To the uninitiated, a horse’s body language can seem inscrutable. A horse prefers to be subtle and nuanced in their conversation. A horse communicates what they’re thinking with a turn of the ear, a wrinkle that appears in the corner of the nose, a shift in weight. Unfortunately, when those messages aren’t acknowledged, a horse will amp up the volume with a swing of the hips, a kick, a bite, a gallop away. The more you can see and correctly interpret your horse at its most low-key, the better off you and your horse will be.
Sometimes, though, their body language is totally obvious! Honing your observation skills when you know exactly what their mood is will help you to interpret it correctly when it isn’t so blatant.
Here Tonka is giving a lesson in Equine Body Language 101: The Relaxed Horse
Start at the tail, which is held relaxed (not clamped in anger, nor up in excitement.) One hind hoof is cocked and resting on its toe, and his weight is even on both front hoofs, which means that the horse is not thinking at all about flight. Tonka’s neck is straight out, the head balanced with the shoulders. This takes little physical effort on his part.
Ears are tilted out, eyes half-shut, and the nose and mouth are smooth. The lack of wrinkles on the muzzle are a clear indicator that the horse is feeling content with life. That lower lip! It’s hanging loosely, which is seen only when a horse is at ease.
There’s a pile of hay in Tonka’s stall, but he’s not hungry and although he’ll be getting his grain supper soon, there’s no anxiety about mealtime. It’s wonderful when a horse knows there’s food, but chooses to relax instead. This is one of the first days warm enough for Tonka to bask in the sun without a blanket on, and he is luxuriating in that.
This is a horse who is satisfied with his lot and who feels safe in his world. Don’t you want to sit in the sun with him and share those vibes?
I find that hanging lip adorable! What does your horse do when relaxed that makes you happy?