Our lives depend on communication, but not all forms of communication are verbal. Our horses and I can communicate with one another through body language. We can understand what they are trying to communicate to us if we are perceptive. And make no mistake, kids are also capable of interpreting body language.
Recognize our horses’ postures from front to back:
Auditory Body Language
A horse’s ears can reveal a lot about his emotional state. If they are upfront, it indicates that they are perceptive and assimilating new knowledge amicably. Horses’ ears can rotate 180 degrees, allowing them to hear sounds coming from all directions.
They are listening to something behind them if their ears are upright and facing backward. However, when the ears are pulled back and down, it indicates stress, fear, or pain. If you see the horse acting in this way, proceed with great caution.
A horse’s heightened level of awareness is indicated by rapid ear flicking. He can be overstimulated or searching for a scary or unsettling sound. Horses can hear things from more than a mile away thanks to their exceptionally good hearing.
A horse is comfortable, bored, and possibly nodding off to sleep if its ears are drooping to the side. If you must approach your horse at this time, proceed cautiously to avoid rousing them from their nap.
The sclera is the term for the white portion of your horse’s eye. If you see that your horse’s sclera is showing, take caution. It indicates that he is scared, startled, or extremely tense. The eyes of a contented horse will be open but without sclera visibility. One warning is that the sclera of Arabian and Appaloosa horses is frequently visible.
A horse is tense and searching for a way out if its eyes are rapidly darting back and forth. Your horse’s eyes will be open and wrinkled in an upside-down V shape when he or she is agitated or in pain.
Half-closed eyes may be a sign of fatigue, relaxation, discomfort from the sun, or an eye injury in your horse. When you try to look inside a horse’s eye to see if there is something in there, they frequently hold the eye half closed and clamp it shut hard. This condition is known as a corneal ulcer. Contact your veterinarian right away if your horse has one eye half closed longer than is typical for a siesta or when the sun is not in his eyes.
Body Language with a Muff
The muzzle is a very expressive part of a horse. The lower lip of a horse with a droopy muzzle and relaxed posture will hang erratically from their teeth. When the horse starts to work, this ought to change. If it doesn’t, it can be a sign of a neurologic issue that requires a visit to your veterinarian.
A horse’s pursed muzzle, which is caused by tension in the mouth, is a sign of anxiety or stress. They may also flare their nostrils at this point. Horses who are curious will smell and practically snort air out of their nostrils.
An indication that a horse is pondering is when they appear to be chewing. Foals will produce their distinctive smacking noise to let people know they are young, harmless, and only seeking attention.
The flehmen response refers to a distinct behavior exhibited by horses when rubbed on the muzzle. A horse will lift his head, curl his upper lip back, and take a deep breath while performing this maneuver. They can process some hormones and odors thanks to this. Stallions frequently exhibit this behavior when attempting to determine whether a mare is in heat.
Horses don’t merely utilize their legs for propulsion. They can utilize them to communicate their actions to us and other animals.
A horse that is bored or taking a nap may frequently have one hind limb tilted forward and resting on the ground, occasionally with the legs crossed. A horse that is alert or curious will stand straight. A displeased or irate horse will stomp, kick, or strike. Before a complete strike, the majority of horses will kick out a warning, although not all of them will do so.
Pawing is a common natural reaction when denied food and water. Horses have been seen by equine behaviorists to roll in or paw at bodies of water when they come into contact with them. Although recurring and well-documented, this pattern is not fully understood.
Following Body Language
Horses communicate with every part of their bodies, from head to tail. When a dog’s tail is curled up, it’s a sign of fear or anger and he’s preparing to run away or kick. A violently switching or flicking tail is another sign of annoyance and dissatisfaction.
Often, a gentle swish may suffice to keep flies and other insects away. A high tail denotes interest and eagerness. When riding, it is preferable for the tail to swing gently and somewhat higher. The tail of a calm horse will gradually dangle.
While every area of your horse’s body aids in communication, it’s crucial to “read” the horse’s overall body language in order to fully understand what they are attempting to say.