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Andalusian Horse Breed Information


The Andalusian horse is the kind of horse you would imagine to be in medieval fantasy novels and movies. The picture-perfect horse for knights and royalty. It is hard to forget such a beautiful creature with a luxurious long flowing mane and tail, powerful arched neck, noble-looking head, and compact body with beautifully animated movement.

So it is no wonder that Andalusians were owned and ridden across Europe by Spanish diplomats and Kings. The Andalusian, also known as the Pura Raza Española which means the Pure Spanish Horse or PRE, is from the Iberian Peninsula, where its ancestors have lived for thousands of years. 

Famous as a classical dressage horse, Andalusians are so much more. They are actually very versatile in their uses and can excel in many disciplines, even jumping, western riding, trail riding, and driving horses.

Breed Overview:

Weight: 1000 to 1,300 pounds 

Height: 15-16 hands

Body Type: Compact and athletic

Useful For: Dressage, pleasure riding, western riding, trail riding, jumping, and much more

Life Expectancy: 25 years

Andalusian’s History & Origin

Andalusians are an ancient breed developed in the Iberian Peninsula which contains both Spain and Portugal.  This breed is a direct descendent of the Spanish Horse also known as the Iberian horse, which was the first horse of Europe. 

Andalusian horses are also known as the Pure Spanish Horse or PRE. They are considered to be under the heading of Iberian horses which also includes a handful of other breeds with very similar characteristics, such as the Alter Real, Lusitano, Peninsular, Zapatero.

The Andalusian is most closely related to the Lusitano, which was named after Portugal’s previous ancient name Lusitania. The original name of the province where the Andalusian horses got their name was Vandalusia which later changed to become Andalusia. It is located on the most southern point of the Iberian Peninsula.

The Andalusian is an ancient breed with its origins inhabiting the Iberian Peninsula spanning to prehistoric times with some saying even pre-ice age. 

The exact creation and development of the Andalusian horse is somewhat fogged in mystery with several theories. 

One theory is that Iberian horses were cross-bred by horses brought by explorers to the peninsula, creating the Andalusian horse in the 1400s. 

Another explanation for the Andalusian horse is during the eighth century during the Moorish invasions. The Moors Barb and Arab horses crossed with the Spanish Horse creating the Andalusian. However, it has been said that it is a misconception that the Andalusian’s origins are in Arab blood.

Another thought is that Andalusians are the descendants of the 2000 Numidian Mares that were shipped to Spain by the Carthaginian general Hasdrubal.

These are just some of the theories of the early development of the Andalusian breed.

Andalusians took on the legacy of the Iberian horse as being great war horses. They were favored for their speed and agility, which made them famous among European royalty. As the art of horse riding became more popular, riding academies began to form and the Andalusian was a popular mount.

 Alexia Khruscheva / Getty Images

Breeding

Since the 15th century, the breeding of Andalusians has been centered around Jerez de la Frontera, Cordoba, and Seville in Spain where it was preserved by Carthusian monasteries. These Andalusians are known as the Carthusian Andalusians.

There are 2 types of Andauliasians if you can believe it. One is more heavily built, more robust limbs than the average light riding horse and the other type has a lighter build more typical of the light riding horse.

The Andalusian breed has had a great influence on many other European horse breeds and has been a foundation for most American breeds. Some of these breeds are the Holstein, Oldenburg, Friesian, Lipizzaner, Kladruper, Frederiksberg, the Old Norman Horse, The Hackney, the Orlov, and in America, the Quarter Horse, and Criollo.

66North / Getty Images

Size Of The Andalusian Horse

Andalusians average around 15.2 hands and are strong, compact horses, though they typically range 15-16 hands and weigh between 1000-1300lbs. The stallions and geldings tend to weigh more than the mares when compared at the same height. The Association for Purebred Spanish Horse Breeds of Span has minimum height requirements in order for an Andalusian to be able to become registered. Mares must be at least 14.3 hands, while geldings and stallions must be a minimum of 15 hands. Horses can also be approved as elite stock, which has different height requirements. An elite mare must be a minimum of 15 ¼ and a gelding or stallion must be 15.1hands or taller.

mari_art / Getty Images

Colors & Markings

The Andalusian used to come in more coat colors, but over time these colors have been refined. It is very rare to see a buckskin or cremello Andalusian, while black, chestnut, dun, roan, and palomino coats are a little more common. 

Andalusians most often tend to be grey with over 80% of the breed being this color. The second most common coat color is bay.

Unique Characteristics of The Andalusian Horse

These horses are donned with an attractive head, big bright kind eyes, a broad forehead, and a straight or convex hawk-like profile. The neck of an Andalusian is often short, quite thick, nicely arched, and set on strong wide shoulders. They are broad and deep-chested with a round barrel.

