What is my horse trying to tell me?

Horses are continuously ‘talking’ to us through their posture, expression, and movements of certain body parts

For us to understand what they are saying, we must read their body language and take in to account the context as signals can have many different meanings.

Their ears

• Pointing forward: focused on something; interested or curious; alerted.
• One ear cocked back: aware of something behind or beside them; paying attention to the rider.
• Both ears cocked back: paying attention to the rider or something behind them; curious about something but still listening to what is going on behind.
• Ears pinned back: angry; scared; warning something or someone to go away.
• Ears pinned flat to the skull: ready to attack.
• Ears relaxed to the side: they are fully relaxed; sleepy; in deep concentration.
• Ears twitching back and forth: nervous; worried; on the verge of panic.

Their nostrils

• Nostrils flared: hard at work and require more oxygen; on alert; curious or meeting someone for the first time; fear; excitement.
• Nostrils pinched: angry or irritated; telling someone or something to leave them alone!

Their mouth

• Muzzle relaxed or droopy: relaxed or half asleep.
• Muzzle tight: irritated; warning someone or something.
• Licking lips: submissive; hungry; relaxed and understanding.


• Nuzzling: affectionate; trying to bond with you or another horse; relaxed.
• A light nip: teasing or playing; a small warning to let you know they are busy or not wanting to do it.
• Biting: saying that they are the boss and proving their seniority; sending a warning that they may be ready to hurt; afraid.
• Biting in the air: scared or worried; warning that they might bite you.

Their Eyes

• Eyes half closed: relaxed or half asleep; bright lights; may have hurt their eye
• Showing the whites of the eyes: they are afraid or startled; nervous

Kicks and pawing

• Fake kicks: warning you to back off and that they need space.
• A full-on kick: they feel threatened and are telling someone or something to leave; defensive; showing their seniority.
• Pawing at the ground: nervous; excited; impatient; stomach-ache.


• Tail raised: excited or they are in heat; something has caught their attention; showing off.
• Tail swishing violently: irritated or frustrated; sending a warning.


• Lowered head: relaxed or sleepy; content; or a sign of depression (if very low to the ground).
• Raised head: on alert or something has their attention.
• Head outstretched: wanting to touch something without getting to close; warning that they are going to bite (if ears are pinned back as well).
• Swinging the head: back off and go away; warning.

All horses are different, however by understanding a few simple body language signs you will be able to communicate with your horse a lot better.