Equine Sign Language

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Over 25 Years Spent Studying Equine Sign Language

Out of necessity to achieve my goals, air scent locating gave me the perfect opportunity to learn the horse language because when you are riding during air scent locating, the horse has to communicate with the rider as to when and where it has to go in order to achieve its goal. Through sign language and sometimes using verbal communication, the horse will let the rider know if the scent is close, far or has disappeared all together.

The following is an example of how I break down different horse movements, which are sign language and translate them into meanings humans can understand:

If you ask any group of horse people what it means when an equine shows a pawing action with its leg, their answers will be as follows;  As a rule, 40% will say that the horse wants something. Another 40% will say that it means the horse is nervous. The last 20% of horse people will usually say it can mean two or three things. Now a behaviorist like myself will tell you that the horse's paw has a wide range of meanings and uses, different combinations and types of movement translate the pawing action into separate meanings;

The Meaning of  a Horse's Pawing Action

1. Please or beg are sometimes referred to as a point - The front leg is held up off the ground with the head in a medium to low position. This is usually seen when the horse is really begging for water or food.

2. Nervous/Upset - The pawing is a quicker more sporadic action. The horse head is usually in a medium position. Many horses will use this sign while tied short or in a trailer.

3. I want - The pawing is slower and more evenly spaced with the head in a medium to low position. Many times this sign is used when you are late with their feedings.

4. Check it out. - The paw is softer with head in a low position. This sign is usually seen when a horse wants to roll in unfamiliar ground, it is checking the ground condition. During scent locating, some horses will also communicate with their riders using this sign.

5. Tool/Weapon - The pawing type action is used as a tool to move, break or hurt. This sign can usually be seen when the horse is moving something in order to get your attention, moving feed around or breaking ice in order to get water.

6. Demand/Show of Dominance - In this sign the horse's head is held in a higher, many times in an arched position. The paw type action in this case is a hard stomp with the leg moved in stiffer position. Usually seen when horses meet for the first time. Sometimes seen when horses are early in training and are trying to determine their herd positions with the trainer.

As you can see, a paw is not just a paw with a couple of simple meanings as the majority of people thought. The paw sign provides a full spectrum of meaning, some completely different than others. This is what I do as a behavior specialist. I break down the meaning of different signs that the horses naturally give us.

Why People Misunderstand Equine Sign Language

People have a tendency to try and lump a wide range of equine sign language into a couple of simple meanings, when in reality they have many meanings. The following is a example; Have you ever seen a person use human sign language with their hands to describe eating? If we used the same thought process with human sign language as most people do with equine sign language all human sign language would describe eating. As we know when the hands are used for sign language humans can carry on a full conversation. Equine sign language is similar to human sign language with the difference being the equine has no hands so they use a combination of movements to get their messages across. An excellent example of how they use combinations of movements can be found above where I described " The Meaning of a Horse's Pawing Action"

Innovative Training Tool

I have taken the information that I had learned from observing horse behavior, developed it so it could be used as a innovative training tool. Learning to read the horse has served me well in improving my horsemanship skills. Now I  know that you may have heard or read a thousand times that a certain trainer's methods are the best, right? My question to you is how do you know their methods really work if they have never proven themselves or their methods in the real horse world, which is competition. My innovative training methods have been proven in a wide variety of different training and competition areas.( For more information on how I proved my methods, see the Trainer Experience page)

For Information On Equine Sign Language Clinic go to - Clinics & Training page

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