What Does The Horse Noises Names Mean?

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The Meaning of Each Horse Noises?

If you have spent some time around horses, you’d know that they make a lot of noise. Grunts, groans, horse noises, whinnies-what does it all mean? Horses are great communicators, and you can tell a lot about how a horse is thinking simply by listening and observing them.  

My first horse was very vocal. Whenever it was time to eat, she would whine in her pasture. If I tightened her saddle too much, she would grunt and groan at me.Then, I never thought much of these noises, until I started observing when she didn’t want to walk over a log or it was her normal feeding time. However, how to identify each of these noises, was something that never really occurred to me. So today, we’d be looking at what noises horses make and what they mean? 

What’s My Horse Noises are Saying? Snort, Blow, etc. 

According to Equine’s Illustration, there are four types of Equine Vocalizations: Whinny, Nicker, Snort, and Squeal. Each vocalization has a distinct purpose, meaning and here is the break down of what your horse may be trying to tell you: 

1. Whinny

A whinny is a loud, high pitched neigh. This can be interpreted as a social call. In the wild, this is how members of a herd locate one another. You may notice that your horse whinnies when his/her pasture mates are removed from the pasture for one reason or the other, or when they have ridden away from a familiar friend. Whinnies can be interpreted as a horse feeling insecure and looking for comfort.

At times, your horse may need to be separated from a pasture mate or familiar friend. This will not necessarily cause them a long term trauma, as they will eventually calm down. However, if you are concerned that your horse has become too worked up and is in danger of harming himself because of the separation, then some training may be pivotal in such a situation.

One of the training will require you to distract your horse’s attention, into focusing on you. You can do this by asking him to turn left, then right and then back up. If the whinnying continues, repeat the process until he/she gets calm. This way, your horse’s mind will no longer be fixed on his absent friend and over time, it will build security in being alone. 

2. Nicker

A nicker is a softer neigh and can most often be heard when mares are communicating with their foals or when a stallion is looking to mate. When a horse nickers, they are calling you or the object in which they are nickering, to come close to them. In other words, this sound often means “come to me”. According to Equine’s Illustration, this can be used as a show of dominance. 

As such, they suggest that if your horse nickers at you outside of feeding times, you should endeavor to discourage this behavior, before the horse will start feeling dominant over you. It may also signal aggression that comes along with dominance. So if your horse nickers to you, other than when you’re feeding them, do not reward this behavior.

If you notice your horse nickering at another around food, and the other horse leaves the food following this vocalization, you should then know that your horse has established dominance over the other horse and may want to keep an eye on the situation to ensure all horses in your herd are being allowed access to food and water supplies. If not, you may need to make special feeding arrangements for the submissive steed. 

3. Snort

Snorting in a horse only occurs when you’re riding on it, and it sees what he takes to be danger. Snorts are described as short, quick bursts of air through your horse’s nostrils, which occurs when the nostrils are flared out. When this happens, it means that your horse detects something he has interpreted as a threat. My horse used to snort at the white mailbox at the end of the driveway simply because she didn’t know what it was.

In situations like this, familiarizing your horse with the everyday objects they are most likely going to encounter or interact with is best. However, if the threat is real, such as a predatory or sick wild animal in the pasture, for instance, you can locate the threat your horse has seen by looking in the direction, where they are looking at. Horses have deeper sight, meaning, they can see what you could barely see without the help of binoculars, so it’s best you go with them when riding.

Snort from Horses

A green-broke horse may also snort at you during lunging activities. And irrespective of that, continue your lesson, but be cautious of the high chances that your horse may act out at any second. So, be vigilant in practicing safety.  You can read more on horse noises names here.

It is important to also know that vocalization isn’t the only way through which your horse conveys important information. Pinning their ears back is a good indicator that your horse is mad and is much more likely to behave aggressively. And, anytime you see your horse pin his ears, you should pay strict attention as biting or kicking is much more likely.

When another horse he doesn’t like comes too close or if your horse is particularly temperamental like mine was, he may pin his ears back when you tighten the saddle. You can find a great resource on-ear pinning at Equine Behaviorist here.

Horse Noises: In Summary

Horses employ a number of ways to communicate with one another and their human caretakers. Knowing what these noises mean will help keep both of you happy and safe.

-Whinnies are social calls that can indicate insecurity and loneliness. A horse that whinnies often should be trained through distraction and rewarding quiet behavior.

-A horse that nickers is displaying dominance and this behavior should not be rewarded if it is directed towards humans. In order to curb this, you need to establish trust with your horse, by letting the horse know that you are in control, not him.

-Snorting is a sign of danger, which may be real or perceived. You can find out the cause of the snorting by looking where your horse is looking at, and act accordingly to address the issue.

-Squealing is another common horse vocalization, which can indicate a number of things. Primarily, it may indicate your horse is feeling threatened . or ready to fight.

 -Horses who pin their ears back are very upset and you should be vigilant to maintain your safety. 

 If you have any questions or comments to add to this discussion please feel free to do so below. 


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