Andalusians are compact with a short back and well-muscled hind end. The tail is thick and is set low on the hindquarters. It is custom for the Andalusian to have long flowing manes, forelocks, and tails which are often wavy. The hooves are well-formed and hardy.

They have great flexion in their joints and have animated movement in their steps. Andalusians actually have been observed to not overstep with their hindlegs as much as other horse breeds, however, they flex their joints and have more action in their gait.

These are intelligent horses that are very trainable and learn quickly.

Kseniya Rimskaya / Getty Images

Uses

Andalusians have many uses but what is interesting about this breed is that they are common in the bull ring, parades, and circuses.

It is because of their bravery, energy, and agility to maneuver and turn that they are sought after as bullfighting horses in Spain and Portugal. In my opinion, I think bullfighting is absolutely cruel… to the bull and to the horses who end up getting injured by the bull. 

As far as the parades go, these are beautiful horses with high stepping gaits and a noble presence. Which makes them desirable to look at and show off. A commonly displayed high stepping movement in Parades by the Andalusians is known as the gait Paso de Andatura.

Perhaps it is because of their beauty, energy, and trainability that these horses are commonly seen in circuses. Their presence alone is truly a sight to behold.

Andalusians are also seen as light riding horses, excelling in the discipline of dressage. They are among the first horses to be used in classical dressage. 

You may be surprised to find that they can also make great jumpers. Other disciplines they do well at including Western pleasure, English pleasure, driving, and trail riding.

kondakov / Getty Images

Diet & Nutrition

Andalusians can be prone to metabolic issues because they tend to be such easy keepers.

These horses would need to be on a proper diet that would keep them from becoming overweight and maintain a healthy weight but still get proper nutrients. 

Quality hay and minimal grain with a vitamin supplement or ration balancer would be a good start. 

Because Andalusians are prone to becoming overweight it’s important to restrict the amount of grazing on lush grass, possibly with a grazing muzzle or a certain amount of time out on the grass. Too much grazing on lush grass can cause metabolic issues with an easy keeper.

Health & Behavior Problems

Andalusians enjoy working and are willing to learn. They are energetic and agile, brave, proud, and intelligent animals. But they also have a wonderfully gentle and docile nature. However due to their intelligence and spirited nature in uneducated hands they can become too much to handle. Andalusians do make great mounts for experienced riders.

There are some health issues Andalusians are prone to:

  • As mentioned before metabolic issues from being overweight or even from aging. 
  • Laminitis is usually associated with intestinal issues.
  • Small intestine issues which are common in andalusians due to reduced blood flow in the small intestines.
  • Grey horses are more likely to develop melanomas.

Grooming 

Andalusians benefit from regular grooming like any other horse breed. If you have a grey be prepared to have to give more regular baths or at the very least spot clean more often than a bay or darker color. Lots of currying brings out the horse’s oils and shine in the coat. 

Aside from maintaining a grey-colored horse the most tedious grooming with an Andalusian will be the mane and tail. It depends if the horse has the trademark long mane. Though regardless if the mane is long or not the tail tends to be very thick, wavey, and prone to tangling. 

The mane and tail will need to be detangled and conditioned on a regular basis to keep them healthy and beautiful. Some people braid the manes and tails daily to keep them from tangling and safe from breakage.

Famous Andalusian Horses

There are famous Andalusian horses in history as well as featured in films as well.

The most famous Andalusian in history is Babieca. Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar is also known as El Cid Campeador was the rider of the magnificent white stallion Babieca. He was a respectable warhorse that rode valiantly in the battle for 30 years always to victory.

Films using Andalusian horses as part of the cast include:

olgaIT / Getty Images

Is The Andalusian The Right Horse For You?

If you are looking for a beautiful striking horse that will grab attention then an Andalusian might be right for you. However beauty aside, Andalusians are forward, sensitive and spirited so they are best suited for riders at an intermediate level or higher. 

If you are an experienced rider and you want an intelligent, quick-learning horse, an Andalusian could be the right choice. Just remember they learn easy and quick which can mean you can teach them bad responses by accident as easily as good ones.

Andalusians naturally want to collect and with their beautiful animated movement, they make great dressage horses.

Andalusians are not a good choice for riders on a budget. Expect to pay at least $10,000 for a trained, registered Andalusian. And that would be limited horses to look at. These horses can go for much much higher double, triple or more.

Pros

  • Flashy movement
  • Athletic and versatile
  • Willing, easy to train, and intelligent
  • Docile temperament 
  • Easy keeper

Cons

  • More expensive than most breeds
  • Sensitivity and forward gaits not suitable for beginner
  • Prone to laminitis and metabolic issues such as Cushings

How To Adopt Or Buy An Andalusian Horse?

