Do You Speak Horse Fluently? There are many times I’ve wondered what a horse was thinking as their caregiver. While I can’t read their mind, I can pay close attention to their body language to understand them.
Body language is a powerful way to converse between horses and humans. Like us, they use vocalization and this unique communication method to let those around them know how they feel.
You hear a horse make many sounds that can indicate their mood or if they’re in pain. For instance, a nicker is a low-pitched sound used for greetings. I often hear this when I walk into the barn, and the horse wants to get my attention. You’ll also see them use this with one another.
Whinnies are often used in the wild when they want to locate one another. Since they can’t speak, they use unique methods to understand their fellow equines. Another horse hears the whinnies and responds.
If a horse feels threatened, it will use a whooshing sound called blowing. It’s sounding the alarm to others that there’s danger. Should they feel threatened, they will often squeal or scream, which is often extremely loud.
The Art of Body Language
While using vocal cues are reasonable, you can’t rely on them solely to understand your horse. Body language is critical to watch as these social animals can communicate their emotions and intents through these methods.
Any horse handler will tell you that learning their body language is the first step to training such a large and magnificent animal. A horse will use its eyes, ears, feet, legs, head, and overall bodily posture to communicate with their owners and other animals.
Follow That Nose
Equines have large nostrils and vast mouths that make up the muzzle. They’ll use the muzzle to nudge animals or humans to get them to do what they want. They will also do this for comfort when they want to be close to you.
If you see the lip drooping, the animal is probably very sleepy or already asleep. Ensure you proceed cautiously, as you don’t want to startle them. Have you ever had a dog? Dogs are notorious for licking their owners to show affection, and the horse does the same thing.
When a horse starts licking you, it’s a sign that they like you and want to show you how much. Another vital sign to watch around the muzzle is the Flehmen response. A horse will stick their nose up high in the air and curve the upper lip over their nostrils.
Their breaths are intense, and they’ll blow air out aggressively. While it may seem a bit ominous when you see them do this, it’s likely something that they smell is aggravating their vomeronasal organ. A scared horse will pinch or purse their lips as the anxiety and stress gets the best of them. If the anxious nature is from a perceived danger, they will expose their teeth and open their mouth.
Head and Neck Vibes
Have you ever hung your head when you were exhausted or were in a bad mood? In a horse, it means something different. They hang their head when they feel relaxed. If they lift their head and gaze into the distance, they see something that piques their interest.
You must be careful to look for signs of pain, as a horse who raises its head might also be in discomfort. Lastly, snaking is a sign that the horse is agitated or aggressive. They may snake their head by moving it side to side. You’ll often see this behavior in horses that are bread to fight or herd others.
Many animals in the wild use their tails as a way to communicate, and the horse is no different. When the tail wags back and forth, it’s usually a sign that they’re happy or content. If you see a horse slapping its tail rapidly, it’s probably trying to keep the flies away.
When the tail is raised in the air and not moving, it’s a sign of excitement dissimilar to that of dogs. When they feel anxious, scared, or in pain, a horse will tuck their tail between their legs or wrap it around one leg.
There are so many things about horses that humans understand, but reading their body language is essential. It’s not going to happen overnight, but the more time you spend with horses and observing them, the easier it is to communicate in their language. Watch for those subtle cues that make it easier to know when they’re happy, sad, or in pain.
A good caregiver masters these cues, but they also know that each horse is different and may do things unique to them. At Oak Haven Acres, we have years of experience communicating and understanding our horses. Having the power of a “mind reader” means we can take better care of the ones who depend on us in their retirement years.
As always, we love and care for these animals as if they were our own. We encourage you to consider our ranch for your beloved equine’s retirement years.