//The horses language
Horses language

The horses language

Most people when they talk about communication say that communication is an essentially human phenomenon. But the advances in the investigations of science, today can lead us to extend to consider communication as a phenomenon that covers not only humans, but also animals. Today we will talk about equine communication, that is, the horses language

EquiFACS: The Equine Facial Action Coding System

Let’s talk about communication

What characterizes human language is the presence of rationality, the search for meaning and response. Of course, all this implies an intentionality.

When we make these reflections, we reach a conclusion and indeed we can talk about communication between living organisms.

Professor Jeremiah O’Sullivan says that communication in its broadest sense refers to the fact that living beings are connected to the world and in a progressive relationship between them.

Communication: encounter between living organisms

Sullivan affirms that communication “is the meeting of a living organism with its environment or environment, when that encounter is understood as the reception of information from the surrounding world and a reaction to the information received” (Sullivan, 1996: 11)

We would say then that communication is essentially the same reality, that it is impossible to live without communicating.

Horses language - Comunication between human and horse
Horses language – Comunication between human and horse

What is the language, as we currently understand it? How is the language of the humans?

People communicate with each other through the voice.

They can tell stories, laugh or talk loudly in a discussion. When they tell secrets or whisper words of affection, they use a low voice.

Oral language can be supported in many ways, especially body language, a closed fist, shrunken shoulders, arms crossed with disdain … adds meaning to what is being said.

The face is also expressed; the more intense and emotional an argument is, the more often the eyebrows are raised, the forehead wrinkles, the mouth frowns or the lines of the smile appear.

Speech, facial expression and body language function as a set in which words always carry most of the meaning, while body language is used to emphasize them.

We can say that speech is only one of the components of language. That is why the facial expression, body and sounds that can emit a living being constitute a form of language.

Horses language
Horses language

How is the horses language?

Understanding that language is not just words we can begin to understand that horses have their language. So we will know a bit about the horses language

The communication between the horses is a question quite different from the one we are used to.

The conversation between horses, is much more silent, takes place fundamentally without audible expressions. It is often imperceptible to us, humans.

With a little effort, we can verify that our horses talk, especially using their bodies to transmit signals and meanings.

A slight movement of the head may be enough to tell another member of the pack: “Listen, I’m the boss here and I want you to get out of my way right now!”; or to ask another partner: “Could you please scratch me here?”

Training ourselves to be able to “perceive” the horses language  is essential if we want to establish good communication. It is the same as with our wife or our children 😛

The sound in the horses language

It is true that horses also make noises to communicate, but what we hear does not have the same meaning as our language.

Equine conversations are conducted silently, using the different parts of the body separately or together to convey a message.

The way each member of the group of horses has to position their bodies plays a special role when it comes to informing others about their age, sex, social status and humor. These signals are sent continuously and are often virtually invisible to the human eye, as well as difficult to interpret.

In other words, horses use body language in the same way that we use words, pronounced or written, and only use noises to reinforce physical gestures or when they need to communicate at very long distances.

Dictionary for the horses language

Jennifer Wathan and Karen McComb, researched University of Sussex (United Kingdom) a method for communication through the ears. This is a method to unravel much of the communication of horses and in turn the horses language

The ethologists recorded facial expressions and their ears through video and photography for subsequent translation. The objectives of the investigation were:

– To deepen the understanding of equine communication and the horses language

– Systematize signs with common meaning for all horses and codify them, obtaining for practical purposes a dictionary for the horses language

The dictionary is in full development. It was called EquiFACS and it was available on the website and is in constant development and evolution. For this purpose, it describes the movements and an approximate meaning in the extent to which the development is going forward.

Horses and humans use similar facial expressions to communicate

What was the methodology to interpret the horses language?

Wathan and McComb documented the expressions of the horses and showed them to other horses. These images contained what the researchers assumed were specific messages. For example, an image where the place where the food was located was indicated. The investigation was able to confirm the meaning of the messages as the tests were carried out. Little by little, the horses language is unraveled

What did they discover about the horses language?

Thus, they were able to confirm that the position of eyes and ears is especially important in their communication, much more than the sounds and movements of the head.

Ethologists discovered that by hiding the ears and eyes of photographs, the receiving horse had difficulty interpreting the message.

They could also detect that the horses judged the message differently depending on the identity of the horse in the photo. This indicates that there is a level of individualization of the communication. For the researchers, individual facial features can also be important in the communication of these animals.

Which senses intervene in the horses language?

Horses language
Horses language

The main communication routes of horses are: chemistry, physics, visual and tactile. Practically, no animal species uses only one of the sensory channels as a means to transmit information. In general they broadcast messages by different ways and the combination of them gives precision to the horses language. It’s like combining the right words with tone and body language.

Visual signs

The sight of the horses has evolved due to being adapted to warn the presence of predators

Through visual signals, horses transmit their emotional state and intentions through postures and expressions. In addition, the hierarchical order of the group is established and links are created between individuals.

Touch signals

The sense of touch of the horse covers the entire body but the ears, eyes and mouth have greater sensitivity.

These signals are key to the formation of social bonds. Horse grooming is part of this tactile signal and has social and comfort purposes.

The ears of the horse

The ears of horses have a large range of movement, which allows them to detect the orientation of the sound accurately. Likewise they emit diversity of sounds that can mean threat, nerves or boredom. They are key to know the language of the horse as indicated by the researchers

The sense of smell

The sense of smell is very developed. They have great relevance to inform other groups of horses of their presence, for guidance within the group, to scare off competitors as part of the sexual ritual and, in the case of females, they are essential for the creation of the maternal-filial link. It is the sense of identity

Horses couple - Horses language
Horses couple – Horses language

As we can see, equines have their own language. We should only be more attentive to the corporal expression of the equines and the sounds they emit in order to understand them. With this we can establish a magical link between us and the horse. This will result in a feeling of well-being for the horse and will also allow us to know when we should not disturb him. As with our partners or children: P

Good communication is the key to every relationship, even with horses. Let’s learn the horses language and grow with them.








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