Horse Language: Equestrian for Beginners

Horse language occurs mainly through body language. If you look closely, with some background knowledge you will soon see what your horse is expressing and what it wants from you. Find out everything about the gestures and facial expressions of four-legged friends here.

Same Language

Unlike humans, horses communicate primarily through body language. As herd animals, they have developed their own language over the decades. Understanding these simplifies the coexistence of humans and animals immensely and contributes to a stronger bond. If you can interpret horse language better, you can not only better convey what you would like from your horse but also better understand why it does not react in certain situations as you would like it to.

Come and Talk to Me!

Neighing, humming, squeaking – horses communicate to a large extent through their body language, but some sounds are also part of horse language. Horses seldom neigh, however, and in certain situations, a sociable chat among friends like humans does not exist among horses. But what waving, shouting, or whistling is for us, neighing is for the horse: Especially when the “conversation partner” is too far away, horses use neighing as a distant call and thus draw attention to themselves.

However, more often than neighing, low hum is heard. Mares call for their foals. The humming is a joyful greeting among adult horses. Many horses also use this sound to say “Hello” in a friendly manner to human friends.

The situation is more serious, however, when a high-pitched squeak can be heard. Because then your horse is upset. The battle cry is often used by mares and geldings and goes hand in hand with kicking back hooves and stormy fights.

Horse Language is Posture and Movement

A horse’s posture tells you a lot about its state of mind. With a little practice, you will soon see whether your darling is tense, excited, or relaxed. Basic postures are easy to recognize: if a horse stands upright full of tension, it is exciting. If, on the other hand, they lower their head and have bent one hind leg, you can assume that they are resting and completely relaxed. If you have known your horse for longer and observe it closely, you will quickly find out whether it is excited, in pain, tired, or full of vigor, or if it is simply standing there deeply relaxed.


Horse ears are very flexible and show you where your horse’s attention is directed and whether it is relaxed or tense. Horse ears can move independently of each other. For example, your horse can listen to you with one ear when you are riding and perceive the environment with the other ear.

Horse Ears Multiplication Table

  • Ears tilted backward suggest relaxation.
  • Ears pointing slightly to the side can be a sign that your horse is dozing or bored.
  • Pointed, erect ears indicate full concentration and interest.
  • Close-fitting ears show you that your horse is threatening its counterpart and is in a bad mood.
  • Close-fitting ears when riding usually mean that the animal is concentrating on the rider.
  • If the horse’s ears are in different directions (one ear forwards and one ear backward), this means that your horse is unsure of which impulse to focus its full attention on.


What horses think and feel, they do not only express through their posture or their ears – the tail also tells you a lot about your animal’s state of mind. If the tail is slightly raised and swings relaxed from one side to the other, you can almost be sure that your horse is doing well and is relaxed. It looks different, however, when it clamps its tail between its legs. Then watch out, because your horse is scared. In this case, act quickly and eliminate the cause of the fear. If the horse hits vigorously with its tail, you can assume that something does not suit it. It could be, for example, that insects are annoying or there is an uncomfortable atmosphere that the horse is uncomfortable with in the situation. If the tail is raised, the horse is usually in a good mood and almost cocky, and wants to play.


The view of the horse’s mouth is often neglected. The mouth shows clearly what mood your horse is in. The horse’s mouth is particularly sensitive, so the animal’s mood can be read off precisely from the mouth area. If the lips are loose and hang down slightly, the horse is currently in a sleep or relaxation phase. However, if the mouth is pinched and the mouth is tightly pressed together, care must be taken, as the horse may not feel comfortable or even struggle with pain.

If the horse stretches its upper lip up and its head up high, then it “begs” it. Horses usually plead when they have noticed a particularly fragrant or interesting smell. The flehmen closes the nostrils and the exciting smell is even more intense. However, supplication can also be an expression of pain. In the case of colic, for example, the horse shows that it is in pain by showing its teeth.

Foals are also already communicating with their mouths. Like low-ranking animals, they often show what is known as “inferior chewing”. To do this, they open their mouths and pull both the upper lip and the lower lip over their teeth and begin to chew. The chewing movements make it clear to the other person that they accept the higher rank without hesitation.


Unlike humans, horses have a particularly fine sense of smell. Perceived smells and smells have a great influence on the mind of horses. If the animal has distended nostrils, all signs point to “escape”. As soon as a horse smells, hears, or sees something unknown and frightening and is frightened, the nostrils widen and the horse prepares to escape or to flee.


The horse’s eyes tell you a lot about the current mood. If your horse panics, you can easily recognize this with his eyes. Excitement and fear are noticeable in the horse when it rolls its eyes and the white part of the eye becomes visible. Now it’s time to act quickly and calm your horse down as quickly as possible. Steep wrinkles, dull, cloudy eyes, and a blank look can be an indication of discomfort and pain. Lively, alert, and shiny eyes, on the other hand, can make you happy, because your horse is fine and everything is in perfect order.

Basic Vocabulary Creates Understanding

It can of course sometimes take a while until you fully understand your horse’s concerns and wishes. But if you take our tips into account, have your horse always “in-view” and internalize the basic terms of the horse language, you create the best conditions for a peaceful, relaxed, and happy togetherness between you and your horse.

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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