//The eyes of the horse. How to detect stress in horses?
The eyes of the horse - Detect stress in horses

The eyes of the horse. How to detect stress in horses?

Some may wonder how to detect stress in horses. A recent scientific study determined that the horse’s eyes can help us detect signs of stress. Specifically the look of the horse is the key to discover it.

So now you can know if your horse is stressed just by looking him in the eye, but let’s analyze a little more.

Usually the owners of these animals, trainers and riders learn to know them and know when they feel anxious. But stress can begin silently and not exactly the horse must be kicking the wind.

Scientists have discovered that the eyelids of horses are key when you want to know if an equine is in a moment of stress.

The novelty of this discovery is that it is not something invasive and therefore the animal will not suffer.

On the contrary, it implies a detailed observation to know if the horse has stress or not.

Do Horses' Eyes Reveal Their Stress?

The reflex eyes of the soul … and stress

They say that the eyes are the reflection of the soul and that through them you can know how a person is …

In this sense, it has been discovered that this technique works with horses.

Although the study shows the importance of eyelid contractions as indicators of stress.

And that is what makes this study interesting and novel, since you only need to see the horses carefully.

Although there are other methods to find out how are heart rate monitors or blood cortisol levels.

So just look at the horse and look at the way he moves his eyelids. Definitely the eyes of the horses are the key to detect stress in horses

“With humans, we already know the flickering changes when we are under pressure. Some studies have shown that we blink more when we are disturbed, while others found that we blink less. ” Katrina Merkies, professor at the Ontario Agricultural College of the University of Guelph (Canada).

The teacher adds to her explanation that this same method wanted to apply it to the horses to know if it worked …

“We wanted to see if the rates of flickering of the horses also varied,” Professor Merkies.

The study of horse eyes and how to detect stress in horses

For this phase of the study the researchers took 33 horses of different races as a sample.

First phase of the study to find out how to detect stress in horses

Once all the horses were in the enclosure they were subjected to slightly stressful scenarios.

The horses were from three riding class facilities in eastern Ontario, Canada.

One of the ways to generate discomfort or restlessness was by taking away their food for a few minutes.

“During the food restriction, the eyelid contractions increased from two to six contractions per minute” statements from the project researchers.

Second Phase – Provoke the horse

Another phase of the study included throwing a ball in front of a horse to try to scare him.

That way provoke a motivated reaction to stress and fright. The idea was to quantify the bodily reactions. This includes the reaction of the eyes of the horses.

Third Phase – Isolation

Later, in a next phase, they separated a horse from the others …

So I could see them visually but I wasn’t with them for a few minutes.

Last phase – Observation

Finally, the scientists removed the food from the horse for three minutes just at lunchtime while their companions could start feeding.

This whole process is in videos because each phase of the investigation was recorded.


In the same way they were attentive to the movements of their body to know how they express themselves.

The eyes of the horse - Detect stress in horses
The eyes of the horse – Detect stress in horses

Results of the study

They observed that there were changes in the movement of their eyes and ears, the inclination of the head and the general restlessness.

As they moved away the food they discovered that seeing others eating and not eating them, it is stressful.

“The withdrawal of food was something new, so it is likely that this was the cause for the most stressed,” said Professor Merkies.

The analyzes and the discovery

After all these exercises, the videos were analyzed and this is the result:

At the most distressing moment for the horses they noticed that the animals blinked less but moved the upper eyelids more.

during the most distressing moment, they noticed that the animals blinked less but moved the upper eyelids more.

Generally, horses often blink several times a day.

However, that flicker decreased to an average of five blinks per minute during stress compared to eight or nine times per minute when they were relaxed.

When they had no food, they got stressed

The scientists determined that at times when they were not eating and saw the other horses feed …

Eyelid contractions increased on average from two contractions per minute to six contractions per minute.

It should be noted that with the other tests the scientists did not notice the same behavior.

So it can be concluded that one of the things that causes more stress in horses is not eating.

In fact, with the other stress tests the behavior was not the same as when it came to food restriction.

“There is no technique that tells us everything, but this is another tool that we can use to better understand our animals,” Merkies concluded.

The horse’s behavior and body language

The horse is an animal that communicates with its body.

Your body language is what shows how this animal feels.

The way he moves his ears, how he walks, and even his movements with his legs tell us something.

And the blinking … The eyes of the horses are keys to know how they feel. Therefore, the eyes are key to detect stress.

This speaks of whether they are happy or sad, if they are hungry or thirsty, if they are anxious or not, etc.

The way the horse behaves is the one that tells us if there are diseases or do not feel well.

These animals are very intelligent and always make themselves understood.

They are generally very calm, playful and do not like confinement.

In addition to not eating on time, the fact of being locked away for a long time, without anyone riding or exercising them, causes them anxiety and can become bothersome.

If that happens then the mammal begins to whinny, kick and become somewhat aggressive.

However, if you are taken out of the barn for a walk, brush or walk, your attitude will surely change.

What Does That Mean? Subtle Signs of Stress in Your Horse

Looks that kill, a language the horses handle

The eyes of the horse
The eyes of the horse

The looks are another language. And although the horse is clean and beautiful if his eyes are sad something happens.

They cannot express themselves with words but their eyes certainly say a lot.

Now they also reflect whether you are stressed or not.

In any case, it is enough to have direct and close contact with the animal, look at it face to face and read its body language.

Many times when a horse is a victim of abuse his body tells us that there is something wrong with him … His attitude and the horse’s eyes speak to us.

They see open wounds and flies sniffing around them, their head is down all the time, they have trouble walking and they certainly show sadness.

And as we mentioned, his eyes also tell us that there is loneliness, pain and even cataracts.

Yes, this disease also happens to horses.

When a horse has these symptoms, it is because they do not take good care of it, do not eat enough or simply beat it, subject it and enslave it to work.

The saddest thing about this is that whoever suffers is the animal, its owner can get a few reais per ride that gives tourists more the horse is the one who pays for the broken dishes.

And his body is an agent that reveals the physical and emotional state of the horse.

Let’s learn to read your language! Let us denounce animal abuse because it not only damages it but prevents it from getting the best out of it




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