How to Understand Horse Behavior?

One of the key factors to working safely on your horse’s behalf is knowing the behavior that horses naturally exhibit. If you know that your horse is going to get aggressive or to scream at something, you will be better prepared to react to avoid a risky situation or avoid that behavior from occurring. The following article will explain some of the behaviors that horses are naturally inclined to exhibit.

Natural Survival Traits

The horse, as a prey animal, relies on flight as the primary method for survival. The predators it naturally faces are huge species like cougars bears, or wolves and therefore the ability of horses to beat the predators is crucial. Humans need to comprehend their natural flight in order to understand horses.
Horses are among the most perceptive domestic animals. As a predatory animal, they need to be able detect predators. Unnoticed stimulus can be a cause of concern for horses. As trainers and riders, we often confuse this reaction with “spookiness” or even bad behaviour.
Horses have a rapid reaction time. Prey animals must respond immediately to any predator that is perceived to ensure its survival.
Horses are able to be de-sensitized to frightening stimulus. They must quickly learn the dangers (e.g. or animals like lions, cougars, etc.) and what is safe (e.g. tumbleweeds birds, a discolored stone and so on. ) and what isn’t, which means they should not have to spend their entire lives escaping.


Vision of a horse is the principal detector of danger. Despite having poor vision for color, they are able distinguish red and blue from gray tones. However, they have greater difficulties distinguishing yellow and green from gray. Horses also suffer from poor perception of depth when using only one eye. They are unable to distinguish the difference between a trailer and an endless tunnel or a mud-puddle from a sluggish lagoon. Their perception improves by five times when they have two eyes (binocular vision). They are able to instantly shift their focus from close to distant objects. This is the reason horses tilt their heads in various ways to focus on close and. far objects. Horses are able to sense the movement of objects. This is the reason why horses are more frenzied in windy weather; things normally stationary are now considered to be
Potentially a threat. Horses are able to detect quite well at night; However, the contrast sensitivity is lower than that of cats.

The way horses work is different from ours. vision is different to ours. They are able to see virtually all-encompassingly, with only a tiny space directly in front of them and behind, which is their blind zone. Do not be around a horse without speaking with them when they are in those areas. when they’re scared, they’ll employ some of the defense strategies, e.g., kick or run. Horses can be able to see two things simultaneously with one eye at a time. This allows each side of the brain to function independently. As humans, horses also have dominant sides (right-handed as well as left-handed) However in contrast to humans, animals have to learn things twice, both on the right side as well as on the left. The expression of the eyes of horses is usually believed to be a reliable indicator of their behavior. e.g. eyes wide open, with a white line (and it’s not an Appaloosa) or scared; eyes half closed, tired and so on.

The hearing of horses is sharper than ours. They utilize their hearing for three major tasks: to hear sounds, to identify the exact location in which the sound is coming from and give sensory information that enables horses to discern the source. Horses can detect low to extremely high-frequency sound that ranges from between 14 and 25 kHz (human range is 20Hz-20 kHz). Horses’ ears can turn 180 degrees with 10 different muscle groups (vs. 3.0 for human ears) and they are able to select a specific region to focus on. This allows horses to focus on the noises to identify what is creating the sound.

The horse’s sensory feeling or the sensation of touching is very sensitive. The entire body of the horse is just as sensitive as our fingertips. They are able to feel the touch of just one hair, and feel every motion of the person riding.

Body Signals

Horses are adept in telling us exactly how they feel; the problem is that most people aren’t able to use the word “horse.” Here are some guidelines on reading the horse’s language.
Horse’s body language.

The horse’s tail:

High: They are active or overly excited.
Low: it’s an indication of exhaustion either from fear, anxiety, or submission
High over its back (as is seen in the majority foals) They can be playful or very fearful.
Swishing: they’re angry.
Horses’ legs are:

Pawing: they’re frustrated
A front-leg raised can be a minor danger (or an ordinary stance at times while eating)
A back-leg lift can be a defensive threat
Stamping is a sign of a slight danger or protest (or it could mean they are getting rid of flies, insects, or other insects by biting on their legs).

A few horses’ facial expressions can include:

Snapping is a common sight in foals that show submission to older horses. They’ll open their mouths and pull back the corners. They then stop and close their jaws.
Jaws open , teeth exposed. This indicates the threat of attack, or perhaps aggression.
The Flehmen response The reason for this is an unusual or strong smell that is usually experienced by stallions when they detect a mare being in hot weather. They put their noses in the air and then curl their upper lip towards their nose.
A nose that is swollen usually indicates they are in a state of alert or excitement.
White eyes typically means that they are afraid or angry. (White on the eyelids is common in Appaloosa breed.)

