Life would certainly be much easier if your horse could talk to you and explain exactly how they are feeling. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. However, horses communicate through body language cues, so it is still possible to understand what’s going on in your horse’s brain. Understanding their body language is key in locating issues early on, as well as preventing substantial issues from occurring.
Signs of Stress
Understanding the signs of stress can help you to avoid major problems and prevent them from arising. There are multiple signs that your horse is worried, anxious, or otherwise experiencing stress. The ears can either be forward-point or pinned back. However, it is important to note that the ears will be pinned sharply, rather than simply sitting in a relaxed position. They may also be swiveling quickly. This is generally when they are trying to locate a perceived threat. Their eyes can also indicate that they are stressed. Horses that are stressed or anxious often widen their eyes, which will expose the whites around them. Widened nostrils, a high head, stiff stance, and raised tail are additional indications that your horse is experiencing high levels of stress. Stressed horses may also lick and chew. This is because their saliva production tends to go into overdrive when they are stressed. A frightened horse often holds their tails tightly against their hindquarters.
Ill or In Pain
It is incredibly important to be able to identify when your horse is ill or in pain. This will help you to obtain the help they need before their health can substantially decline. A horse that is ill or in pain will often stand away from the group and seem reluctant to interact with others. If they are experiencing pain in their abdomen, which is a possible indication of colic, they may kick or bite at their abdomen. A horse that is in pain or is ill may paw the ground. They may also lie down regularly and then stand back up frequently. Alternatively, they may be reluctant to move. Flattening their ears, staring intensely, or tossing their head may also indicate that the horse is experiencing pain or an illness.
Horses may become depressed after experiencing stress for extended periods of time or for another reason. Identifying the signs of depression can help you to take the action to rectify the horse’s situation and improve their mood. A horse that is depressed may stand still for several minutes. They often shift the weight to the front, while holding their necks horizontal and low, but still stretched out. The ears tend not to move very much when the horse is depressed, even in reaction to external stimulus. A horse that is depressed may appear rather indifferent to the environment, including interactions with other horses.
Discontent or Irritation
Discontent or irritation are incredibly important emotions to identify. Continuing to expose your horse to things that irritate them can lead to accidents. It is important to identify what is causing the discontent in your horse. In some cases, it may be as minor as insects flying around your horse. A horse that is discontent or irritated may swish their tail or shake their heads. They also tend to purse their lips and raise their necks. Stomping is another indication that the horse is irritated. When they stomp, they will simply lift their leg up and stomp it back down on the ground. While this may indicate mild irritation, it is important to notice other signs of irritation. If their ears are pinned back or their facial muscles are tensed, it is possible that the irritation is extreme and they are warning you to stay away.
Happy or Relaxed
Though many people tend to focus primarily on the signs that a horse is unhappy, it can also be helpful to understand the signs that your horse is happy or relaxed. This will help you to provide them with an environment that allows them to feel safe and happy. Horses that are relaxed often half-close their eyes. They may also stretch out their upper lips. The facial expressions horses make when happy often look like smiling, which can make it easy to identify. A horse that is relaxed may allow their ears to gently drift backward. It is important to note that this is not a pinning of the ears, which is a very different sign. A happy horse often lifts or tilts their necks slightly.
Avoid Accidents by Reading Horse’s Body Language
Many accidents could have been avoided if the individual had been familiar with reading the horse’s body language. They often provide warnings prior to striking, so it is important to understand these warning signs. A horse that is preparing to strike may shift their weight to free up legs for kicking. Stay out of range of a horse’s legs when you notice this sign. They will also pin back their ears and tense their facial muscles. This may be a sign that they are about to lunge or bite. Stomping in combination with these other signs is often a warning to stay away. It is important to pay attention to these signs. If a horse is displaying these symptoms, it is likely that they are in pain or are experiencing some other negative factor. You may want to consult a veterinarian if your pet is displaying these symptoms.
Understanding body language of your horse can help you to detect substantial issues in the early stages. It is incredibly important to ensure that your horse remains hydrated. Understanding the warning signs of dehydration, which is often present in body language, will help you to ensure that your horse is getting enough water to drink. Here at the Horse Drinker, we provide excellent products to ensure that your horse has constant access to appealing, clean water. The Bar-Bar-A can help to ensure that your horse’s drink enough water. To learn more about the services we offer, as well as how to read the body language of your horse, contact our experts today!