Horse Language

UNDERSTANDING A HORSE’S BODY AND VOCAL LANGUAGE IS VERY IMPORTANT IN GETTING AROUND HORSES. NOT UNDERSTANDING THE HORSE’S BODY AND VOCAL LANGUAGE COULD PUT YOU AND YOUR HORSE IN GREAT DANGER.

Body Language:

Eyes:

  • Whites visible: angry, spooked, frightened (except in Appaloosas)
  • Soft eye: normal, gentle
  • Half closed: relaxed, resting, tired
  • Wrinkled: worried
  • Blinking: processing information
  • Hard eye: angry, aggresive
Ears:
  • Pointing forward: listening, attentive, ready to work
  • Pointing backward: listening behind, aware of going-ons behind
  • One pointing forward one back: listening forward and back, listening to rider
  • Rotating: lots going on, indecisive, nervous, curious
  • Airplane ears (drooped to side): sleeping, depressed, drugged, sick
  • Pinned back: aggressive, warning, angry
Muzzle:
  • Tight: angry, anxious
  • Neutral: normal, gentle, relaxed
  • Lower Lip drooping: sleeping, dozing, relaxed
  • Chewing/Licking: acknowledgment
  • Flared Nostrils: warning, angry, worked hard

Neck Carriage:

  •  Low: relaxing, gentle, normal
  • Level: listening, attentive, ready to work, gentle, relaxed
  • High: alert, scared, nervous

Legs:

  • Stamping: angry, warning
  • Pawing: angry, warning, disliking something, preparing ground for rolling
  • Crab walking (stepping around): scared, frightened, nervous
  • Hind leg rested: relaxed, dosing
  • Hind leg raised: warning, angry, ready to kick

Tail:

  • Swishing: angry, irritated, or by flies
  • Clamped: scared, afraid
  • Flagged: happy, play
  • Raised: happy, attentive
  • Neutral: relaxed, attentive
Body Position:
  • Turning hindquarters to you: ignorance
  • Facing you: friendly

But always read the entire body’s language before deciding if the horse is angry, scared, or happy.  A horse be stamping their foot but not necessarily angry at you

Vocal Language:

Neigh:

A neigh is a high sound with a “vibrato” to it. A neigh could mean a lot of things. (also called Whinny)

A neigh could vary from a happy greeting to a demanding-”Where is my grain!” Often horses neigh when feeding time comes around.

Nicker:

A nicker is a low sound that sounds like a muffled neigh. How I like to describe it: it is between a neigh and snort.

A nicker is friendly greeting-normally to a being they know.

Snort:

A snort is puffing air through their noses to create vibrating which creates a sound.

Snorts-most of the time-happen when horses don’t like something. But it doesn’t mean they are unhappy. Like for instance, maybe they are snorting because you are taking them out of their stall at a different time.

Squeal:

A squeal is a high-pitched scream like noise. It sounds like a Neigh without happiness.

A squeal is normally accompanied by rolling eyes or seeing the whites of their eyes. When a horse squeals, it means it is frightened by something or really doesn’t like something. A horse may squeal when a horse comes by and nips them on their barrel.

Grunt:

A grunt is a noise that is distinctive

A grunt may mean a horse just finished a hard workout. Or it may mean that they have a discomfort or have an illness. It depends what it is accompanied with.

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