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The Horse’s Language

Last revised April 16, 2017.

Droopy ears, in REM sleep.1

Sometimes standing in his stall, my horse lowers his head, stretching it forward. His head turns slightly to the side. His eyes half close. His lips tremble. He doesn’t take a step.

What’s going on? I am rubbing, brushing, or scratching his chest and lower neck. My horse is an expressive hedonist. He has no problem telling me how he feels when he’s in ecstasy.

You’ve probably noticed this: horses don’t speak our language. (Many of us don’t speak it very well either.) So our job is either to teach the horse to speak our language, learn to speak the horse’s language, or come up with a compromise: giving the horse signals it will understand, and understand what he is signaling back.

The horse’s language is one of emotion, of approach and avoidance. It is more connotative than denotative. Several parts of the horse may combine to express the same emotion, and to make his position unmistakable. Here is a summary of these signals:

Meaning of Affective State Arousal Valence Motivational
Intensity
Possible Signals
I’m listening to you. mild positive low Ears facing you.
Don’t go! Come back! high positive high Whinny, raised head.
I’m so glad to see you! moderate positive high Nicker.
That feels really good! low positive low Groan, lowered head, half-closed eyes, and drooping lower lip.
I’m thinking about eating mild positive high Tongue is repeatedly protruded from mouth.
I love you! mild positive low Nuzzling and nibbling.
Let’s play! moderate positive high A gentle bite without nuzzling.
I’m relaxing. low positive moderate Maybe licking lips. Licking doesn’t seem to occur during social interactions in either domestic or free ranging horses.
I’m calm and happy. low positive low Sigh, lowered head, relaxed ears pointing forward.
I’m very, very relaxed. low positive low Airplane ears, tail quiet, sagging lower lip, eyes half closed.
I’m sound asleep. low positive low Droopy ears, eyes closed, sagging lower lip.
I’m a little anxious. moderate positive moderate Blow, raised head, ears in different directions, stiff ears pointed forward, tail clamped down, flared nostrils with lips closed, pawing the ground.
I’m scared. high negative high Snort, raised head, stiff ears pointed forward and twitching, high tailing, eyes show white.
I’m not feeling confident. You can be the boss. moderate negative moderate Squeal.
Please leave me alone.. high negative moderate Turning his back, back leg lifted.
I’m irritated. high negative high Tight lips.
I’m angry! high negative high Ears pinned back, tail lashing, stamping, nostrils flared and wide open or pinched, wrinkled nose, serious bite. Eyes may be partly closed, or showing the white. Kicks.
I’m frustrated. high negative high Pawing.
I’m stressed. high negative high Chewing or grinding teeth. Most often seen when a horse wants to do something but is restrained

Modern psychology might treat these 16 different signals from the horse as affective states, which vary in arousal (from low through moderate to high), valence (positive or negative), and motivational intensity (strength of an urge to move toward or away from another horse or person.) Think of arousal as degree of activation of the sympathetic nervous system, such as heart rate. When valence is positive, the horse will move toward the object of the affective state, at a speed governed by the motivational intensity. When valence is negative, the horse will usually move away from the object.

From His Mouth

A Horse’s Speaking Vocabulary

A horse’s verbal communication is always full of sound, sometimes full of fury, and sometimes signifying nothing without knowledge of context. A horse seems to have the following speaking vocabulary:2

  • A whinny or neigh, loud and long. If you are a horse, each horse is distinguishable by its whinny,3 and so one whinny says to the other horses, “Here I am.” When two horses who are good friends are contemplating hooking up, or have been separated, or are being separated, they may issue a whinny. The whinny is useful. Any nearby horse knows where this whinnying horse is and who he is, and any unrestrained horse who wishes may approach them. You may hear your horse whinny when you are driving away with him in the trailer or leaving on a trail ride, and again on your return. Or you may hear a whinny from his best friend in a stall as you are leaving the barn. If the first whinny is answered, the first horse may whinny again. If you listen closely, you may hear that a whinny seems to begin with a squeal, and trail off into a nicker. A whinny may be used to try to locate a friend, or used when the friend has been spotted, or when the friend is leaving. It is useful in cowboy movies, but in fact is a sad, lonely sound.
  • A nicker. This whispered whinny is essentially the same as a loud and long whinny, but used in the barn, or in close proximity to the intended recipient. A nicker is a vibrating sound, created in his vocal cords, and issued through a closed mouth. Nickers are distinct, and horses can identify the horse that has nickered.4 It will usually be spoken with the horse looking at the intended recipient, head raised and ears pointing forward. When the horse can move toward the object of the whinny, it will do so. When I come into the barn, both G and Bud may nicker to me. When I hear that nicker, they have made themselves irresistible and I must bury them in love. Like whinnies, nickers are handy in the sound track of cowboy movies.
  • A groan. A horse may groan from pleasure or pain, and the sounds are nearly indistinguishable to humans. Expressing pleasure, G may groan when he urinates, when he defecates, when he rolls in his dust bath, or when he anticipates such a roll. He may give the same groan when I scratch his chest or neck. But it sounds to me that the same groan is used when he needs to express terror, as when he stumbles on a trail ride. If a horse groans when you saddle him, or mount, or on landing in a jump, then you should assume this is a groan of pain. So consider a groan as a sign of emotion, and look at the context to determine what it means.
  • A snort. A horse exhales suddenly through his nostrils with his mouth shut. The snort, which may last only a second, may be accompanied by a raised head. A snort is likely to occur whenever he is concerned about something, as when deer jump up on a trail ride, and blast away. Snorting clears the mucus membranes of the nose, preparing him for the most sensitive smelling, useful to appraise the situation and learn more about the danger. A raised head means that the horse is anxious, and it improves his smell, hearing, and vision. A horse that snorts is aroused, thinking about danger, feeling some fear, and preparing for possible offense or defense.
  • A blow. This is the snort, but in a more relaxed horse. Unlike a snort, a blow does not create a vibrating or fluttering noise. It is likely to occur when he has curiosity or mild anxiety, but not fear. He might blow when examining some new object or when greeting another horse over the fence. Two horses that are blowing over the fence may decide they wish to be friends, and continue their blowing, adding some nuzzling. Or after one blows, the other might decide against friendship, and nip, stomp, or squeal. A horse might also blow when encountering a novel object. After appraising it, he may decide the object is safe, and relax, either nudging the object or ignoring it. Or he might decide it is dangerous, in which case he will tense and move away from the object. On a trail ride, G is likely to blow at about the same time he is otherwise telling me that he wants to run. Treat the blow as a sign of moderate arousal, and use the context to determine what is exciting him. Some writers don’t distinguish between snort and blow.
  • A sigh. This is a variation of the blow, both quieter and more extended. It always seems to come from a happy, relaxed horse. His head will not be raised for this sound, his ears not back. It will sometimes occur when he has completed an exercise or trick, has been rewarded, and feels good. It might occur when he is asked to do something he knows well, and is feeling confident about his forthcoming performance. He may repeat the sigh two or three times.
  • A snore. Horses might do this when sleeping, in which case it just means that there is some nasal congestion. But when awake, a snore is a broadband, raspy sound created during inhalation, prior to a snort. It signals alarm when the horse is alert.
  • A squeal. This is a high pitched cry, uttered in a tense situation. The intensity of the situation is reflected in the intensity and duration of the squeal. This is often uttered during an interaction over the fence, or when a new horse is added to an established herd, between two horses that don’t know each other well. The horse that squeals has not been bitten, and we can see no sign of rough treatment by the non-squealing horse. The squealer sometimes backs away from the other, but if so, it will likely return to exploring the other horse as if he hadn’t squealed. I often see one horse squeal, but have never seen both horses squeal. Just after squealing, the squealer may proceed to buck and kick; the other horse may kick back, but seems to remain calm. Play-back experiments5 with stallions show that squeals provide information about status. Sonograms reveal that squeals of dominants are longer than those of subordinates and that only those of dominants have at their onset high-frequency components. Squeals are distinct, and horses can identify the horse that has squealed.6 The squeal may connote tension, but may denote nothing — neither “You are dominant!” or “I am dominant!”
  • Grinding teeth. This horse is frustrated and angry.7

