How can you tell if a horse is happy? - ForTheHorse

How can you tell if a horse is happy?

Our horses can read US very acutely...they are very good at it!

They are very good at reading our body language, reading where we are at... and what we're going to do next.

And they can also read us acutely with our emotional aspect as well. 

Scientific studies have been done where horses have been placed in front of photographs of people, a human face with a certain emotion on the face and the horse can read the emotions of that person in the picture.

This is much like dogs... horses and dogs both have the same ability to read human emotions. They can feel them and they can respond to them.

So how do our horses express their emotions?  

And are we able to very acutely read their emotions and how they are expressing them?

Well, I don't think we are as good at reading their emotions as they are at reading ours.

Here's a few ideas and experiences that I've had that might help you to open your eyes and senses to actually be more acute with your understanding what horse's emotions are and how they are expressing them.

If we can understand our horses emotions and we understand how they are physically expressing them...then that will make a better bond between the two of us and therefore, a better relationship.


Here's one key way that I have come to learn that a horse expresses happiness.

This can be especially with a gelding - they paw when they are with you.

My gelding used to do this whenever he was with me. I would come up to him or he would come up to me and he would start pawing. 

Some people think that was not a good expression of happiness. They might think that it was frustration. But I know with my horse it was that he wanted me to play with him. 

For example, I would go out to get him and I would take the halter... and he would see me coming, he was eating.... so he would continue eating. I would go up to him and he would start the paw.

He wanted me to play with him. He wouldn't even let me get the halter on his head and he would start walking ahead of me to the gate because he wanted to come out and play with me.

So if you have a horse that starts to paw in your presence, don't think that that is a sign of frustration. I know for a fact that it is a sign that that horse is happy with you.

If you look at how they relate to each other, they do not paw in each other's presence if they're not happy. If they are alone and they are pawing... that might be frustration or pain.

Another example, I have a mare and one way I know that she is happy with me is when she will come up and stand right in front of me and nicker to me. I actually have two mares that do this... put their whole body right in front of me actually touching me and stand there.

They are happy with you. They want to be with you. They want to touch you, they want you to touch them and maybe scratch them.

Grieving or loss

Horses definitely grieve and they definitely suffer from loss.

For example, I was out with the horses and my mare. She was standing beside me.  Then the whole herd decided to leave.

It was very impressive that she didn't want to leave with them but rather stay with me and be really close to me. She was happy and comfortable with that situation. 

Then all of a sudden the herd started to come back. They started trotting past and running up to us... not in any kind of fear or rush. They were just having fun. 

Her head went up and she looked over in the direction that they came from, which was the direction that one of her friends had recently passed away. And she stared, looking for her friend who was missing over there and I could tell that she was feeling grief.  

She was grieving because she saw the whole herd, but there was one horse missing... which was her best friend. She looked over in the direction of where she last knew he was (and the direction that the herd came from).

She stared there for a few brief seconds... and you could see that she was comprehending that her friend was not coming.

Then in an instant, she changed from being happy to be with me, to reliving the situation where that horse had been traumatized and passed away.

She relived the whole loss... the grief and the trauma. And then she took off with the herd of horses, went exactly to where they were standing when the trauma happened, and she stood there thinking and grieving. 

That's an example of how a horse shows grief or loss. You can see it in their faces, you can see it in the way they look at things.

We all have our different experiences ... as humans though, we are not very capable of understanding another species - unless we really put big attention to it.

If you do, your bonds will get stronger.

You will understand what your horses are feeling emotionally because you can see how they're expressing it in their bodies and in their faces. You can see what they're thinking. And when you do that, then your relationship will flourish and grow.

We start to notice our horses' emotions and how they express so differently from us. 

When you start to notice that, the doors will open and you will see more and more of it every day. It will change and you will be an open book.

I would like to help you to increase your relationship to a place where I was... I had the most fantastic relationship with one of my horses, so I know what that feels like.

And if I can pass that along to you, then I'm happy because horses deserve it. Riders deserve it, we deserve it.

We all deserve to have a relationship and a bond like that... and we can have it. 

Be an open book on those horses emotions that are in front of you every day.


* Why we miss our horses

* The wonders of spine lengthening

About the Author Chris Adderson

Chris Adderson teaches riders and horses how to move with ease and grace to create astounding results and lifelong relationships of their dreams. She teaches valuable skills and educational strategies to help you re-ignite your ultimate confidence and self-belief so that your horse willingly partners with you, in lightness, and then helps you establish a step by step plan and strategy to support your growth together. This will leave you feeling confident, capable and available to step into your genius as a rider to serve your horse.

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