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Horse Body Language
 By Winniefield Park   •   24th Mar 2018   •   978 views   •   0 comments


When we think of communication, we think of talking, or at least making noises. We humans are a noisy bunch, and talking is most often our chosen way of making our thoughts known. Yes, we use body language but it often isnít conscious. Horses however, are more likely to use body language than make a noise. We know they are expressive with their posture, tail swishes, ears and facial expressions. Here are a few other ways horses communicate noisy and not.

Yawning
Horses are one of the few herbivores that yawn according to BBC Earth. We yawn when we are tired, under-stimulated or taking shallow breaths. Yawning takes in more oxygen, which is stimulating. Horses donít yawn for the same reason. Horses donít inhale through their mouths, and they canít take in oxygen that way. They donít seem to inhale when they yawn like we do. But still, apparently, horses yawn about once per hour. When a horse yawns, itís thought that it is releasing tension. My horse yawns when I remove her bridle, multiple times sometimes. So itís possible that she is releasing tension that she carries while being ridden. In a herd, yawning may be a way of relieving social stress. Environmental stress, such as being kept in a dark stall may make a horse yawn habitually as well.

Sigh
A horse sighs much like we do. They inhale deeply and exhale slowly. Sighing means your horses is relaxed. Your horse may sigh while it enjoys a good grooming or massage, or it might sigh after youíve warmed it up for a schooling session. Or, your horse might sigh once you take the saddle off. These nose fluttering deep breaths mean your horse is okay with what is happening right now. Sometimes a sigh can communicate boredom - such as a school horse walking over poles for the millionth time.

Snorting
A snort is a more explosive sign. Snorts may mean the horse is scared or feeling energetic. A horse that is puffing, with head high is smelling scents from far away and these may be intermingled with snorts as the horse tries to figure out what it sees and smells. If your horse is full of energy, a snort will tell you heís ready to expend some of it, so you better be able to keep up. A snort may be a warning to others.

Groaning
Horses can groan for a number of reasons. If I ask my horse to do a schooling figure she actually has to put effort into, she lets out a long, low groan of protest. A horse may give a little grunt of effort as they take off for, or land from a jump. Grunts and groans can communicate pain too, so a horse landing from a jump that has sore feet, back or joints may be telling you heís uncomfortable. Groaning while producing manure or urine isnít unusual, but be sure it isnít a sign your horse is impacted or has urinary pain. Groaning can also be a sign of gastric ulcers.

Squeals
Squeals are loud, sharp noises that indicate excitement. When horses first meet each other, they often posture and squeal. A stallion may squeal at meeting a mare. Or, horses may squeal as they spar in the pasture.

Snapping or Clapping
Foals open and close their mouths when they first meet another horse and sometimes will do it at humans. This may be called yoping, yawing, snapping or clapping. It doesnít seem to have an official name. The snapping horse almost seems to smile as they chew the air with their necks outstretched. This is an appeasement signal, made to show the other horse they are submissive and accept their superiority. Mature horses that are nervous may do this, to show submission to another horse.
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