You may be able to identify other sounds from your horse, or other meanings of them. But you’ll need to admit that his spoken vocabulary is sketchy. He doesn’t use his few words very often — on average less than once an hour.8 You might conclude that if he speaks rarely, and has such a minor vocabulary, his ears are not tuned to communication with other horses — or people — and his brain is not well-built for processing meanings from such communication.9

The Squeal

We don’t know much about these few words our horses make. Consider the squeal:

Many writers believe that squealing reveals dominance, but I do not think this is so. Among two horses who are meeting for the first time, there is no dominance until they have interacted and established it. If we wisely abandon the words “dominance” and “submission”, we can likely agree that in any encounter between two horses, one might be feeling more confident than the other, or one might be feeling more anxious. These two states are probably the basis of what will come in establishing dominance: one will always be more confident than the other, and as a result, will not be as likely to back down in the opening ceremonies for the “let’s get acquainted” project. Both horses will detect the confidence of the other, and be able to compare confidence levels. The slightly less confident horse will use these initial clues, and want to back away from confrontation. A squeal could help save his skin.

Those writers who claim that their horse is expressing dominance with a squeal because it is accompanied by kicking and rearing may have it wrong: All of these behaviors could be motivated by fear of the other horse. It is the squealing horse, after all, that moves away briefly after squealing. Sometimes the horse that squeals and moves away will turn to threaten a kick, and I’ve met people that think this means the squealer is dominant. I think that turning to kick is a defensive move, and reveals the squealer’s notions that it is threatened. Often the non-squealing horse shows curiosity and interest, not fear.

I believe that the squealing horse is always indicating his tension, and is often indicating submission. My case study is my boy Bud. He is very self-confident. Added to a new herd, within a few days the others in the herd seem to follow him around. He takes whatever position he wants at the feeder or water trough, and stands closest to the gate when it is time to come in. He is willing to walk up to any new horse to check them out. He is happy to experiment with a few play bites over the fence. The other horse often squeals, but Bud has only squealed once in my time with him. If you want to test the claim that the squealer is the dominant horse, let your horse approach another over the fence, with a long, loose lead line. I expect that you will find that the last horse to the fence is the first to squeal.

If I put Bud and G together, Bud will maul G, biting him in the butt, mounting him, and otherwise playing very hard. It is hard play, not fighting, and if Bud stops playing and walks off for a moment, G will turn and follow him. Bud is clearly the dominant one under normal circumstances.

While we are on this topic, I want to defend the squealers. There are writers out there who claim that “squealing is bad manners” and that squealing should not be allowed.10 We’d be better off if these writers were not allowed. Squealing is likely a safe verbal way to establish rank, by yielding to an unfamiliar horse. Wouldn’t we rather that rank in a herd be established with minimal violence?

The Nicker

There may be three kinds of nickers:11

  • A nicker that issues when food has arrived. This sound is audible from one end of the aisle to the other, and slurs into a single signal.
  • A nicker may be used by a stallion to tell a mare of his interest. She can hear this many-syllable version from about 100 feet.
  • A mare may nicker to her foal, to draw it closer when she senses danger. This nicker is only audible from a few feet away. The little one understands this nicker without any education in the details.

The Whinny

Still, there is a lot of auditory signaling from the horse that we should work to understand. Consider a whinny:

The whinny is distinctive to each horse, and can serve as an acoustic signature. A study I’ll draw from several times here (Lemasson et al, 2009)12 analyzed acoustic structures of a number of whinnies from different horses, and found nine parameters that significantly differed between individual horses and that presented “a strong reliable potential for individual identity coding.”

Whinnies are affected by the sex, size, and weight of the horse whinnying.13 Your horse can identify any horse’s sex, body size, and familiarity from its whinny.14 If the whinnying horse is known to the listening horse, then its exact identity can be determined from the whinny.15 Specifically identifying the horse that made the whinny is to be expected, since geese, penguins, dolphins, elephants, crows, guenons, humans, and other animals can do this from the social calls of others.16 From a basic whinny capability at birth, a horse develops his own details of how to make this sound… we could consider his whinny as his name, one he has given himself, and one known by others. So the next time all whinnies sound the same to you, join me in my shame for my own impoverished listening skills.

Individual recognition is easily done by horses for squeals, whinnies, and nickers,17 so we should suspect that these are a horse’s most important words. If you hear a horse, and don’t recognize it from its squeal, neigh, or nicker, you can make some rough guesses about the horse: stallions are likely to have lower voices than others; males seem to have lower voices than females, and big horses have lower voices than small ones.18

With His Body

Turning his back. A horse who turns his back on another horse wants to disengage and be left alone. Such a move puts his hind legs in a good position to enforce the point.

Turning his back with a small kick of his rear feet. This horse is anxious, concerned about his safety. He is warning another horse to stay away.

Tail clamping and rapid head withdrawal. This is a submission signal.19

With His Head and Neck

Raised head. A horse will raise his head when he hears, smells, or sees something unfamiliar and feels anxious. If there is no distant source of concern, then a raised head means a local source of concern, and his raised head reveals his alertness and concern.

Lowered head. If there is nothing that your horse senses that concerns him, he will relax, feel contentment, and may begin to feel sleepy. Lowering his head is a prelude to sleep. If it is lowered very close to the ground, use context to determine the meaning of a lowered head. On the trail, he may be tracking smells; at other times it may indicate depression. In the round pen, the traditional interpretation of a horse approaching the handler, with head lowered, is that the horse is ready to submit. But it may simply signal a desire to approach the handler.20

Head snaked forward. In this posture, the horse has lowered his head and pushed it forward. He is angry, and may be moving in for a bite.

Angry horse, head snaked forward, moving toward his target. Also note ear, eye, nostrils, lips.21

Head extended and twisted. The meaning of this position is unmistakable. It is usually done by a restrained horse that is pleading. He may be pleading for a carrot or other treat, or just a touch. It is most likely when the horse has seen another horse given something he wants.

Horse begging. Sometimes the neck will be twisted even more than in this photo.22

Head tossing. Mr. Horse jerks his head up and down while being ridden, pulling the reins from the rider’s hands. He’s angry, and doesn’t like what’s going on.23

With His Ears

A horse may be easier to understand from his ear position than his voice because they are always in a position that means something, whereas he speaks infrequently. We can’t wiggle our ears at all, so a horse’s communication with his ears is something we need to sit down and learn. When you are near your horse, you should always monitor his ears, and take seriously whatever he is signaling. There will be no kick in anger without the ears already pinned back, for instance. Keep your eyes on his ears, and you’ll have ample warning.

