I went to work on her. In between clearing up the mess in her mane, I would stop and just run my hands gently down her neck and over her body. Her eyelids were half shut, so I knew she was enjoying the moment too. I caressed her face and used soft gentle movements. When I talked, it was with a quiet voice to tell her how good she was, or else I whispered. Somehow, talking out loud didn't seem to fit. She was sooooo mellow.
This is what our horses hope to traiin us to do.Some wait years before their human catches on. You must have a very smart mare that she has accomplished this. She isalso very lucky to have a human who listens to her. Everything we need to learn can be taught by a horse if you give them a chance.
yay!! they mirror our energy.
Phew! When does that start happening?! Haha! I'm pretty chill all the time.. Kai is sorta chill but a tad skittish, and a bully to Donoma, but they love each other.. Donoma is curious, and I know that she IS a total sweetheart and brave girl--loooooves people, but she's a terrified, untrusting thing right now.. :/ Makes me sad that there's not (that I know of) a way to just tell and show her RIGHT NOW that she doesn't have to be scared, that I love her, won't hurt her and will always protect her! It hurts me to know she doesn't feel that way!
Megan, I've been working on my relationship with my mare for the past two years, since I got her. And I've still got a long way to go. It's hard to be patient sometimes, because we live in a world of instant results, but being patient is worth it.

What does Donoma do when you are paying attention to Kai? Does she seem interested in getting in on the fun when you are giving Kai treats? If so, can you kind of nonchalantly give her a treat then turn your attention back to Kai? Or will Donoma try to bite if you turn your back on her?
Ohhhh yes, she's VERY interested in treats! She is afraid of Kai's reaction if she gets too close, so she'll just nuzzle me looking for treats. I don't think she'd bite if I totally turned my back to her, but I'm not sure.. I'll check this out today..
I mentioned that Megan because sometimes the horse that isn't getting all the attention is the one who will all of a sudden show up right behind you :o) It's non-threatening so they feel safer to approach if you're only watching them out of the corner of your eye and appear to not care whether they're there or not.
Haha I just read this today and found that to be true a couple days ago! I was loving on Kai and Donoma came up behind me like she was thinking "hey, what's going on over here? Can I get in on some of this?" That was when I tried to re-enact some calming signals and she let me give her a little scratch on the head! HEAVEN!!
..Then she got nervous and pulled away again.. Oh well. Little victories at a time. She seems to be getting more and more OK with being touched each day, as of Saturday:)
How cool! I love these kinds of special moments with our horses.

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