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As your horse’s owner and caregiver, it’s natural that you worry about their well-being. Are they happy? Obviously, you don’t want them stressed and miserable. That can severely affect their health and performance. The best way to keep your horse happy is to learn their body language.
Unfortunately, your horse can’t directly speak to you with words. They must communicate their feelings and emotions through various body signs. Once you learn how to read them, you and your horse can have an amazing relationship! You can lookout for positive feelings and encourage them, while trying to decrease frustration and anxiety.
How does a happy horse act?
Relaxed: Generally, a content horse will be one that is comfortable in their surroundings. Do you know when your horse is relaxed? Keep a lookout for a droopy lower lip, cocked hind leg, closing eyes, sighs, and a lowered head. Your horse will usually display a few of these when they don’t feel threatened or anxious. It could be when you’re grooming them, they’re grazing or eating hay, or just hanging out.
You can create a relaxed atmosphere once you know what makes your horse feel that way. Spend quality time with them to learn their triggers. And always try to make their environment stress-free!
Focused: When your horse is actively paying attention to you, then they’re likely happy. A distracted horse is usually worried or stressed. The content horse will be interested in what you’re doing and even tries to participate. Some simple signs include ears pointed toward you, willingness to engage in the activity, and you can hold their attention.
A focused horse is usually relaxed, as well. You want your horse calm and responding to your aids. Those that are worked up or worrying about something ‘over there’ are feeling negative emotions. You can help by encouraging them to pay attention to you. Ask your horse to focus by giving them something to think about. You can move their legs or work through an obstacle, for example.
Social: Watching your horse in their herd environment can tell you a lot about how they’re feeling. You can look for a few things: lying down and resting, grooming another horse, playing, and grazing contently. Generally, a happy horse will engage in all of these activities at some point or another.
If your horse isn’t acting like their normal self, they may be unhappy. Are they constantly on the lookout for a ‘predator’? Are they pacing the fence line? Watch out for anxious or abnormal behavior.
It’s important you learn the signs of a happy horse vs a stressed one. You can read more at: Signs of a Stressed Out Horse.