Warning of Anger

Ears Pinned Back. Horses pin their ears back when they are angry, as do all other mammals. Ears that are pinned back are less likely to get ripped off in a fight. Evolution addressed this problem by pinning ears back whenever the animal was considering a fight, if the mammals ears are capable of rotating. Nearly all mammals with rotating ears will pin their ears from time-to-time, and it always means “I’m ready to fight”. Your dog, your cat, and your horse all use the pinned ear signal, and it means the same in all of them. Your horse might pin his ears when you are about to put on a saddle that has been causing him back pain, when your vet or farrier arrive for their special traumas, when another horse comes too close at the feed, etc. Ears pinned should be understood as one of your horse’s most clear cut threats. If your horse is planning a kick or bite, he will always signal this warning first. Translation: “I object to what is going on. I may need to bite or kick some butt.”

Ears pinned back.24

Processing Danger

Ears in different directions. Horses will turn their ears to best hear something of interest. Sometimes ears will face in different directions, indicating two sound sources they are tracking. Translation: “I can hear two interesting sounds, coming from different places. Both are of some concern. I’ll see if I can sort through what these sounds might mean.”

Ears in different directions. This donkey demonstrates how to listen to two things at once.25

Stiff ears pointed forward. When horses are concentrating on a single sound source, they will point their stiffened ears forward, and simultaneously turn head and neck so that ears are now facing the sound source of interest. In this position, the ears, eyes, and nose are all able to concentrate on understanding what is in front of the horse’s head. Translation: “Shhh! I’m concentrating on this. It might be dangerous.”

Stiff ears pointed forward. All watch the photographer.26

Stiff ears pointed forward and twitching. Still concentrating on a sound source directly ahead, but concern has grown. If you are riding, twitching ears may serve as a pre-flight check, and be followed by bolting. Translation: “I was right, this is dangerous. I need to be elsewhere.”

Ears turned to the side, and tail tucked. This is a sign of submission.27

Relaxing

Relaxed ears pointed forward. Relaxed ears mean a relaxed horse. Translation: “Life is good. I’m happy. Maybe I should have a nap.”

Relaxed ears pointed forward.28

Airplane ears. Ears have relaxed and are now out to the side of his head. He feels safe and drowsy. Translation: “Yes, a nap would be a very good idea.”

Airplane ears on a dozey horse.29

Droopy ears. When in deep sleep (lying horizontally), his ears have relaxed, and flopped away — usually facing backwards. Translation: “Help. I dozed off and dreamed I was a bloodhound”

Ears turned back. Listening to you if you are on his back, or listening to whatever is behind him.

Two draft horses pulling, and listening to instructions from the rear, with ears turned back.30

From His Tail

The horse’s tail provides some obvious clues about the horse’s mood.

High tailing. When a horse “high tails it out of here”, he’s moving quickly, with great excitement, and the dock of his tail may be straight up. When he is simply standing with his dock (the short bony part of the tail) raised, he’s excited. This excitement is just what a squirrel or chipmunk shows when it runs across any open space.

High tailing.31

Tail quiet, relaxed. This horse is relaxed, or possibly sick.

Tail clamped down. This horse is nervous. A horse or person close to him is intimidating him. Clamping it against his butt offers some protection against attack. But context matters: expect a clamped tail when crossing a stream on a cold day, or when visiting the wash stall.

Tail lashing. Snapping his tail from side to side is a sign that he is angry.32 May be accompanied by pinned ears. More violent than a tail chasing flies away.

From His Legs

Pawing. Many meanings. He might be adjusting his dust bath, prior to rolling in it. He might be breaking ice or investigating something. If he is standing in his stall, he may be frustrated — perhaps because his dinner has not yet arrived.

Leg Lifted. This is possibly a warning about an impending kick. You might see it near a food source, when others are annoying him.

Stamping. Might be a threat, or might be trying to shake off nuisance flies.

From His Nose

Nostrils flared and wide open. Wrinkled nose. If your horse flares his nostrils or pulls them backward and a wrinkle forms behind the nose, it may mean that he is very annoyed with something, and bracing for a fight. Use this along with a check for pinned ears to see what to expect.

Flared nostrils, lips closed. Your horse is aroused — maybe fearful, definitely alert and excited.

Nostrils pinched. This, too, can mean that a fight is brewing. Use this along with a check for pinned ears to see what to expect.

From the Horse’s Mouth

Horses are “obligate nasal breathers”, meaning they must breathe through their noses, and cannot breathe through their mouths. This leaves a horse free to keep his mouth open, or keep it closed, and to put his lips into any position.

Sagging lower lip. When your horse’s lower lip is just hanging, he is very relaxed, and may be content, drowsy or sleeping. A droopy lip is often accompanied by a lowered head and partly closed eyes. Sometimes a good extended scratching on his chest or neck will trigger this. Next to licking you, it is one of the surest signs that he likes what you are doing.

A sagging lower lip on a relaxed horse.33

Tight lips. These don’t sink ships. They warn you that Mr. Horse is irritated about something.

Licking lips. These come as his tension goes down. In the round pen, you may see them when you stop driving him away. Doing tricks, he may lick his lips when he has just understood something you asked for, and has been told that he did it well.

Nuzzling with gentle bites. Whether directed to another horse, his pet goat, or you, the meaning of this must be clear. Translation: “I love you!”

Nuzzling between Arabian foal and mom, with a gentle bite from foal.34

A gentle bite without nuzzling. If this is a quick bite, reaching in, grabbing your jacket, and pulling a little, this might translate to “Let’s play!” or “Back off!”. If this is a quick bite, reaching in, grabbing your bicep, and pulling a little, this might translate to “Let’s play!” or “Back off!”. In both cases, you must judge the bite from its context, not from its consequence.

  • If you have just been playing with him, tickling him, scratching him, it might translate to a request for more play. Even if it hurts a little, it is quite likely well-intentioned. That’s why they call it “horse play”. When he wants to play with you, he will escalate this play if encouraged, back off if discouraged. You can defend against such bites by watching his ears, wearing a barn coat, pushing his head away from you if he is reaching around to get you, and by saying “No!”
  • If it is part of an exchange with another horse, and they are both exchanging, it is part of their horse play. Remember that play resembles subdued fighting. It can hurt. But it is accompanied by excitement, not anger. Such a bite will hurt, may remove some hair, might even break the skin… but it is not intended to injure.
  • If you have just given him his grain, and are standing in his stall trying to brush or scratch him, I’d translate it to “Back off! Don’t disturb me. I’ve been looking forward to this grain all day, and I need to concentrate!”

A serious bite. A serious bite is a hard grip, usually on a sensitive place, that is maintained as the victim attempts escape. You don’t need context for this. It should be unambiguous. A serious bite can really hurt, and leave a wound shaped like the curve of his front teeth.