Andalusians are horses of high value, so they are not often seen available for adoption at horse rescues. Possibly a cross with Andalusian may be available at a rescue. 

Options for buying an Andalusian include:

  •  A breeding farm that breeds and sells Andalusians.
  • A competition barn that sells Andalusians with a show record.
  • You may also find a private seller through an online classified site.

No matter where you find an Andalusian to adopt or purchase, it is important to make sure the horse is specifically the right match for you. As well as do a pre-purchase exam to determine if the horse is sound and will hold up to what type of riding you want to do with the horse.

Andalusian Horse Associations

Horse Communication 101: Equine Psychology Series Part 5


understand your horse's body language

When you first start working with horses, it may seem like they don’t communicate much, aside from a nicker or whinny hear or there. But the truth is horses communicate all the time, with a subtle silent language.

It’s important to understand and interpret horse communication so that you are on the same page and you are not irritating, confusing, or pushing a horse beyond what they are ready for. Clear communication is key to a good horse-human relationship. The more you know about how your horse communicates, the easier it will be to ride, train, care for, and have fun with them.

How do horses communicate? Horses use sounds and body language to communicate with other horses, animals, and humans. However, when it comes to horse-human communication, body language is the primarily used method. These cues include movements of the horse’s ears, eyes, tail, legs, body, and overall mood.

Whether you are new to horses or simply want to better understand horses, familiarizing yourself with typical body language signals will make a difference in how you handle and work around horses.

In this post, I’ll explain some of the basic ways horses interact with humans as well as other horses. Then I will go over some of the messages that your horse may be attempting to communicate to you through their body language.

Methods Of Horse Communication

Like I said horses use vocals and their bodies as their 2 main methods of communication. Which you will quickly learn as you spend more and more time around them.

In terms of communicating with other horses, voice signals are used more often, than with humans. Recognizing your horse’s vocal cues can give you some insight into their thoughts and feelings, but observing their body language offers a more accurate method of Interpretation.

Be aware that each horse will have their own set of body language cues. So it makes sense not to rush learning your horse’s unique signals. When dealing with a new horse, this can be frustrating since you may not recognize all of the cues they are giving you.

Learning horse body language signals and vocal sounds will help you become a better listener, trainer, and partner.

Horse Communication With Humans

horse communication with humans

Clear communication is essential for any horse-human partnership to thrive. This is particularly the case if you are actively training your horse to compete, ride, or even improve basic groundwork. Without effective communication, you could be thrust into an unpredictable and potentially dangerous predicament.

When working with horses, many people rely too heavily on their voices.

Horses can understand the intent by the tone of our voice but can’t understand what we are actually saying. To get our horses to cooperate, we need to exhibit our leadership through our body language and the exercises we have them do.

However, some experienced equestrians know this and talk out loud anyway when working with horses, because it helps to manage their own feelings.

That being said horses are highly sensitive to human emotions. Your horse will be able to tell right away if you’re sad, irritated, or nervous. Body language can reveal your emotions even if you try to keep them hidden. This could convey the wrong message to your horse.

Although some people may speak verbally to their horses, body language should primarily be used when working with horses and always back up a voice command to make it clear to the horse.

Unlike humans, horses mainly communicate with us using body language. So not only do we have to pick up on the horse’s body language but we also have to be aware of our own.

How Horses Communicate In A Herd

When it comes to how a horse communicates with other horses, you’ll notice that it relies on its eyes, ears, head, and body position.

You may see a horse driving another horse away showing territorial behavior. Whether in the wild or a domesticated horse protecting their hay pile. They may put their head down, pin their ears, shake their head, lunge forward, chase then swing hindquarters.

Horses may also show submission in a herd. Such as a young horse clacking their teeth, showing they are vulnerable and not hurt them.

Horses often communicate with each other whether there is any potential danger or threats. This is why when one horse loses it more usually follows.

Learn more about horses as herd animals:

Horse Communication Sounds

In this section, you will find a quick overview of different sounds horses make and the general meaning behind the sounds. Just want to note that there can be more meaning than what is listed below but I shared the most common reasons.

When A Horse Whinny or Neighs

Whinnies are commonly used when a horse calls out to his buddies. They may have separation anxiety and are calling for their buddy to come to them, or to know where they are. Sometimes horses whinny when there is a new horse in the distance.

When A Horse Nickers

A nicker is a call for attention, welcoming, or approval. It is softer than a whinny. A horse may nicker when they see their favorite human, or their buddy came back to the paddock, or they are about to get dinner.

When A Horse Snorts

Snorting can mean a few things. They may be excited, clearing out their nasal passages,

When A Horse Squeals

Squealing is usually a sign of aggression. It commonly happens when new horses meet or when a female horse rejects advances from a male horse.

