Reading Your Horses Ears

Whilst horses may not be able to talk to us directly, anyone who has spent time around these four legged animals will know that they are able to communicate through their body language alone.

One of the most important indicators of a horse’s mood is the position of their ears. Almost as clear and concise as a thumbs up or thumbs down, horses can use their ears to tell humans exactly how they feel.

So, if you want to understand horse behaviour a little better, learning exactly what each position means is a great start.

Ears forward but relaxed

When a horse’s ears are directed straight to the front, it shows that they are happy, attentive and engaged.

As long as their ears remain relaxed and don’t look strained, it is an indicator your horse is in a good mood and therefore is not worried about anything going on around them.

Ears forward and tense

If you see horse ears that are tense and pointing stiffly forward, it could be an indication that your horse is alarmed and listening out for something that is worrying them.

This ear position is often accompanied by flared nostrils, showing that your horse is distressed and may need to be removed from the unnerving situation.

Ears to the side

If the ears are to the side and look relaxed, it’s a sign that your horse is concentrated and calm.

This ear position generally indicates that the horse is unworried by their surroundings and is therefore relaxed and restful.

Ears back but relaxed

When you’re out riding your four legged friend, you’ll probably notice that your horse’s ears are facing backwards a lot of the time; pointing towards you and the riders behind you.

If the ears remain relatively relaxed, this position simply means that the horse is listening to you or something happening behind you as you ride along.

Ears pointing stiffly back

If the ears become stiff when you’re out for a ride, it may well indicate that your horse has heard something behind them that’s alarmed them.

When this happens in the stable or paddock, it can mean they are annoyed and may kick out if provoked – so be careful in this situation.

Ears flat to the neck

When you see a horse’s ears flat to their neck, it’s a sign that they are extremely angry and upset.

Often accompanied by flared nostrils, a swishing tail and wide eyes, horses with their ears in this position should be cared for with caution.

Ears mobile

When your horse’s ears are mobile and moving around regularly, it generally means that they are alert but unconcerned.

Mobile ears are often accompanied by a high neck carriage and bright eyes, showing that the horse is fully engaged with their surroundings.

Being able to accurately read your horse’s ears is an important part of horse care. By tuning yourself into their moods, fears and interests, you can build a stronger bond and an even better working relationship.

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