Two stallions at war, in a horse fighting competition in Tiantou, China. Blood on the teeth of the black horse makes it clear that these bites are serious.35

Snapping. Foals may do some snapping toward other horses, in which they stretch their head forward, draw back their lips, and snap their jaws. Snapping was once considered to be submissive, but studies have shown that it doesn’t inhibit aggression and may even trigger it.36 Snapping may have multiple meanings, depending on context. It disappears from foals after the reach puberty.

From the Horse’s Eye

Eyes half closed. Most often, this happens when the horse is completely relaxed, perhaps drowsy. It is usually accompanied by a lowered head and drooping lower lip. If it is sustained, it may be a product of an eye injury or other medical condition.

Drowsy horse, with half-closed eye.37

Showing the white. You’ll see the white of the eye in a horse that is startled, afraid, or nervous. This comes about as the horse opens his eye as much as it can, to maximize what the eye can take in.

Angry eyes. When a horse prepares to fight, he needs to protect his ears, his nose, and his eyes. Such protection is done through a raised head, pinned ears, partially closed nostrils, and partially closed eyes.

From the Feet

A once knew a bullfrog who decided to travel from one backyard pond to another. He hopped across the lawn, and because this was unusual for him, I followed. He reached the far pond, and sat on the edge for a while. I assumed he was daydreaming. But instead he was considering the situation carefully. When he went into the water, his jump took him about five feet. He landed directly on another bullfrog who was floating in the pond. They began to fight. To me, frog jumps always seemed to be random in direction and distance. Even in Calaveras County. But Freud would have said about this guy’s landing spot: “There’s no such thing as an accident.” The targeting was intentional. After the fight, my big bullfrog immediately took control of that section — the best part — of that pond.

Kicks, gentle and otherwise. A horse is as clever as a frog. He has complete control of his feet. You can walk 1,000 miles with a horse, in sandals, and never once be stepped on. Or you can go 20 feet with him, and be stepped on twice. Any step by a horse is not a random act. Kicks are similarly controlled. A kick that doesn’t touch the target was not intended to touch it. A kick that gently touches the target was intended to be gentle. Both are mild forms of bone-breaking kicks, and so serve as a warning. The translation for a gentle kick: “You’ve made me angry. I could really hurt you. Back off now, and leave me alone.” And a hard kick? “I’m angry. You’re to blame. I’ll make you pay. Back off!”

Pawing the ground. Almost always pawing the ground comes from tension, and probably offers tension release. The tension might be called anxiety, excitement, or impatience. When barn staff comes down the aisle with grain, expectant horses may paw in their stalls while they wait. G was in the trailer, and we were in line waiting to board a ferry. He began pawing, and didn’t let up until we reached the end of the ferry ride, where our pace improved. The woman in the convertible next to his trailer on the ferry was laughing, because she knew just what he was thinking.

From Movement

Backing up. A horse that moves backward, rather than forward, when given the freedom to do so, is likely stressed.38

Bucking. A horse pins his ears back, arches his back, and jumps up and forward. Certainly stressed.39

Change in pace. A horse that tries to stop when moving forward,40 or suddenly speeds up when moving forward,41 may be stressed.

Crabbing. If a horse walks forward with his back legs behind but over to the side of his front legs, he may be stressed.42

Stumbling. The horse seems to lose his balance while moving forward, interrupting the gait. Possibly stress.

Teaching a Horse to Speak

Horses weren’t born with the sort of mechanical apparatus that makes conventional speech possible. Their anatomy is not as clever as that of a bird. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t have opinions and desires, and would act to change their world if they could.

You have made observations of dining preferences in your horse. You look at him in the pasture, and note that he is standing at the hay, eating, or that he is grazing on the other side of the pasture. He has voted with his feet.

You may have done an experiment on feed preferences. Hang two buckets in his stall, place different feeds in them, and see which he chooses. Of course, you don’t have to act on his preference, but at least this simple test will tell you which he prefers.

Your feed bucket test is an example of a two choice preference test. Such tests have been used several times to ask horses questions.

Another way to empower a horse to talk to us is with a variation of the two bucket technique: provide a Y maze, using operant conditioning in a two-choice preference test. In this test, a horse enters a chute, and then either veers off to a left chute or a right chute. In a training phase, the horse learns that option A is always to the left, B to the right. During the testing phase, the horse can be ridden, or can walk through the maze at liberty. The horse can “vote with his feet”: if he knows that one option awaits on the left, and a different one on the right, he can choose the one he prefers when he has free choice.

Does a mare have a preference in stallions?

The answer to this one seems obvious, but the details are interesting. A study of sexual preferences of mares43 was conducted much like the feed bucket experiment mentioned above: mares were led out and given a chance to smell, touch and view each of two stalled stallions for 10 seconds each. They were then walked back to a starting line, and allowed to wander. The researchers found that individual mares had definite preferences for individual stallions in the breeding season, and seemed to prefer those who vocalized the most. (Perhaps the stallions were expressing their own attraction to the mares, perhaps they were following Billy Joel’s advice in “Tell Her About It”.44) When not in estrus, the same mares spent less time around stallions, and showed no preferences in one individual over another.

When in estrus, the ladies generally agreed on who they liked. A stallion named Staley was the most attractive, capturing an average of 78 seconds of the mares’ study time, while Studley was avoided, attracting only 49 seconds. (What’s in a name?) Four other stallions ranked in between.

This was a simple experiment with a plausible result.

Would a horse prefer to eat, exercise, or be with his friends?

Horses spend most of their time grazing or resting. Grazing involves a little walking as the horse grazes his way across his dinner plate. Feral and wild horses spend 3-10% of their time walking and only 1% of their time trotting or cantering. The distribution locomotion time is different for domestic horses, who may be locked in a stall for part or all of the day, and may be occasionally ridden. Does stall confinement leave a horse yearning for a chance to exercise?

Four researchers at Cornell45 were interested in learning both about a horse’s preferences and the strength of those preferences. To assess both, they built a contraption consisting of a push plate, a switch, and an electronic counter. They were able to set the counter to some value, and when the push plate had been pushed this many times, a relay would unlock a door, and the door would swing open. So if the researchers set their counter to 20, the horse would need to press the plate 20 times before the door would open.

To begin their experiment, they needed to train the horses in how to push the plate. The researchers used a clicker to teach the horse to push it. In the beginning, a single push would open the door, and the horse could walk out into the paddock to collect a reward. After a few trials with this fixed ratio of 1 (one reward for every attempt), the ratio was changed to 2: two presses required for one opened door. Even with a fixed ratio of 4, it only took the horses three days to figure out how to open their door and get into the paddock.

After training, it was possible to measure strength of motivation by simply counting how many plate presses a horse would perform for a given reward: 30 minutes in a large paddock, 1.5 pounds of Legends feed, or 30 minutes in a small paddock with a companion horse. The details of the reward schedule are beyond our scope here.

To determine the interests of stalled horses on exercise, a treadmill was offered at the end of one arm of a Y maze. Horses were led through the maze repeatedly, so they knew which arm led to the treadmill, and which led back to the stall. A horse who chose the treadmill would get to “jog” 4,800 meters or jog 4,000 meters and gallop 1,200 meters — all in addition to a 400 meter walking warm up and cool down.

The results are of interest.

