Facial Expression and Body Language – part 4

Another common concern is when people see their horse standing still with his head lowered for periods of time.  Is he depressed?  Or is he just resting?

Horses can sleep standing up, due to an inbuilt locking mechanism in their legs, meaning that they can stay upright without any conscious effort on their part.  Their sleeping pattern is quite different from ours in that they have frequent, short periods of sleep throughout a 24hr cycle, rather than one long one.  It is also important for them to be able to have times when they can lie down and sleep more deeply.  In order to do this they need to feel completely safe.  This allows them to enter REM sleep and to engage in full rest and repair.  Sleep deprivation can cause illness, just as it does in humans.

One of the key things is always to know your horse’s normal temperament.  Observe him regularly and then you will be able to read him more easily.

Symptoms that could indicate depression are:

  • little interest in other horses or activity
  • standing still for long periods
  • being overly-calm, possibly indicating that the horse has ‘shut down’
  • a lack of interest in food

depressed

 

If you would like to know more about Equine Body Language, or about care for your horse in general, I have created a series of videos which are available through my website: www.equenergy.com or by following this link: If Horses Could Talk video series

Please also feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or to book a session with me for you and your horse:

email:              robyn@equenergy.com

mobile:           07980 669303

 

You can read the full article here

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Facial Expression and Body Language – part 3

One question that people often ask is: How can I tell if my horse is in pain?

The signals given by a horse in pain will vary depending on the horse and the location and severity of the pain.  Any sudden, unexplainable, change of behaviour could be due to pain and so it is worth calling in the vet if you suspect that your horse is experiencing discomfort.

Some of the more obvious signs could be:

  • lameness
  • stiffness or tightness in particular areas
  • swellings
  • reluctance to move or weight bear

You might also spot what is often referred to as the ‘Pain Face’.  An example of this is shown in the right hand photograph below.  You can see the clear contrast between this and the more ‘normal’ face on the left.

pain-face

pain

Other signs that your horse is experiencing discomfort are that he might:

  • suddenly become headshy or reluctant to accept tack or take part in activities that he normally enjoys.
  • become protective of an area of his head / body, not wanting to be touched, or even approached, there.
  • become moody, withdrawn, depressed or even aggressive.
  • be having difficulty eating, maybe even starting to losing weight, possibly indicating problems with his teeth.

I’ll also mention a couple of common illnesses here that have particular pain symptoms.

  1. The first is laminitis (founder) which has a very characteristic stance.  The horse is leaning backwards to take weight off his painful front feet.

laminitic-stance

 

2. The second is colic.  There can be other signs of this too, but here I’ll focus on the visual indications of pain:

  • kicking up at the belly
  • rolling
  • restlessness
  • flank watching

If you would like to know more about Equine Body Language, or about care for your horse in general, I have created a series of videos which are available through my website: www.equenergy.com or by following this link: If Horses Could Talk video series

Please also feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or to book a session with me for you and your horse:

email:              robyn@equenergy.com

mobile:           07980 669303

 

You can read the full article here

 

Facial Expression and Body Language – part 2

In the following diagrams I will look at each feature in isolation, but this can be misleading.  These comments are therefore just a guideline.  You will need to take the whole face and body into consideration. For example, if the ears are facing slightly backwards the horse could be listening to something going on behind him, he is not necessarily upset.  There will be a clue in the way that the ears are being held.  Notice if they are tense or relaxed and whether they are more down or up.

ears

The tail, too can be a good indicator of a horse’s mood:

tail-position

Looking at the face, the degree of tension is again important.  Increased tension can result in wrinkling around the nose, mouth and eyes.

 

Of course the face won’t be still, as it is in these diagrams.  This can make it difficult to catch each nuance of your horse’s range of expressions in the moment, as they can be subtle and fleeting, therefore a helpful tip is to take photos or videos to review at a later time.

If a horse is fearful, wary or upset you will often see the sclera of the eye, that is the whites of the eyes:

sclera

When he is happy and relaxed, however, his eye is soft and deep, and often starts to close drowsily.  You can also see here the relaxed position of the ears and the mouth with the lower lip drooping.  The nostrils, too, are relaxed and the head is lowered slightly.

relaxed-eye

The points above are just a rough guide and you will need to spend time observing your horse to be able to interpret his expressions in a variety of settings.

If you would like to know more about Equine Body Language, or about care for your horse in general, I have created a series of videos which are available through my website: www.equenergy.com or by following this link: If Horses Could Talk video series

Please also feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or to book a session with me for you and your horse:

email:              robyn@equenergy.com

mobile:           07980 669303

 

You can read the full article here

Facial Expression and Body Language – part 1

horse-communication      verbal-communication

As humans we use a verbal language and often we place so much emphasis on this that we are no longer used to reading visual clues.  This is compounded by the fact that much of our communication is done at a distance – by email, text and telephone – and so we are less familiar with reading the facial expressions and body language of others.

Horses, however, largely rely on visual clues in their communication.  It is therefore well worth taking the time to observe and become more ‘fluent’ in this language.  They use various different body parts and facial features in their communication but if we start by looking at the body as a whole, you can quickly get a basic sense of the horse’s overall mood.  If he is alert his head will be up and his neck muscles tense, his tail raised, with his eyes and ears focused in one particular direction.  His nostrils will flare as he sniffs intently, and possibly snorts.

alert-4

 In contrast, a relaxed horse will have his head and tail lowered allowing his back to round and stretch.  His eyes will be soft and possibly half-closed.  His nostrils and lips will be relaxed and often the bottom lip droops slightly.  He might also rest one hind foot and then the other.

relaxed-horse

In the next post, I’ll look in more detail at specific parts of the body.

If you would like to know more about Equine Body Language, or about care for your horse in general, I have created a series of videos which are available through my website: www.equenergy.com or by following this link: If Horses Could Talk video series

Please also feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or to book a session with me for you and your horse:

email:              robyn@equenergy.com

mobile:           07980 669303

 

You can read the full article here