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Body Language of a Horse

The horse is a herd animal and needs to be able to communicate with other herd members. The “conversations” are limited primarily to the conveyance of basic emotions, such as fear. This communication system is also used to establish a hierarchy of dominance without reverting to actions of a violent manner. Domestic horses treat the humans that they interact with as members of their herd and will use a similar system of communication. The horse’s body language will give signs indicative of how they are feeling.

A contented horse is not worried about any other horses that may be around. It will show off its best features by carrying its head high and holding its tail up. Because horses like company, they are usually pleased when they see someone they recognize and trust. They will approach you without fear, rather than running away. If a horse wants to be left alone to enjoy a rest, it will turn away from other horses. A stabled horse may turn its back to the door to show you that it is not interested in any type of interaction.

Like children, horses may not like being ignored. A horse may demand a human’s attention by nudging with its muzzle. A horse can get impatient waiting for food or being restricted when it is stabled. It may stamp or kick the stable door to make noise in an attempt to get your attention.

If a horse becomes aggravated or frustrated, it may express its anger by biting. Unlike a carnivore’s teeth, the horse’s teeth are not designed to cause wounds when it does this. Biting is a status symbol for dominance. A horse may bite you for the same reason that it would bite another horse. Never tolerate this kind of behavior; ignoring this will tell the horse that you accept it as a superior.

There is a big difference between an aggressive and a frightened horse. Some signs are the same, such as showing the white of its eye or biting and kicking. It is very unusual for a horse to be aggressive, but if one is, it will move toward you. A frightened horse is more likely to run away so wait as long as it takes for it to come to you.

Horses can also get depressed during illness or if they are bullied by other horses or people. They will look uninterested and unhappy. In the past, riders would brag about breaking a horse’s spirit, but the practice is unacceptable.


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