  • Eight of the 9 horses chose to avoid the treadmill and go back to their stalls every time. The remaining horse chose the treadmill in two out of three trials. These horses preferred stall rest to forced exercise. If your horse doesn’t seem to want to exercise, don’t call him lazy. Call him normal. But we shouldn’t generalize to all exercise for all horses: there may have been something about the treadmill surface or the mandatory pace that didn’t appeal to the horses. Your horse might love to exercise with you.
  • Most of the horses chose to be alone for 15 minutes in a large paddock rather than going back to their stalls. But one horse always preferred his stall, and another preferred the stall in 2 out of 3 choices.
  • Horses preferred to be with others while in the paddock. Those who were alone in the paddock returned to their stalls sooner than those who were together with two colleagues. If released daily, those released in a group averaged 35 minutes of voluntary turnout, whereas those released alone came back in after 17 minutes. For those turned out with others, this difference jumped with 2 days of deprivation, where those released in a group now spent 53 minutes turned out. For those turned out alone, there was no difference between daily turnout and turnout after two days of being locked up. These horses didn’t seem to mind being stuck in a stall, unless when they were turned out they could be with friends. Then the longer they had been deprived of each other, the more time they would choose to spend together when they could.
  • Horses initially worked harder for food than for other exercise, solitary turnout, or turnout with companionship. When the amount of work (plate presses) necessary for the reward increased, their rate of consumption did not fall as fast as that for exercise or the company of another horse.

This study doesn’t intend to conclude that horses would always prefer to eat over socializing, wandering outside, or exercising. And we should not conclude that horses don’t like exercise. Horses might readily choose to walk but avoid jogging or galloping, and they might choose moving over natural ground rather than exercising on a treadmill. After all, they aren’t hamsters.

But this study does show a method that the authors developed that could be used to let horses talk to us. For instance, in assessing the palatability of a food, horses could vote with plate presses, or vote by turning down one arm of a Y maze for one food, and the other arm for an alternative.

Does your horse want the heat on or off? Light on or off? Beddding?

Operant conditioning has been used to determine if a horse would prefer heat in his outdoor shed, or like light on when standing in a darkened barn. Katherine Houpt46 used it to teach horses to choose what they wanted. Horses chose to turn on lights in a darkened barn, and chose to turn on heat in an outdoor shed.

Houpt also used two-choice preference tests to ask horses if they wanted bedding when they were about to lie down, and whether they wanted a stall which had a view of other horses. Horses didn’t care about having visual contact with other horses but did prefer bedding, especially when lying down.

The important conclusion here is less about what do horses want, and much more about will horses ask for what they want when it matters to them? Horses could be taught to flip on a fan in the run-in shed in the summer. The fan could be on a timer, and turn itself off every 30 minutes. My expectation is that they’d choose to drive off flies in the summer, wouldn’t want the fan in the winter. With a switch they could operate, you could save money and they could be masters of their fate. Horses could likely learn to turn on the fan by trial and error — accidentally leaning on the button could encourage repetition.

You may not have the luxury of giving your horse everything he wants, but you should aspire to knowing that it is that he wants.

Does a Horse Like Rollkur?

Rollkur is hyperflexion of the horse’s neck achieved through aggressive force. It is banned by the world governing body, the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI), but is commonly practiced. It is banned for many reasons:

  • Rollkur forces the horse’s head and neck into a submissive posture, and some believe that forcing this posture makes the horse feel inferior and submissive, and robs him of his pride, sometimes leading to behavioral problems.47
  • Rollkur restricts the horse’s forward vision,48 forcing his sharpest vision to be at his feet, and leaving him nearly blind to where he is moving.
  • Rollkur likely disturbs the horse’s balance.49
  • The nuchal ligament runs from the back of the skull to vertebra in the lower part of the neck, and helps hold the horse’s head up. About 80% of horses used in dressage and jumping are reported to have injuries around the attachment of the nuchal ligament on the head, whereas these injuries are rare in horses used for other purposes.50 Rollkur places stress on the intervetebral discs in the nuchal area and withers that may cause lesions and pain.51

Anything that regularly produces negative emotions or injury cannot be pleasant.

On the left: horse in Rollkur. On the right: horse in regular poll flexion. Sketches show the horse equipped with draw reins (draw reins are attached to the saddle girth underneath the horse’s chest, are led between the front legs through the ring of the bit and from there to the rider’s hands.) Arrows indicate direction of force imposed by the rider (top arrow), the fixation point (bottom arrow), and the resulting mechanical force (dotted arrow) that draws the horse’s muzzle towards its chest.52 If draw reins are not used, the horse’s head is bent down by applying pressure on standard reins. The horse bends his neck to avoid the pain of the bit.

The FEI may not approve of Rollkur. But what do horses think about it? Six researchers from Canada and Sweden recently teamed up53 to examine horse attitudes toward the Rollkur posture and the restraint that forces this. Fifteen riding horses were ridden 30 times through a Y-maze randomly alternating between sides. Riding through one arm of the Y-maze was always followed by a short round ridden in Rollkur, whereas riding through the other arm was followed by a short round ridden without Rollkur. Immediately after the training phase, horses were again repeatedly ridden into the maze; however, riders left it to the horse to decide which arm of the maze to enter. During Rollkur, horses moved slower and more often showed behavioural signs of discomfort, such as tail-swishing, head-tossing or attempted bucks, and 14 of the 15 horses chose significantly more often the maze-arm not associated Rollkur. Some of the horses were later given two fear tests following short rides with or without Rollkur. During Rollkur, horses behaved more fearfully, and took longer to approach the scary stimuli.

The conclusion of this study is clear, I believe: given a choice, horses would not choose Rollkur. Horses that are coerced into Rollkur may be more fearful and potentially more dangerous to ride.

Would your horse enjoy a longer or shorter ride today?

A universal assumption among riders is that horses enjoy being ridden. The “partnership” of natural horsemanship assumes that a horse is as eager to be ridden as their owner is to ride them, and that through a common mission, both can enjoy some quality time together. Of course, when given the freedom to do so, horses spend a good portion of their day moving about, so it would stand to reason that if they got to move under saddle, this would meet their needs to move about.

A Y-maze in an arena was used by two researchers54 to determine whether horses would prefer 1 or 2 laps of 40 meters at a walk or trot. One arm of the maze always led to the shorter ride, the other to the longer ride. During the training phase, horses were repeatedly ridden through the maze, taking one arm or the other, followed by the longer or shorter ride as dictated by that arm.

After the training phase, horses were dismounted at the entrance to the maze, and allowed to walk the maze, choosing the exit they preferred. When they came out of the maze, they were mounted and ridden for the shorter or longer ride, as dictated by that choice.

In a pilot study, all of the horses chose the arm of the maze that took them closest to the arena’s exit. The authors report that “If horses were not caught immediately after exiting the maze, they walked or trotted straight to the door.” This should have been a useful clue as to how the horses felt about this project. But the research continued.

