How Do Horses Communicate With Each Other?

Horses are highly intelligent and social animals so it is understandable that they too can communicate their feelings.

But you must be wondering:

How do horses communicate with each other?

One of the common horse communication methods is the use of body language. A recent study revealed that horses pass on information by using their large ears. They also make use of their vocal repertoire like squeals, snorts, blows, and neighs to connect with each other.

So, if you are a horse owner, it will be helpful for you to understand all the horse communication sounds and methods. Knowing this can help you in many ways.

Just keep on reading and you will know yourself.

Understanding Horse Body language

By observing the body language of horses, you can certainly gain a lot of information about how they communicate.

Horses are highly sensitive animals and they are conscious of the changes in their surroundings.

Their body language is automatically adjusted according to their environment.

In every wild herd of horses, there is one lead horse or mare that is more groomed than others and the rest of the herd follows its command in critical situations.

Want to know something more interesting?

As a human, we may feel that horses ignore each other and don’t communicate much often but that is not the case.

In fact, communication is taking place all the time among horses and unlike humans, they rarely communicate through vocal repertoire.

Body language and facial expressions are the most common tools used by horses to communicate with each other.

This also reinstates the fact that horses are one of the most intuitive and intelligent animals known to men.

Horse Body Language in Relaxed Situations

In normal and relaxed situations, you’ll notice that the body language of a horse is relaxed and cozy.

The dozing stance of a horse is a relaxed posture which features:

  • Saggy lips
  • Relaxed hind leg
  • Drooping tail and neck

The Body Language of a Stressed Horse

If a horse is under stress because of a threat or an alarming sound, there is a visible change in its body posture i.e., flattened ears, stirring tail, tense facial expression, etc.

Body Language Signs of Submissiveness in Equines

Similarly, in the submissive stance, equines try to appear smaller by lowering their body posture and casting their eyes downward so the whole posture becomes compliant.

The Body Language of Scared Horses

In contrast, when there is a threatening or strange situation, their dozing stance changes into a rigid one.

Here’s how your horse’s body language would appear when it feels in danger:

  • Tensed muscles
  • Swaying nostrils
  • Erect tail
  • Wide eyes
  • Moving ears

In the wild, all these signs are efficiently and quickly observed by horse herds and they get ready to flee if the situation gets dangerous.

How do Horses Communicate With Their Ears?

It has also been observed that the moveable ears in horses are used by them to communicate with other herd members. This could be to communicate the direction of food or upcoming danger.

Here is how you can determine the mood of equine by reading the position of their ear.

Position of a horse’s ear Mood
Raised forward Attentive, interested
Drooping to the sides Relaxed and at ease, dozy
Flattened back Threatened, angry

Because of their moving ears, horses have a sharp hearing ability which allows them to pick up dim sounds.

Having 16 muscles in each ear enables them to identify any strange noise from as far as 4400 meters. Astonishing, isn’t it? 

They can also move their ears up to 180 degrees which help them in picking up sound from all sides.

Vocal communication in Horses

As I mentioned above, horses do not rely much on their vocal facilities and if you pay attention, you must have observed; horse communication is a quiet business.

The reason behind this voiceless communication is not to attract any predators.

As a social animal, horses tend to stick together so the need for vocal communication is minimal. But still, there are some sounds that horses make to convey their feelings.

Different sounds represent different things in the “horse world” because like humans they do not have an extensive vocabulary.

Want to see how it all works?

Take a look at the table below to know all about the vocal communication in horses.

Sound How it sounds Associated meaning
Nicker Relaxed, gentle growling sound Friendliness and submission, welcoming sound
Blow Louder than nicker – When a horse blows air out of his nose Interest, curiosity or fear
Squeal Louder than a Blow – high pitched squeal Signifying the wish to dominate
Whinny A loud and free sounding voice Used when a friend departs, signal to connect over a long distance

The Benefits of Understanding Horse Communication Sounds

Understanding the horse language will definitely improve your relationship with your horse.

By being perceptive to their body language and understanding some basic horse sounds, you can effectively train and instruct your equine according to your wishes.

Apart from that, you can develop a friendly relationship with your horse by merely being attentive towards it.

If you want your horse to loosen up, you first need to relax your stance as horses are quite sensitive to stress and tension around them.

And you know what?

All this can pleasantly alter your riding experience, too.

If you are having trouble riding a horse, understanding their body language will give you an upper edge.

You should also remember that by sitting in a saddle; you are communicating with a horse through your body.

Once you put in an effort to better understand the horse language, your relationship will become friendlier.

Related Questions

Can Horses understand human language? Latest studies suggest that horses can understand the human body language effectively.

In emotional intelligence:

Horses are comparable to dogs because they can even detect the change of facial expressions in humans.

They are much aware of human emotions and according to one experiment, they respond positively to a person with a relaxed posture as compared to a person with a dominant approach.

Do horses know their names? Horses are highly intelligent and smart animals so they can definitely differentiate between names. That being said, there are also some horses that don’t recognize their names.

Changing a horse’s name can be a time-consuming process because old horses often do not respond to new names. But with patience and continuous effort, you might get the desired outcome.

Do horses like to be petted? Horses prefer stroking and rubbing rather than patting although it all differs from horse to horse. Most horses like being rubbed on the neck, shoulder, chest or hip.

It is best to approach a horse from the side if you want to show affection because that way they can clearly see your body language and would not misunderstand it.

To determine if a horse likes to be petted or rubbed, you need to pay attention to its body language. If a horse moves away or becomes tensed, then it is better to avoid petting it. On the contrary, it will come closer to you or go into a relaxing stance if it prefers being stroked.

Ideally, you should test and see how and where your horse likes to be petted or rubbed. Unlike humans, a horse does not like to be touched often so it is always wise to give it some privacy.

Do horses get lonely? As we all know, horses are social animals and they like living in a herd. They do better in the company. While most horses like company, some others prefer staying alone.

Look out for signs like fence walking, cribbing, and whinnying at other horses that can determine whether or not a horse is lonely.

In the case of a lonely horse, it is better to get them company like a mini horse which is also cheap and easy to keep animal.

Some horses even like the company of other domestic animals like a cow or a goat. At the end of the day, it all depends on the nature of an individual horse.

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