How to Read Your Horse’s Body Language – 2

The article written by , and published in Equus in 2013 already, focusses on the equine body language in an easy to understand and follow way, and it is worth presenting it again body part by body part to see the full picture of how an equine present himself to us as the owners, riders, trainers.

Equine body language is expressive. Subtle changes in your horse’s posture, expression and movements can provide important clues to what he is thinking.

What His Head Carriage Says

The position and movement of a horse’s head are easy to see and can tell you a lot about his mood and what he’s thinking:

Lowered.¬†A dropped head is a sign your horse is relaxed and feeling good, and his ears will often hang to the side as well. If he’s standing in his stall or pasture with a lowered head, he’s probably either resting or asleep; call his name and make your approach obvious so you don’t startle him.

Elevated.¬†Your horse is focused on something in the distance, and he’s probably trying to figure out whether he should flee, investigate or ignore it. As his handler, you need to realize that he is not paying attention to you, and he may be about to spook or bolt; to prevent that from happening, you must regain his focus.

A horse who raises his head while being ridden may be in pain, especially if he also hollows his back, pins his ears or wrings his tail. Carefully examine your tack for protruding screws or other sources of discomfort and check for proper fit. If the behavior persists, have a veterinarian check your horse for back pain.

Snaking.¬†Lowering the head slightly and waving the neck from side to side is an aggressive act, often used by stallions who are fighting or herding an uncooperative mare. If you see a horse do this, it’s a red alert. You need to ascertain why the horse is aggressive and defuse the situation. This may mean refocusing his attention, moving him out of the area or just getting away from him.

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