Finally, the authors concluded:

“Except for tail swishing, no significant differences were found for the frequency of occurrence of behavior patterns between [one lap and two]. Over the course of repeated trials, some horses became increasingly reluctant to enter and walk through the maze, and most showed increasing resistance to being remounted (e.g., sidestepping). Overall, the experimental setup did not seem to be appropriate to answer the research question. It is likely that the repeated mounting and dismounting caused discomfort or confused many of the horses to an extent that they did not actively select a treatment but rather searched for ways to evade further mounting (and riding). In conclusion, horses did not show a clear preference for either shorter or longer riding bouts, but their behavioral reactions indicate that they perceived mounting as uncomfortable and that their motivation to rejoin their herd-mates and/or to obtain feed in the barn was greater than their motivation to being ridden at all.55

After all this, we realize our research question was answered. When the horses bolted toward the arena exit, they voted with their feet. Long ride or short ride? They preferred no ride.

This study might have reached a different conclusion with changes in the methods. Horses surely hate being mounted, because it normally puts huge strain on them as it happens. And horses have a sense of dignity. Doing any forced activity again and again surely seems as pointless to them as it would to you. I have no doubt that most horses would rather stay home with their friends and hay than go for a ride with you — particularly around and around in a ring. But the strength of this preference will depend on many things.

Google shows 22,000 pages with the phrase “horse is lazy”, and only 18 with “horse is not lazy”. Maybe we have this lazy stuff all wrong. It is hard to imagine why any horse would seek out unnecessary work. Your horse is probably not abnormal.

Horses aren’t the only ones that don’t like to work. A study56 found that the average office worker is only productive for two hours and 53 minutes a day. A lot of time is spent checking social media accounts, news websites, taking smoke breaks and even looking for a new job. More than half need to break up the day with short breaks. Here is the breakdown of the reported daily distractions: 1. Checking social media – 47% (44 minutes, spent doing this during working day). 2. Reading news websites – 45% (one hour and five minutes). 3. Discussing out-of-work activities with colleagues – 38% (40 minutes). 4. Making hot drinks – 31% (17 minutes). 5. Smoking breaks – 28% (23 minutes). 6. Texting and instant messaging – 27% (14 minutes). 7. Eating snacks – 25% (eight minutes). 8. Making food in the office – 24% (seven minutes). 9. Making calls to partners and friends – 24% (18 minutes). 10. Searching for new jobs – 19% (26 minutes). These numbers may not describe your office. I spend more than 8 minutes eating snacks, that’s for sure.

Does your horse want a blanket today?

Horses can learn to use symbols to communicate their preferences. That is a conclusion from recent research57 in which horses indicated whether or not they wanted to be blanketed. Write the researchers:

This paper describes a method in which horses learn to communicate by touching different neutral visual symbols, in order to tell the handler whether they want to have a blanket on or not. Horses were trained for 10–15 min per day, following a training program comprising ten steps in a strategic order. Reward based operant conditioning was used to teach horses to approach and touch a board, and to understand the meaning of three different symbols… After introducing the free choice situation, on average at training day 11, the horse could choose between a “no change” symbol and the symbol for either “blanket on” or “blanket off” depending on whether the horse already wore a blanket or not. A cut off point for performance or non-performance was set to day 14, and 23/23 horses successfully learned the task within this limit. Horses of warm-blood type needed fewer training days to reach criterion than cold-bloods. Horses were then tested under differing weather conditions. Results show that choices made, i.e. the symbol touched, was not random but dependent on weather. Horses chose to stay without a blanket in nice weather, and they chose to have a blanket on when the weather was wet, windy and cold. This indicates that horses both had an understanding of the consequence of their choice on own thermal comfort, and that they successfully had learned to communicate their preference by using the symbols.58

Three horses Romano, Katug and Poltergeist photographed in choice situations. All horses had a blanket on and had to choose between “blanket off” or “no change”. In the two winter situations (left and middle picture) both horses chose to leave their blankets on, and touched the blank “no change” display board. In the summer situation on the right Poltergeist wanted his blanket removed, and touched the board with the “blanket off” symbol.59

What we need is BAD: a Blanketing Adjustment Device. Working something like a car wash, the horse wishing a change in state enters the device, which puts a blanket on if the horse does not have one on, and removes it if the horse has it on.

I hope researchers explore the obvious extensions of this work. For instance, can a horse be taught symbols for “yes” and “no”? If so, perhaps we could show them a picture of a blanket, and let them choose yes or no. Or a picture of a carrot, water bucket, etc…

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1 Image source: http://www.horseandman.com/handy-tips/let-sleeping-horses-lie/11/25/2013/

2 Some of the ideas here are drawn from Sutor, Cheryl. “What is Your Horse Saying?” June 1999. http://www.equusite.com/articles/behavior/behaviorSounds.shtml

3 Tyler, Stephanie J. “The behaviour and social organization of the New Forest ponies.” Animal Behaviour Monographs 5 (1972): 87-196.; Ödberg, F. O. “Some aspects of the acoustic expression in horses.” Ethologie und Ökologie bei der Haustierhaltung. KTBL, Darmstadt (1974): 89-105.; Wolski, Thomas R., Katherine A. Houpt, and Ruth Aronson. “The role of the senses in mare—foal recognition.” Applied Animal Ethology 6, no. 2 (1980): 121-138.; Lemasson, Alban, Anaïs Boutin, Sarah Boivin, Catherine Blois-Heulin, and Martine Hausberger. “Horse (Equus caballus) whinnies: a source of social information.” Animal cognition 12, no. 5 (2009): 693-704.; Proops, Leanne, Karen McComb, and David Reby. “Cross-modal individual recognition in domestic horses (Equus caballus).” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106, no. 3 (2009): 947-951.

4 Tyler, Stephanie J. “The behaviour and social organization of the New Forest ponies.” Animal Behaviour Monographs 5 (1972): 87-196.; Ödberg, F. O. “Some aspects of the acoustic expression in horses.” Ethologie und Ökologie bei der Haustierhaltung. KTBL, Darmstadt (1974): 89-105.; Wolski, Thomas R., Katherine A. Houpt, and Ruth Aronson. “The role of the senses in mare—foal recognition.” Applied Animal Ethology 6, no. 2 (1980): 121-138.; Lemasson, Alban, Anaïs Boutin, Sarah Boivin, Catherine Blois-Heulin, and Martine Hausberger. “Horse (Equus caballus) whinnies: a source of social information.” Animal cognition 12, no. 5 (2009): 693-704.; Proops, Leanne, Karen McComb, and David Reby. “Cross-modal individual recognition in domestic horses (Equus caballus).” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106, no. 3 (2009): 947-951.

5 Rubenstein, Daniel I., and Mace A. Hack. “Horse signals: the sounds and scents of fury.” Evolutionary Ecology 6, no. 3 (1992): 254-260.

6 Tyler, Stephanie J. “The behaviour and social organization of the New Forest ponies.” Animal Behaviour Monographs 5 (1972): 87-196.; Ödberg, F. O. “Some aspects of the acoustic expression in horses.” Ethologie und Ökologie bei der Haustierhaltung. KTBL, Darmstadt (1974): 89-105.; Wolski, Thomas R., Katherine A. Houpt, and Ruth Aronson. “The role of the senses in mare—foal recognition.” Applied Animal Ethology 6, no. 2 (1980): 121-138.; Lemasson, Alban, Anaïs Boutin, Sarah Boivin, Catherine Blois-Heulin, and Martine Hausberger. “Horse (Equus caballus) whinnies: a source of social information.” Animal cognition 12, no. 5 (2009): 693-704.; Proops, Leanne, Karen McComb, and David Reby. “Cross-modal individual recognition in domestic horses (Equus caballus).” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106, no. 3 (2009): 947-951.

