The relationship between horse and rider is really important. Riders need to consider that for horses the body language is a crucial aspect of communication. According to this riders should be able to understand the signs of the body and therefore the message of the horse.
In many cases it is not easy that horse and rider understand each other. If you want to achieve a harmonious relationship between you and your horse and therefore create a base for an efficient training you need to understand the body language of the horse. This requires patience and a detailed observation of the animal.
How to interpret the body language of the horse
Neighing is a way to contact other members of the herd (also if there are long distances between the horses). A horse that snorts loudly expects any kind of danger. If the horse additionally breathes slowly and deep he might prepare to suddenly run away. In opposite to this a relaxed posture in combination with a deep snorting stands for a situation of satisfaction and contentedness. Often you can observe a quiet grumbling when you enter the box of the horse and especially when it is time for fodder. This can be interpreted as the language of the horse who wants to say “Hello”. On the pasture horses often have little conflicts with each other and the horses make a noise of an angry squeak. This squeak can even sound more aggressive and determinant when a mare is trying to say “No, go away!” to a persistent stallion.
Upright ears and an attentive expression in the horses’ eyes stand for a general good mood of the animal. However, bended ears, wide opened eyes and nostrils and a tail making constantly nervous movements completely means the opposite: the horse is nervous and ready to suddenly run away. In summer the heavy movement of the tail simply is a way to wave away flies. Concentration of the horse gets expressed through constantly moving ears.
In some situations it is even more important to understand the body language of the horse because it can be necessary to prevent danger and injuries. If, for example, the horse constantly moves his tail, shakes his head up and down, paws with his front legs and shows the teeth this really is a crucial situation. The horse can probably suffer from great pain or otherwise be so aggressive that only experts can help to cool him down.
Flehmening looks as if the horse would laugh. In fact the horse pulls up the upper lips and tries to detect the surrounding smells. Sometimes you can observe how horses on the pasture nibble at each other. This is an important behavior and stands for a good and strong social loyalty in the herd.
Some horses offer behavioral dysfunctions and stable vices like cribbing, headshaking and weaving when there is no species-appropriate husbandry or a bad relationship between horse and rider. Especially horses which live isolated in a box, do not have any contact with other horses or do not have enough movement are affected from these stereotypes. The constantly repeated movements help them to feel less bored. If a horse once started with these stereotypes it is really difficult to make him stop again.
If you really want to understand your horse and the way it behaves, the best way is to simply observe him in a natural environment. This, for example, can be the natural behavior on the pasture. You can lay down in the grass or take a chair and see how horses communicate with each other. This will help you to let you better understand the horse and his behavior.