The ears of horses are a distinctive characteristic:

Neutral is when ears are held open upwards and open to face towards the outside or inwards.
Ripped: Ears held in a stiff position with open ears pointed straight ahead indicates the horse is attentive.
Airplane ears: The ears are flopped laterally, with openings facing downwards typically indicating that the horse is exhausted or is depressed.
Ears that are droopy: hang in a loose manner towards the side, often signifying pain or fatigue.
Ears that are angled inward (with openings directed back toward the rider) typically refers to attention to the rider’s needs or paying attention to instructions.
Ears resting to the neck flat: (see picture below) This is a warning sign to watch out! The horse is furious and aggressive


Horses are able to use a variety ways of non-vocal and vocal communication. Vocal sounds can be the squeal or scream that generally indicates danger by horses or stallions. Nickers are soft and calm. A stallion might nicker when in the process of courting a mare; the foal and mare are known to nicker each other and domestic horses nicker in search of food. Whinnies or neighs are most well-known sounding, drawn out noises that can be heard across distances. Horses whine to let other horses be aware of where they’re, and attempt to find the herd’s mate. Also, they respond their whinnies, even when they are away from sight.

Blowing is a powerful and rapid release of air that results in a loud”whooshing” sound. It usually is a signal of alarm to alert other people. Snorting can be a more
Passive, shorter, low pitched form of blowing that is typically the consequence of objects entering through the nose.

Contrary to signs of aggression in a herd there are other signals of friendship. Foals and mares nudge and kiss each other during nursing, or to provide comfort, and grooming in a mutual manner, as two horses nudge one another, is frequently observed.

Social Structure

A wild horse herd comprises one or two stallions and the mares as well as their foals. The herd’s leader typically is an old mare (the “alpha mare”) although one horse owns the entire herd. She continues to be the leader even though she might be physically weaker than the other mares. Older mares have more
experiences many close encounters and has survived more dangers more than other horses has ever had in herd. The primary requirement for the horse that leads is not strength or size. If it were, then humans will never be able to control the horse. Dominance is not just established by aggression, but also by actions that let other horses know that she is expecting to be respected.

The role of the stallion is to serve as the herd’s protector and guardian and to ensure the viability of reproduction. The harem of a stallion typically consists of two to 21 horses.
with as many as 8 being mares, and the remainder their offspring. Once the colts have reached the age enough to be able to live on their own, they’ll form an ‘adolescent herd. The females will
They can either stay in their current herd, or split into different herds, or create a new herd with a stallion who is a bachelor. When the stallion is too old, it will
to keep his position as the herd’s owner, he’s in turn replaced with a younger stallion in the bachelor to keep his position as herd owner. The normal time frame for a stallion to stay the leader for about 2 years, however some endure for longer than 10 years.

Horses are at their most vulnerable when they drink or eat. Therefore, when the horse is submissive, it can mimic eating by dropping it’s head, eating and kissing its lips (similar as snapping, which is mentioned earlier). Dominance happens when a horse is able to force another horse to act against its own will. One horse can move its body towards or contact with the other horse, forcing them to make a move. It is common for fighting to occur in situations where the horse that is dominant gets confronted by the horse who isn’t acting or reacting aggressively.


The term “vicious” refers to negative behaviors that are triggered by a variety of reasons, such as stress, anxiety, boredom, excessive energy and nervousness. The natural grazing schedule of horses is 12 to 16 days.
All day long. If they are kept in stalls, they are unable to engage in various natural pursuits such as walking, grazing and playing alongside other horses. The lack of natural stimuli could make a horse invent their own stimulation. Once these patterns are established, they can be very difficult to break.

Cribbing occurs when a horse bites the fixed surface (e.g. the border of the stall or grain bin, fence rail) then, raises his neck and then sucks into the air while making a grunting noise. The result is a release of endorphins that eases the discomfort. Cribbing can become addictive, even after being freed from the uncomfortable situation, the horse might continue to be prone to a cribbing. Some horses may even prefer to crib while eating! Cribbing may cause loss of weight as well as gastric colic, poor performance and excessive wear of teeth.

Weaving is when a horse is standing by the doorway to the stall and shifts its weight between its front legs, while the head is swaying. This can be result of boredom or excessive energy and can result in the loss of weight or performance issues, as well as weakening tendon.

Stall Kicking, stall walking or pawing or gnashing at the door to the stall are other issues that result from the boredom of being inside a stall. To lessen the frequency of these behaviors it is possible to add an additional meal time, putting toys inside the stall, or supplying more roughage or turn out times.

The habit of chewing wood, eating food or dirt, as well as self-mutilation result from a boredom or lack of exercise. But, nutritional deficiencies may be the cause of these vices. To stop this from being a reason, include an increase in roughage intake and offer free mineral or salt. This could reduce the incidence that the vice occurs.


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