7 McGreevy, P.D., McLean, A.N., Warren-Smith, A.K., Goodwin, D., 2005. Defining the terms and processes associated with equitation. In: McGreevy, P., McLean, A., Warren-Smith, A., Goodwin, D., Waran, N. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 1st International Equitation Science Symposium. pp. 10–43.

8 Boyd, Lee E., Denise A. Carbonaro, and Katherine A. Houpt. “The 24-hour time budget of Przewalski horses.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science 21, no. 1-2 (1988): 5-17.

9 Evolution builds capacity to requirements. If an animal needs to be able to regularly run at a certain speed for a certain distance, it will gain capacity — or lose it — until it just meets the requirements. Horses don’t have more ability to process verbal communication because such talent would require larger brains, and more energy to power those brains. A horse’s diet is low in energy, and a large brain would be hard to maintain.

10 Collier, Gaydell M., and Eleanor F. Prince. Basic Training for Horses. Main Street Books, 2010, p. 392: “but you are also instantly able to reprimand him for misbehavior, such as squealing or refusing to walk quietly”; Draper, Lyman Copeland, and William Augustus Croffut. A Helping Hand for Town and Country: An American Home Book of Practical and Scientific Information… Moore, Wilstach & Moore, 143 Race Street, 1870, p. 558: “…never feed pigs till they stop squealing. It is bad manners to squeal, and well-bred swine ought to be broken of it.”

11 Leblanc, Michel-Antoine. The Mind of the Horse. Harvard University Press, 2013.

12 Lemasson, Alban, Anaïs Boutin, Sarah Boivin, Catherine Blois-Heulin, and Martine Hausberger. “Horse (Equus caballus) whinnies: a source of social information.” Animal cognition 12, no. 5 (2009): 693-704.

13 Lemasson et. al, 2009. Op.cit.

14 Lemasson, Alban, Anaïs Boutin, Sarah Boivin, Catherine Blois-Heulin, and Martine Hausberger. “Horse (Equus caballus) whinnies: a source of social information.” Animal cognition 12, no. 5 (2009): 693-704.

15 Tyler, Stephanie J. “The behaviour and social organization of the New Forest ponies.” Animal Behaviour Monographs 5 (1972): 87-196.; Ödberg, F. O. “Some aspects of the acoustic expression in horses.” Ethologie und Ökologie bei der Haustierhaltung. KTBL, Darmstadt (1974): 89-105.; Wolski, Thomas R., Katherine A. Houpt, and Ruth Aronson. “The role of the senses in mare—foal recognition.” Applied Animal Ethology 6, no. 2 (1980): 121-138.; Lemasson, Alban, Anaïs Boutin, Sarah Boivin, Catherine Blois-Heulin, and Martine Hausberger. “Horse (Equus caballus) whinnies: a source of social information.” Animal cognition 12, no. 5 (2009): 693-704.; Proops, Leanne, Karen McComb, and David Reby. “Cross-modal individual recognition in domestic horses (Equus caballus).” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106, no. 3 (2009): 947-951.

16 See, for example: Gautier J-P, Gautier A (1977) Communication in old world monkeys. In: Sebeok T (ed) How animals communicate. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, pp 890–964; Hausberger M, Richard J-P, Black JM, Quris R (1994) Quantitative analysis of individuality in barnacle goose loud calls. Bioacoustics 5:247–260; Jouventin P, Aubin T, Lengagne T (1999) Finding a parent in a king penguin colony: the acoustic system of individual recognition. Anim Behav 57:1175–1183; Janik VM (2000) Whistle matching in wild bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Science 289:1355–1357; McComb K, Reby D, Baker L, Moss C, Sayialel S (2003) Long-distance communication of acoustic cues to social identity in African elephants. Anim Behav 65:317–329

17 Tyler, Stephanie J. “The behaviour and social organization of the New Forest ponies.” Animal Behaviour Monographs 5 (1972): 87-196.; Ödberg, F. O. “Some aspects of the acoustic expression in horses.” Ethologie und Ökologie bei der Haustierhaltung. KTBL, Darmstadt (1974): 89-105.; Wolski, Thomas R., Katherine A. Houpt, and Ruth Aronson. “The role of the senses in mare—foal recognition.” Applied Animal Ethology 6, no. 2 (1980): 121-138.; Lemasson, Alban, Anaïs Boutin, Sarah Boivin, Catherine Blois-Heulin, and Martine Hausberger. “Horse (Equus caballus) whinnies: a source of social information.” Animal cognition 12, no. 5 (2009): 693-704.; Proops, Leanne, Karen McComb, and David Reby. “Cross-modal individual recognition in domestic horses (Equus caballus).” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106, no. 3 (2009): 947-951.

18 Lemasson, Alban, Anaïs Boutin, Sarah Boivin, Catherine Blois-Heulin, and Martine Hausberger. “Horse (Equus caballus) whinnies: a source of social information.” Animal cognition 12, no. 5 (2009): 693-704.

19 Waring, George H. Horse behavior. The behavioral traits and adaptations of domestic and wild horses, including ponies. Noyes Publications, 1983.

20 Goodwin, Deborah. “The importance of ethology in understanding the behaviour of the horse.” Equine Veterinary Journal 28 (1999): 15-19.

21 Image source: Williams, Carey A. “Basics of Equine Behavior”. July 23, 2008 http://articles.extension.org/pages/15174/basics-of-equine-behavior

22 Image source: http://boards.dallascowboys.com/topic/12398-aikman-talks-about-the-current-state-of-cowboys-on-1053-the-fan/page-4

23 Minero, M., Dassi, M., Martelli, A., Canali, E., 2003. Behaviour and heart rate of therapeutic riding horses interacting with patients. In: Ferrante, V. (Ed.), Proceedings of the 37th International Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology. Abano Terme, Italy p. 54; Waring, G.H., 2003. Horse Behavior. Noyes Publications/William Andrew Pub, Norwich, NY, p. 58, 276, 277, 289, 299.

24 Image source: https://equineink.com/tag/horse-bite/

25 From “Saturday Encore — The Secret Language of Donkeys” at the 7msnranch.com

26 Image source: http://ticks-off.com/day-of-the-horse-part-ll/

27 Houpt, Katherine A., Karen Law, and Venera Martinisi. “Dominance hierarchies in domestic horses.” Applied Animal Ethology 4.3 (1978): 273-283.

28 Image source: https://katewyland.com/category/horses-2/horse-care/

29 Image source: http://www.progressivecattle.com/topics/management/3535-common-steps-to-understanding-horse-behavior

30 Image source: http://www.equineheritagemuseum.com/additional-information/forms-in-driving-in-the-us and https://www.pinterest.com/pin/395331673518013707/

31 Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/farm-horse-wild-horses-running-1284765/

32 McGreevy, P.D., McLean, A.N., Warren-Smith, A.K., Goodwin, D., 2005. Defining the terms and processes associated with equitation. In: McGreevy, P., McLean, A., Warren-Smith, A., Goodwin, D., Waran, N. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 1st International Equitation Science Symposium. pp. 10–43

33 Image source: Wieland, Kristen “What is my horse’s muzzle telling me?” Jan 3, 2013. https://15minutehorsefix.wordpress.com/

34 Image source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/283375001526965877/

35 Image source: Treu, Zachary “Villages in southern China ring in Chinese New Year with horse fighting.” Feb 3, 2014. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/chinese-new-year-celebrated-horse-fighting-southern-china/

36 Crowell‐Davis, S. L., K. A. Houpt, and J. S. Burnham. “Snapping by foals of Equus caballus.” Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie 69, no. 1 (1985): 42-54.

