Understanding Your Horse’s Body Language: Horse Ears Language Chart

Jessica McDaniel
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Horse Body Language

Horses have many ways of communicating verbally, physically and with their body language. Understanding horse body language can help you be more comfortable around your horse and your horse be more comfortable and relaxed around you. The most important piece of body language you want to understand is where your horse is looking.

Horse eyes are on the sides of their head, making it impossible for them to look directly behind them. Their peripheral vision is exceptionally good and can see even the slightest movement out of the corners of their eyes.

Horses have a large spectrum of vision. A horse can see in color and can see a wider range of colors than humans. This is why they can see the most vibrant, gorgeous flowers while you would only be able to see an array of green colors.

You'll likely see different shades of each color in the rainbow while a horse's eyes can see the full spectrum. Because their eyesight is best at identifying motion, their color spectrum is used to identify stationary objects. Truly understanding your horse and communicating with them can only be accomplished through recognizing their language and the meaning behind their body language.

Horse Ears Positions

To understand how your horse is feeling you should pay attention to their body language.

When a horse lowers their head slowly, they are curious.

When their head is up and they are sniffing into the air, they are paying attention to their surroundings.

If their ears are slightly pulled back, they are relaxed.

If they are pinned back, they are frightened.

If the horse is shaking their head, they are annoyed.

If their ears are pricked, they are alert and listening to what you are saying to them.

When they are looking at you from the side, they expect you to follow and "lead".

When they are looking at you from the front, they are focused on something out of their normal view.

When they are holding their ears backwards, they are unsure and feel threatened.

Horse Body Language: Horse Legs Language

Here is a quick guide on what a horse is trying to tell you based on the position of their ears and legs.

Horse Body Language: Horse Muzzle

A useful thing to know when you come across a horse is how he is feeling about you and others around him.

A horse’s ears tell us a lot about how he’s feeling and most importantly what makes him feel comfortable and what doesn’t.

Horse ears will give you a lot of different positions to interpret in various situations and the signs you see will depend on the horse's temperament, confidence level, age, gender, size and breed.


Dedication is the key. Once you decide to start learning horse body language, you need to commit yourself to practicing all you can. It is not a skill that will come to you overnight, and it is one that should be used all the time. Start by using it around your horses and then start using it a little later when you're interacting with people. It's best to start young, but even late learners can improve their skills. It takes time, but with a little time and understanding, you too can learn the language of that beautiful creature. She'll still likely outsmart you, but you'll be able to work together better.

Today you learned about the importance of body language to interspecies communication and how it relates to horse to human communication. We covered how choosing the right horse is crucial to a successful rider/horse relationship. We talked about how you can tell a horse's mood. This is important because it allows you to project how a horse is feeling and to adjust your approach accordingly.

You learned that there are many more signs of horse body language than just tail and ear positions. When you put them all together, it is easier to learn how to understand your horse. You can see how they feel by how they interact with others and move. You can tell the age of a horse from their behaviors. You can see when they are young if a horse is ready for training or how a horse is feeling before a competition.