Although horses make some sounds to communicate, such as neighs, body language is their main way of getting their message across. As prey animals, it’s safest for them to be able to communicate without making any noise. In this post, we’ll teach you about horses’ movements and what they mean.
Horses’ ears can rotate nearly all the way around. Ears that point forward indicate alertness or interest, while those turned toward the back are listening to a noise from behind. Rapid swivelling means that the horse is frightened about a specific noise or overwhelmed by too many stimuli.
If a horse’s ears are fully pinned back, it’s angry and likely about to bite or kick. On the other hand, if its ears are turned toward the side, chances are it’s relaxing or taking a doze.
A horse’s gaze also lets you know its mood or the focus of its attention. Tense facial muscles or darting eyes can both indicate fear or stress. If the whites of a horse’s eyes are showing, the animal is alarmed and likely very upset.
A horse with a fixed stare may be feeling ill. If its eyes are half-closed, that could be a sign that it’s in a good mood.
A horse’s head movements give you more clues about its thoughts. While a lowered head suggests relaxation and a raised one tells you that the horse is focused on something interesting in the distance, a head swinging from side to side signals dissatisfaction or even aggression. Flared nostrils can also be a sign of nervousness.
On a more positive note, a drooping lip reveals that the horse is relaxed or asleep. Chewing when it has no food in its mouth, meanwhile, suggests a relaxed, pensive state.
If you think about a horse’s front legs, maybe you picture a stallion pawing at the ground. This behaviour means that the animal is bored, impatient, stressed, or angry. Raising a hind leg or stomping can also be a sign of irritation.
A cocked back leg, with the edge of the hoof resting on the ground, may be the stance of a relaxed horse, but shifting between legs could also indicate discomfort. Riders are often concerned that a horse will kick with its hind legs. Watch out for swinging hindquarters or other signs of anger.
Although a horse’s tail may seem nearly inanimate, this part of a horse is actually quite expressive. Especially among Arabians, a raised tail indicates excitement, while, among all breeds, a tail clamped between the legs tells you that the horse is nervous or stressed.
A slow swishing is nothing to be concerned about - the horse is likely trying to chase away flies. A rapidly swishing tail, however, can be an expression of irritation or anger.
Do you now have a better idea what a horse is trying to tell you when it swings its head or cocks its hind leg? Let us know in the comments!
Hello, My name is Shelby Gatti, and I am the owner of Shelby Ranch. I love being able to share my passion for animals with you and your family. At Shelby Ranch you can expect a ton of family adventure from horseback riding to mechanical bull riding & axe throwing.