Equine Body Language Speaks Volumes

Learn to read equine body language. Even without words, your horse has a lot to say. Her ears, facial expressions, tail and legs can provide clues to her emotional and physical state.

Ear-ly Warnings

• Neutral: Ears are held loosely upward, openings facing forward or outward.

• Pricked: Ears held stiff with openings pointed directly forward. The horse is alert.

• Airplane: Ears flop out laterally with openings facing down. The horse is tired or depressed.

• Drooped: Ears hang down loosely to the side, usually meaning tiredness or pain.

• Angled Backward: (with openings directed back towards a rider) Usually means attentiveness to the rider or listening to commands.

• Pinned Flat Against The Neck: Watch out! This horse is angry and aggressive. This is equine body language that you shouldn’t ignore!

Read My Lips…And Eyes And Nose

• Snapping: This is seen in foals showing submission to an older horse. They will open their mouths and draw back the corners, then open and shut their jaws.

• Jaws Open With Teeth Exposed: Aggression or possible attack.

• The Flehmen Response: Caused by an intense or unusual smell, usually in stallions when they sense a mare in heat.

They stick their nose in the air and curl the upper lip over their nose.• Flared Nostrils: Usually means they are
excited or alert. Could indicate colic.

• White Around The Eyes: Usually means they are angry or scared.

The Tell Tale Tail

• High: Alert or excited.

• Low: Exhaustion, fear, pain or submission.

• High Over Back: (as seen in most foals) Feeling playful or very alarmed.

• Swishing: Irritated. Also used to swish away flies. Can be a sign of colic.

Leg Looks

Sometimes, equine body language has more than one interpretation. You’ll get to know your horse’s “meanings” from watching her:

• Pawing: They are frustrated. Could be a sign of colic.

• Front-leg Lifted: Can be a mild threat or a normal eating stance.

• Back Leg Lifted: Often a more defensive threat. Sometimes used when resting or sleeping.

• Stamping: Indicates a mild threat or protest or a sign that flies are biting their legs.

Horse Talk: Vocal And Non-Vocal Communication

• Neighs or whinnies: High pitched, drawn out sounds that can carry over distances. Horses whinny to let others know where they are and to try to locate a herd mate.

• Nickers: Low-pitched and quiet. Stallions nicker when courting a mare, mare and foals nicker to each other and domestic horses nicker for food.

• Squeals or Screams: Usually denotes a threat by a stallion or mare. You’ll know it when you hear it.

• Blowing: Strong, rapid expulsion of air resulting in a high pitched “whooshing” sound. It’s usually a warning or alarm signal.

• Snorting: A more passive, shorter lower pitched version of blowing.

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