Correctly Interpret Body Language of Horses

How easy it would be if our horses could talk to us. If you would tell us what you want or if you are happy. Unfortunately, this is only wishful thinking, which is why careful observation and interpretation of the body language of horses is particularly important for harmonious coexistence. Because based on the expressive behavior we can draw conclusions about the state of mind of our horse. We would like to give you a few tips here on what to look for in body language in order to be able to interpret your horse correctly.

How Do Horses Communicate?

In order to understand this, we must first look at the body language of horses. Body language is an important part of communication. In addition to facial expressions, this also includes gestures, posture, and body tension. Sounds are also included, even if they do not occur that often. Horses can not only neigh, but also squeak or snort, for example. Touching is also a type of communication. Horses touch each other or us humans in a wide variety of situations. They poke their noses, can bite or just nibble, they scratch each other, nestle up, or kick out. The smell performance of the horses should not be underestimated. You can smell if we humans are afraid, for example. You can also see in which cycle stage the mare is or whether the person opposite is sick. If you hold out your hand to your horse, it will first sniff it in order to obtain precise information from you.

This Also Applies to the Body Language of Horses

Who does not know this statement from Paul Watzlawick? And we should always keep this in mind when it comes to our horses. Because even if we behave calmly towards our horses and only observe them, we give them enough information, quite simply via our own body language. Exactly the same applies to our horses. You also communicate with us permanently. Even when they are resting in the box, we can tell from their body language that they are pausing. So we have to learn to recognize and classify the signs. Unfortunately, it is not always that easy to correctly interpret a horse. Especially if it is a strange horse. Because despite common body language elements, each horse can also express its feelings individually. With your horse, you will certainly recognize faster and know what it is trying to tell you. After all, you are a familiar team.

If we now take a closer look at body language, we don’t just have to look at the individual body regions separately. Rather, the overall picture gives a precise indication of the mood of our horse.

The Eyes – the Mirror of the Soul

Are the eyes bright and shiny, is your horse looking at you lively? Or do the eyes seem rather dull and expressionless? Then you should question the cause. Is your horse not feeling well right now or is it even in pain? Are the eyes may be even cloudy or even gummy? In this context, what are the other parameters such as posture, body tension, and ears? What do the fur and nostrils look like? The eyes can also express suspicion or fear. Especially when fearful, the eyes are wide open, sometimes twisted until the whites of the eyes can be seen.

The Ears – a First Indication of the State of Mind

The ears are generally considered a good indicator of the horse’s frame of mind. There are an infinite number of different ear positions that illustrate this. However, you have to consider including the rest of the body in your classification.
Big ears are a good example of why this is so important. It can be an indication of a threat or defensive attitude, or it can mean uncertainty. In both situations, we have to behave differently and always have the whole horse’s body in view. When the ears are upright and facing forward, the horse shows curiosity and expresses attention.

The Tail – More Than Just a Tool to Drive Away Insects

A tail also has a lot of expressiveness and reveals a lot about the state of mind. A pinched tail clearly shows that your horse is afraid. If, on the other hand, it is raised, it shows tension or excitement. If your horse hits back and forth with its tail, this can be due to uncertainty, restlessness, or tension.

Posture and Body Tension – a Good Mood Barometer

Your horse is relaxed and resting when three hooves are on the ground and one hind leg is in an angled position. You can observe this relief position in the box, on the paddock, or sometimes on the meadow. The head is very loosely lowered. If the muscles are tense and your horse is dancing back and forth, it is stressed or even afraid.

The body language of horses is an extensive and extremely exciting topic. Our horses tell us so much. We just have to learn to understand their language in order to interpret their signals correctly and to be able to put them together to form an overall picture. This will take some time and practice. But it’s worth it!

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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