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What Is Your Horse Saying?
WRITTEN BY: Cheryl Sutor   [June 1999]

The Snort
The horse usually holds his head high while exhaling through the nose with his mouth shut. The strong exhale creates a vibration or flutter sound in the nostrils. The snort lasts about 1 second. The snort can be heard up to 30 feet away.

"There may be danger" or "Is this dangerous?" - The horse snorts, followed by an intense stare at the object his unsure about.
"It's not dangerous" - The horse relaxes and/or ignores the thing that he questioned.
"It's dangerous, I better leave!" - The horse tenses up and shies away from the danger.

The Blow
The blow is much like the snort. The horse exhales through his nose with his mouth shut. The blow does not create the vibrating or fluttering noise that the snort does. It is usually used when a horse is curious, or when the horse meets another. The strength of the blow and body movements that follow will tell you what the horse is saying.

"Are you a friend?" - Two horses meet nose to nose and blow on eachother. During this, the two horses will tell eachother if they are friends or foes.
"I am your friend" - The horses continue blowing gently followed by other gentle actions such as nuzzling the others' coat.
"I am not your friend, get away!" - One or both of the horses nip at the other and/or stomp the front feet, strike out or squeal.
"What is this?" - The horse blows towards an object it is curious about, usually something new that he has never seen before.
"It's okay" - The horse relaxes and nudges or ignores the object.
"It's dangerous" - The horse tenses up and/or shies away from the object.

The Nicker
The horse creates a vibrating sound with his mouth closed, from his vocal cords. The strength and tone of the nicker vary greatly, and will tell you what the horse is saying.

"Hello, good to see you" - The horse nickers fairly quietly, and moves toward the other horse or person who he is nickering to.

"Hi, beautiful!" or "Woo Hoo, you're sexy!" - Usually said by a stallion. This nicker is slightly more intense than the one above, with mating in mind, and accomodated by shaking of the head.

"Come closer" - This sound is most usually made by a mare to her foal. It is much softer and quieter than the "hello" nicker. This nicker is usually accomodated by a nudge from the horse's nose (usually towards her flanks to protect her foal from danger).

The Neigh or Whinny   Click here to hear a neigh/whinny
The Neigh starts out as a squeal, but ends up as a nicker. The neigh is the loudest and longest of the horse sounds. The neigh is not a sound of fear. It is used when a horse is being separated from others.

"Is anyone else here?" - The horse neighs with his head high, looking around for other horses or people. The horse usually neighs several times (if the horse neighs after a companion has answered his neigh, he is usually saying "Where are you".
"I am here" - A returned nicker made by a fellow horse who hears the original horse's question. This response is also a nicker, meant to tell the other horse that he's not alone.

The Squeal
The horse usually squeals with his mouth closed. The squeal can be short and quiet or loud and long. The squeal can be heard far away if the horse squeals loud enough.

"Don't Push Me!" or "I don't want to!" - The horse squeals while backing off, or sometimes aggressively approaching the object that is pushing or forcing him.

The Scream
The scream sounds like a loud roar of rage. It is very rare to hear a domesticated horse scream. It is only used during a fight between two horses, usually only in the wild.

"I will kill you" - The horse roars at another horse, moving towards the other horse aggresively, striking out and/or biting.
"The fight is on!" - Both horses move towards eachother aggressively, striking, kicking and biting. This continues until one of the two horses backs down.
"You are the boss" or "You win" - The horse backs down, with his tail set low, running away from the other horse's threat.

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This article was published on: June 1999. Last updated on: June 1999.