What’s My Horse Thinking? Understand Your Horse’s Body Language

Be honest who hasn’t wished that their horse could actually talk to them in their language? I know I certainly have! While this obviously is never going to happen with a little bit of patience and understanding you can ‘talk’ to your horse in his language.

All creatures on the planet (including humans) communicate with each other using body language. Taking the time to learn what your horse is telling you will not only help you to understand him it’ll also help the relationship the two of you have. For example, if your horse is frightened of something and you’re aware of that and help him to overcome the fear he’ll remember it and trust you more because of it.

I personally think that humans are able to use words to communicate so, over many centuries, have stopped reading body language. After all, if simply can say to you I’m feeling really happy today why do you need to look for signs that they are? We are still capable of reading body language but just need to take the time to learn and understand what we’re being told.

How do I know if my horse is happy?

We all want our horses to be happy and try our best to make them happy but how can you tell if your horse really is. There are a few signs to look out for that will tell you when your horse.

  • Nostrils – If your horse is happy and relaxed then his nostrils will be soft and round. If he’s unhappy then they’ll be tight and thin.
  • Lip line – In a happy horse, this will curl down very slightly.
  • Lower jaw – When horses are happy they relax their lower jaw, you can see this especially when their lower mouth hangs down. Some horses will even dribble when they’re happy.
  • Tail – The tail of a happy horse will move freely regardless of whether he’s moving or not.
  • Sighing – Much like us when we sigh, horses can do this for a number of reasons and while not all of them are a sign of happiness most of them are, especially it’s accompanied by the other signs mentioned above.
If you understand your horse's body language you'll know exactly what they're thinking

What are the signs that my horse is frighted or scared?

As with people, there are differing degrees of fear with horses, and the signals they’ll give you are an indication of how scared they are. If your horse is scared of water for example then noticing the early signs of that is crucial to helping him overcome the fear. If he tenses up when you get near the water and you notice his nostrils are flared and his muzzle is tight then act on those signs and don’t let his anxiety over the water turn into a situation he perceives as so bad he would bite to get away from.

When a horse is really seriously frightened the most important sign to look for are their eyes and ears. Their ears will be pinned back against his neck, and their eyes will be wide. They may also be ’snapping’ their tail sharply downwards. Their nostrils will also be flared and if they’re feeling really frightened maybe baring their teeth. What the horse trying to tell you is that he’s really unhappy or frightened about something and warning you to stop it straight away. He doesn’t want to hurt you but is letting you know that he will (whether by kicking or bitting) if you don’t stop. 

Page 2 – Reading body language

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