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Horse Talk 101

August 19, 2020

Written by Kimberly Counts, Barn Staff

Have you ever looked at a horse and wondered what they might be thinking? Horses communicate in mysterious ways, but if you look closely, you can figure out what they are trying to tell you.

Sounds

Horses are generally very expressive creatures who have an interesting way of telling you what they’re thinking! They have a unique system to communicate amongst themselves and people. I’m sure you’ve heard a horse whinny, but do you know what it means? Whinnying and neighing are a horse’s way of letting you know what they are feeling or telling you they want something. These sounds can mean a variety of things like: “I’m hungry,” “Take me outside,” or “Pay attention to me!” If you walk through the Liberty Mountain Equestrian Center around 4:30 P.M., you will hear a chorus of whinnies from hungry horses demanding their food. If we happen to be even a few minutes late, we have about 50 hungry horses telling us it’s time to eat! Horses thrive on a schedule and are quick to learn what time things get done.

Another way they can “talk” to us is through snorting. A snort generally means they’re alarmed by something, and it can be their way of assessing the situation. For the most part, the snorts are loud when a horse is scared. Some of our horses here at Liberty snort when they get excited or are feeling particularly wild (especially in the cold weather!).

Lastly, horses often squeal when they get excited or are trying to play. Squealing is their way of saying “Yippee” and letting loose. Sometimes we’ll have to keep our horses in their stalls for a few days because of weather, and it’s not unusual for us to hear lots of squealing when we turn them out again. Squeals can also be used to figure out the dynamics of a group of horses. When horses meet each other for the first time, they often squeal as a greeting and figuring out who’s in charge.

Expressions

The head of a horse can also tell you a lot about what they might be feeling or how they are going to act towards you. Looking at a horse’s ears is an easy way to figure out what mood they’re in. Ears up means they’re happy, interested, and overall in a good mood. If you see their ears go straight back and are pinned flat against their head — walk away! This means they’re angry, unhappy, and most likely want you to leave them alone. Most of the time, you’ll see horses with their ears somewhat relaxed and drooping to the sides. This type of expression is showing you that the horse is stress-free, content, and feels comfortable.

You’ll also sometimes see a horse “smile” by lifting their top lip and showing you their teeth. Funny enough, this is their way of saying they smell or taste something weird. Don’t be offended if a horse does it after sniffing you — I’m sure they’re just trying to tell you they like your perfume.

As you can see, there are a variety of ways a horse can “talk” to you. It’s important to know what you’re looking for in order to get a better understanding of what they’re trying to tell you. Remember to look at their faces for an indication of their mood and pay attention to their ears!

At the Liberty Mountain Equestrian Center, we love having visitor’s stop by and see the horses. View our website for visiting hours, and we can’t wait to introduce you to some of our sweetest horses!