Horse Communication with the 5 senses
The number of facial expressions that the horse has is higher than that of some primates and that of the dog, which gives us an idea of the great potential of “equine language” horse communication. It only remains for us to learn their language.
In the Blog, we will talk about the enormous capacity for horse communication that the horse has with the members of its species and the human. We started a series of articles so that you know the meaning of this language.
What is Facial Action Coding Systems for Horses?
They are code systems to describe facial behavior based on their muscular anatomy. The facial muscles are the muscles of mimicry, which, innervated by the facial nerve, are connected to the skin of the face. We directly observe the results of the contractions and relaxations of these muscles in the form of gestures.
A standardized code is created with this system, avoiding subjective interpretations of the expressions.
This system was initially developed for use in humans and applied to several different primates and domestic animals. This method uses a methodology that allows direct comparisons between species, using identical techniques for species with different facial morphology. The first attempt was at an animal with lateral eyes and an elongated face.
The study showed that horses have a rich facial repertoire with 17 AUs (action units, that is, expressions linked to a specific muscle or group of muscles) higher than some primates also studied and higher than the dog with 16. Cats, with 21, surpass them due to the large number of expressions linked to whiskers and ears)
A more advanced step in this system would be to relate each gesture (already standardized) to its communicative meaning.
Horse communication uses
Horse communicate with each other and humans, using all five senses. It is up to us to learn their language.
Humans have relegated body language to the background because verbal language is complete. However, the horse is still attached to the communication system of body signals, facial signals and simple sounds. Perhaps, for this reason, they notice movements and expressions that are impossible for us to perceive.
Learning the horse’s language is not a matter of a day, do not get frustrated if, at first, you miss half of its signals. Start with the most obvious, such as those emitted by the ears, and you will learn others, also simple, until you combine them. You will discover an incredible language.
Signals in which the mouth is the principal axis are also easy to perceive.
The foals make movements with their mouths to tell the other older horses or the herd’s stallion: “Don’t worry; I’m just a fool who respects you and won’t give you problems.” With that, they manage to “appease” their “elders” and not take a lovely whip! Just with a movement of the mouth!
We are very used to paying attention to the position and movements of dogs’ tails to know their intention. However, few people do it on horses, which would give us a lot of information.
The sounds that horses emit are in themselves a communication of intentions. In countries with a long equestrian tradition, each sound has its name, but in the rest, we limit ourselves to calling everything neighing or snorting. How many types of neighs and snorts are you able to distinguish? Few? Don’t worry. We’ll talk about them.
The sense of smell
The sense of smell is widely used among horses, recognizing each other simply by smelling each other. It is not a sense that you will use to understand your horse, but you must be aware that he will. So if you visited a mare in heat before giving your stallion dinner, keep in mind that their nervousness will increase because they can detect odors that your nose cannot even imagine.
Equines also detect Pheromones and produce effects as incredible as a foal calming down with pheromones released by its mother.
Consider this because they also detect pheromones from people, which allows them to know our status.
Physical contact is another communication system. The horse has a very well-defined sense of living space. The more one horse allow another horse to get close, the more comfortable he is with it. A high degree of affectivity is to start scratching each other’s back.
The other extremes are bites and kicks, used as the highest degree of punishment or rivalry. Before reaching these terms, both horses will have issued previous signals, body or sound, to try not to reach the maximum punishment.
Many times people bite or kick because they cannot perceive the previous signals.
It is directly related to the smell. Horses can taste things to reinforce the information that comes to them by smell.
If you liked this article on horse communication, share it with friends who may find it helpful.