What are my horse’s ears telling me?


Like many animals, horses use a combination of postures, gestures and expressions, as well as vocal cues, to communicate with others. Learning the often unspoken language of horses will assist you in building a better relationship with your horse.

 Let’s take a closer look at what your horse’s ears are saying.

 One of the first lessons we learn around horses is the difference between when a horse’s ears are pointed forward as opposed to when they’re pinned back. Forward ears indicate the horse is alert and engaged; ears pinned back signals aggression and the possibility of a bite or kick.

 But, do you know some of the less known ear expressions of your horse?

 Ears turned to the side

 You’ll often find horses with their ears turned to the side when they’re relaxing or sleeping. This relaxed expression of the ears indicates the horse isn’t paying close attention to their environment, so it’s best to approach them with care. A sudden noise or touch could startle them.

 Ears turned to the back

 Next, a horse with ears turned back, but not pinned back, is often listening to their environment. As a prey species, your horse is forever mindful of predators. However, when combined with a swishing tail or other signs of tension, these ears may be a precursor to ears pinned back.

 Ears rapidly swivelling

 Finally, if you notice your horse’s ears are rapidly swivelling back and forth, it may be a sign of anxiety or over-stimulation. This ear expression signifies your horse is trying to locate a concerning sound or smell, or they may be in a heightened state of alertness.


  • Dr Louise Cosgrove

    The founder of Exclusively Equine Veterinary Services, Louise is driven to support horses in their recovery from injury or illness. A graduate of the University of Queensland, with international equin...

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