Horses can’t speak, but they do communicate in many other ways. Some of these methods are through sound; others may be through body language.
It’s up to you, the owner, to learn how to read these signs but we’ve compiled a few signs that can tell you that your horse is happy.
Horse behaviour is relatively easy to read, once you are aware of the signals to observe. The ears are a good indicator of your horse’s mood.
If the ears are pinned back your animal may be angry or alarmed, if your horse’s ears are swivelling it might be anxious or even frightened.
This response may be due to the animal trying to process too many new sights or smells and frightening itself in the process.
Check your horse’s head position
In fact the horse’s head is an important place to look for signs that your horse is happy. If your horse has a drooping or lowered head it is feeling confident, it may even be resting.
If its neck is tense when you are riding, the animal may have spotted something in the distance that causes alarm. This is the time for you as a rider to take charge and reassure your horse that everything is ok.
Horse ownership brings many responsibilities. You have to be aware that your mood will rub off onto your animal so if you display constant anxiety or are rushing around then the animal will pick up on these feelings.
As a herd animal the horse will see these behavioural indicators as ‘flight signs’ and become anxious.
Try and remain calm around your horse. Remember that you are, to all intents and purposes, the herd leader, so your animal will take many of its behavioural cues from you.
You can tell when your horse is happy by spending as much time as possible with your animal. This is the way to build up a feeling of trust between the two of you.
Always look at your horse’s eyes, tail and body in general. If something appears awry, you should be able to calm your horse and improve its psychological wellbeing.
The hind legs are an important tool and will help you discover the happiness status of your horse. You can check your horse’s legs for pawing which can indicate boredom.
New experiences and situations should be explored together and at a slow pace. A happy horse should have its ears pricked forward; a soft tail and it should look relaxed.
A happy and confident horse is important and it’s up to you to be able to appreciate the signs that indicate distress and anxiety and learn how to deal with them.