How to Read a Horse’s Body Language

Horses use body language as their main form of communication. They use a wide range of signals that they clearly understand among themselves. Their ability to read body movements is highly developed and much better than that of a human. This allows them to work together as a herd to avoid predators as well as to detect small changes in a rider’s body that are given as instructions.

As riders and handlers, we need to understand what the horse is trying to tell us in order to help it and to prevent any potential harm or injury to ourselves.

Horse’s Body Language


A horse that kicks is rarely welcome but horses use kicking as one of their main defense mechanisms. The signs that a horse may be about to kick are the ears being laid back and the horse swinging its hindquarters toward you. Horses have a very good reach with the back legs and a lot of power-a kick using both hind legs can cause a lot of damage. Horses also have the ability to kick out sideways (cow kick) with one leg. It is important to avoid situations that could make a horse feel obliged to defend itself. Never put yourself in danger-always ensure that you read the horse’s body language and stand out of range.


Some horses may just nip, but if they are inclined to bite, this could be because such habits were not checked as a foal, or they are frightened or defending themselves. A biting horse is never popular and steps need to be taken to stop or avoid this.

A horse may also bite in response to pain. If a horse threatens to bite as you place the saddle, it may be trying to tell you that it has pain or discomfort in its back. Problems with the fit of the saddle may be causing soreness in the muscles, or the girth may pinch when it is done up, causing discomfort.

Tail swishing

Swishing the tail is another sign that a horse is angry or annoyed and can be a precursor to kicking out or bucking.


A horse’s ears have a wide range of movement and are used constantly to monitor what is going on around them. They are a good indicator for riders and handlers °f where the horse’s attention is focused and also of mood. Forward or pricked ears may signify that a horse is concentrating on something, being inquisitive, alert or startled. Ears laid flat back can mean the horse is frightened, angry or being aggressive.

Filed Under: Pets & Animals


About the Author: Fred Goodson has a passion for pets and animals. He has 4 dogs and is planning to have another one. He is also a blogger who writes about pets and animals. Currently, he is living in New Jersey.

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