Horse Sounds and Meanings

Jessica McDaniel
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Horse Sounds: What Sound Does it Make?

In this section, you'll learn about the sounds horses commonly make, along with their possible meanings. Horses communicate through their ears, eyes, and body language. Whinnying is a result of excitement and can either be to ask for company or to announce the other horse that they are present. When they lower their head and tail, they are relaxed. Trotting is a signal of playfulness and a happy mood and is usually combined with a head toss. A snort will probably be heard if the horse is annoyed or in their way to leave. Ears pointing forward indicate a relaxed mood, but it is actually a signal for danger if they are pointing in other directions, like backward or sideways. Puff or wide nostril breathing usually signals aggression, discomfort, or an attempt to exert dominance. Groaning can either be a sign of discomfort or playfulness, and can be a combination of both. A nagging sound, through a grunt or lip click, is most likely a sign of annoyance and annoyance. A whinny followed by stomping in place, followed by a kicking -all three sound and movement sequences- is a signal of frustration to let you know your horse is unexcited or annoyed.


Sighing is a way for your horse to relax. Horses can display sighing when lying tp sleep. This helps them to relax because it’s similar to when humans take a deep breath before lying down to sleep.

Another reason why horses sigh is to release tension throughout the body. This has a calming effect. Horses will often sigh after a hard work out or an intense time of activity.

Finally, horse sighing is also linked to the digestive process. While humans get gassy when their stomach is upset, this is the same for horses. In the same way that we get bloated, horses will also expel air out of their lungs when they are passing gas.

Taking into account these different reasons for sighing among horses, you can try to understand what the stimulus is that is causing your horse to sigh if you hear it.

Horse Sounds: Groaning

Groaning is a term used in the horse world to describe a perceived (by the human) sound from your horse. They may be groaning in pain. They might be groaning if they are over tired or over worked. Or they could simply be groaning due to the discomfort of being in a stall or small pen or pasture with 2 many other horses.

Groaning is not to be confused with grumbling and this is something that all horse owners should be able to recognise. If a horse is groaning and this is an ongoing problem, you must stop and check out the situation for a possible problem and begin to find solutions that are in line with the mentality of your horse and make sure your horse is not constantly over worked and knows and is prepared that there is work to come from you. Don’t wait for horse sounds like groaning to manifest to the stage where training has to be drastically adjusted for example from a walk to trot and so on.

Groaning “ Grazing, stall bound, over worked, small space: Check your horse is still within range of exercise and is comfortable in the area that he/she lives in. If this is not the problem then you might have a sick horse or a horse that knows he/she is sick and knows that he/she is over worked and groaning is a sign that the horse is in pain.

Horse Sounds: Neighing

Horses neigh for many reasons, but you can generally classify them into two categories. The first category is danger and the second is sexual.


The first time you hear a horse neigh, it could be an alarming situation. Horses are prey animals, and predators alert them with a distinctive scream. They also tend to neigh when they are frightened or agitated. This may be because they are being confined or perhaps someone is trying to catch them. If you hear this, proceed cautiously, and have an escape route. Watch for any aggressive behavior and move away slowly. This should be adequate to avoid a dangerous encounter with a wild horse with difficult habits.


Some horses also express themselves by neighing during the breeding season or when they have a viable partner. This is a territorial display to ward of others and advertise that they are available. During horse mating season, a stallion will often neigh when approaching a mare. It’s to indicate possession. It is also the betas way of saying hello to a mare, or any female, with whom, he would like to share a stable relationship. Sometimes, even a mare will neigh to advertise her availability to a stallion.


Horses have the ability to make a multitude of sounds: snorts, whinnies, lip ticks, whickers, squeals and neighs. Horses neigh to communicate within their herd and squeal when they are in danger to alert their herd of the danger.

Neighing is a vocalization between a male and a female, between a mare and her foal and is also used to communicate messages to other horses. Horses will squeal to communicate many feelings such as: pain, threat, playfulness, a cry for help, excitement, pleasure and contentment.

For domestic horses (those raised in households), their squeal is not a natural sound but is induced by men, women and children. When you hear a horse squeal it should be a warning that you are approaching them too closely, which can stress them out and also force a response to defend themselves and their herd.

Roar (i.e.- Scream)

A horse scream is a warning and the only time that a horse will communicate to you using voice. There is no mistaking this sound. It is loud, it is high pitched, and it sounds like a scream.

A horse scream is very intimidating to humans, and they do not want to encourage this behavior.

The best way to handle the situation is to ignore them completely, and a good place for this is a paddock that has a thick line of trees between the equine and you. They will soon get the message that no one is listening to them.

It is a good idea to avoid this behavior if a neighbor’s horse is regularly screaming. It will do no good to advise the neighbors as they may not have had experience with horses in the past and do not know what is wrong.

From a child’s perspective, this may seem like a great thing to do, but don’t encourage this behavior. A horse scream is a device used to obtain a desired goal. If it is getting attention, then the perpetrator will scream all the louder.


The louder a horse whinnies or neighs, the more frightened they are. Horses use snorts to express irritation and grumpiness. A horse whinnying in the field with other horses is usually a call to play.

Horses use nickers to communicate with each other. When a horse hears or see something unusual in the field, they would nicker to alert the other horses.

Horses also make snores when they are at rest or relaxed. This is a sign that they are comfortable and contented with their surroundings. It is common to hear a snoring horse during late afternoon when they are resting after coming back from grazing or from a ride in the field.

When horses are happy they can be quite chatty. Most of the time you will hear soft nickers, squeaks, whinnies, and chirps.