37 Image source: Weil, Shannon. “Hana’s Story”. http://turtlerockpress.com/links/hanas-story/

38 McGreevy, P.D., McLean, A.N., Warren-Smith, A.K., Goodwin, D., 2005. Defining the terms and processes associated with equitation. In: McGreevy, P., McLean, A., Warren-Smith, A., Goodwin, D., Waran, N. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 1st International Equitation Science Symposium. pp. 10–43

39 McGreevy, P.D., McLean, A.N., Warren-Smith, A.K., Goodwin, D., 2005. Defining the terms and processes associated with equitation. In: McGreevy, P., McLean, A., Warren-Smith, A., Goodwin, D., Waran, N. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 1st International Equitation Science Symposium. pp. 10–43

40 McGreevy, P.D., McLean, A.N., Warren-Smith, A.K., Goodwin, D., 2005. Defining the terms and processes associated with equitation. In: McGreevy, P., McLean, A., Warren-Smith, A., Goodwin, D., Waran, N. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 1st International Equitation Science Symposium. pp. 10–43

41 McLean, A.N., 2005. The mental processes of the horse and their consequences for training. PhD thesis. University of Melbourne, Australia.

42 McGreevy, P.D., McLean, A.N., Warren-Smith, A.K., Goodwin, D., 2005. Defining the terms and processes associated with equitation. In: McGreevy, P., McLean, A., Warren-Smith, A., Goodwin, D., Waran, N. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 1st International Equitation Science Symposium. pp. 10–43

43 Pickerel, T. M., S. L. Crowell-Davis, A. B. Caudle, and D. Q. Estep. “Sexual preference of mares (Equus caballus) for individual stallions.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science 38, no. 1 (1993): 1-13.

44 “Tell her about it Tell her everything you feel Give her every reason to accept That you’re for real” — see the full lyrics to this fabulous Billy Joel song at Google Play Music, https://play.google.com/music/preview/Tpzxcjdzyytsbvidkdu7fobblgq?lyrics=1&utm_source=google&utm_medium=search&utm_campaign=lyrics&pcampaignid=kp-lyrics

45 Lee, Joyce, Toby Floyd, Hollis Erb, and Katherine Houpt. “Preference and demand for exercise in stabled horses.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science 130, no. 3 (2011): 91-100.

46 Houpt, K. A. “Animal behavior and animal welfare.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 198, no. 8 (1991): 1355-1360.

47 Heuschmann, G., 2006. Functional anatomy of the horse as it relates to over-bending (‘‘Rollkur’’). In: FEI (Ed.), Report of the FEI Veterinary and Dressage Committees’ Workshop—The use of over bending (‘‘Rollkur’’) in FEI Competition. FEI Federation Equestre Internationale, Lausanne, p. 6.; Odberg, F., 2006. Schooling principles and welfare—the situation of ‘‘Rollkur’’ in this context. In: FEI (Ed.), Report of the FEI Veterinary and Dressage Committees’ Workshop—The use of over bending (‘‘Rollkur’’) in FEI Competition FEI Fe´de´ ration Equestre Internationale, Lausanne, p. 7. We seem to make inferences about our internal states from our behavior, and horses may too. In the King and I, Anna sings “…I whistle a happy tune And every single time The happiness in the tune Convinces me that I’m not afraid…”

48 McGreevy, P., 2004. Equine Behavior: A Guide for Veterinarians and Equine Scientists. W.B. Saunders, Edinburgh; Philadelphia, p. 40.

49 Conclusion is drawn from Karl, P., 2006. Irrwege des Modernen Dressur. Cadmos Verlag, Brunsbek, pp. 24–29.; Ollivier, D., 1999. La verite sur l’equilibre. Berlin, Paris, pp. 91–99. Both are cited in von Borstel, Uta Ulrike, Ian James Heatly Duncan, Anna Kate Shoveller, Katrina Merkies, Linda Jane Keeling, and Suzanne Theresa Millman. “Impact of riding in a coercively obtained Rollkur posture on welfare and fear of performance horses.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science 116, no. 2 (2009): 228-236.

50 Sandin, Theresa. “Rollkur — Why Not?” Sustainable Dressage. http://www.sustainabledressage.net/rollkur/why_not.php

51 Denoix, J.-M., 2006. Functional anatomy and diagnostic imaging of the cervical spine. In: FEI (Ed.), Report of the FEI Veterinary and Dressage Committees’ Workshop—The use of over bending (‘‘Rollkur’’) in FEI Competition. FEI Federation Equestre Internationale, Lausanne, p. 8.; Jeffcott, L. B., A. Attock, and A. Higgins. “The use of over bending (‘Rollkur’) in FEI competition.” Report of the FEI Veterinary and Dressage Committees’ Workshop. 2006.

52 Image source: von Borstel, Uta Ulrike, Ian James Heatly Duncan, Anna Kate Shoveller, Katrina Merkies, Linda Jane Keeling, and Suzanne Theresa Millman. “Impact of riding in a coercively obtained Rollkur posture on welfare and fear of performance horses.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science 116, no. 2 (2009): 228-236.

53 von Borstel, Uta Ulrike, Ian James Heatly Duncan, Anna Kate Shoveller, Katrina Merkies, Linda Jane Keeling, and Suzanne Theresa Millman. “Impact of riding in a coercively obtained Rollkur posture on welfare and fear of performance horses.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science 116, no. 2 (2009): 228-236.

54 von Borstel, Uta König, and Julia Keil. “Horses’ behavior and heart rate in a preference test for shorter and longer riding bouts.” Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research 7, no. 6 (2012): 362-374.

55 From the abstract: von Borstel, Uta König, and Julia Keil. “Horses’ behavior and heart rate in a preference test for shorter and longer riding bouts.” Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research 7, no. 6 (2012): 362-374.

56 Nazarali, Rosemina. “The Average Worker is Only Productive for 3 Hours a Day” https://ridiculouslyefficient.com/blog/the-average-worker-is-only-productive-for-3-hours-a-day

57 Mejdell, Cecilie M., Turid Buvik, Grete HM Jørgensen, and Knut E. Bøe. “Horses can learn to use symbols to communicate their preferences.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science 184 (2016): 66-73.

58 This is from the abstract of Mejdell, Cecilie M., Turid Buvik, Grete HM Jørgensen, and Knut E. Bøe. “Horses can learn to use symbols to communicate their preferences.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science 184 (2016): 66-73. Read the paper. It is probably the biggest breakthrough in the horse world.

59 Image source: Mejdell, Cecilie M., Turid Buvik, Grete HM Jørgensen, and Knut E. Bøe. “Horses can learn to use symbols to communicate their preferences.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science 184 (2016): 66-73.

 

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