When A Horse Groans

Groaning can be good or not so good. When it’s okay the horse may be lying down or rolling and start groaning. Almost like when you wake up and stretch really hard and make a groaning noise. Or it can be not so good, if the horse say has colic, and is groaning in pain, while they lay down and roll. Groaning can also be a sign of pain while being ridden or in training., if the saddle doesn’t fit or something else is hurting them.

When A Horse Sighs

Sighing can sometimes sound similar to groaning. But it’s more like when you take a deep breath and let it go. Horses usually sigh when they are relaxed or feel good for the most part. Such as when they are being stroked or massaged, groomed, stretching. They may also sigh when they get a release of pressure.

When A Horse Screams

Horses usually scream for two reasons. They are about to fight. Or they have just gotten hurt and they feel agonizing pain.

VIDEO: On Horse Body Language

What Is Your Horse Saying?

Now that we know that one of the key ways in which your horse attempts to communicate with you is through their body, how do we determine what they are attempting to say? This silent language is quite similar to human body language, making it somewhat simple to decipher. Here are some frequent signals and their meanings.

When Your Horse Curls Their Upper Lip

This is called flehmen response (upper lip curl). When your horse does this it exposes specific smells right to something called the vomeronasal organ.

Many horses do this when they are introduced to a strange taste or smell.

Some examples:

  • When a horse gets medicine
  • Given a new treat
  • Male horse smells female urine

Your Horse Is Saying They Are Relaxed

A horse can show signs they are relaxed whether they are standing or moving around even being ridden.

Signs your horse is relaxed while standing around:

  • Saggy lips
  • Relaxed hind leg
  • Drooping tail and neck

Signs your horse is relaxed while moving around:

  • Loose swinging tail
  • Lowered head
  • Relaxed mouth
  • Ears out to the side floppy

Your Horse Is Saying They Are Scared

A horse can easily become scared if a situation or object seems threatening to them. Their body language is much different than a relaxed horse.

Signs your horse is scared:

  • Tensed muscles ready to flee
  • Large open nostrils
  • Lifted tense tail
  • Wide eyes may be able to see the whites
  • Moving ears back and forth
  • Head lifted high

These signs get picked up real quick by other horses. Before you know it all the other horses are acting this way and looking for potential danger.

Your Horse Is Saying They Have An Illness or Injury

There are many people that miss the body language when a horse is sick or hurt. This can be displayed in different ways. Some people may think the horse is just relaxed when actually the horse is really sick. Or the horse is misbehaving because of a bad mood or temperament but it could be soreness or injury.

Signs your horse is sick:

  • Quiet and uninterested
  • Has a lower level of energy
  • May not be interested in food
  • Horses eyes look sad
  • Head lowered
  • The tail may be clamped
  • Excessive rolling
  • Lying down more than normal
  • Biting at stomach
  • Acting up under saddle, such as not wanting to move, kicking out, biting, bucking

Signs your horse is injured

  • The horse may also have a sad expression
  • Whites of eyes may show
  • Tightness in jaw and mouth
  • Lameness or stiffness
  • Pinned ears and overall grumpiness
  • Acting up under saddle, such as not wanting to move, kicking out, biting, bucking

Your Horse Is Saying They Are Stressed and Anxious

Horses stress and get anxiety just like us. Whether they moved to a new barn, are under a heavy workload, living conditions do not meet their needs, they’re competing at shows, under a new training regime, and more. These are just some things that can cause horses stress or anxiety. The body signals are similar to a horse experiencing fear.

Signs your horse is stressed or anxious:

  • Tail raised
  • Eye and nostrils are wide
  • The body is stiff with their head carried high
  • Ears pointed forward
  • The horse may have nervous tendencies such as weaving, stall walking, pawing

Chronic stress can cause long-term issues for your horse. They become more susceptible to illnesses and ulcers.

Your Horse Is Saying They Are Sad or Depressed

Horses can be sad or depressed. It is similar to how a human displays sadness or depression.

Signs your horse is depressed:

  • Eyes wide open but ears are still
  • Not interested in anything around them
  • May refuse food
  • Often will stand still facing the corner of the stall
  • Head hangs low

They may look similar to a horse that is sick and doesn’t feel well

Your Horse Is Saying They Are Discontent

Horses can be discontent with a situation. This is the point before they are totally stressed out or angry. They are just trying to communicate that they are not happy with something. You may be handling them, grooming, or riding. Maybe they are bored, or uncomfortable.

Signs your horse is discontent:

  • Pulling
  • Shaking head
  • Swishing tail frequently

It is important to know when a horse is displaying discontentment because you don’t want it to lead them into becoming stressed out or angry.

Your Horse Is Saying They are Angry

The key to avoiding injuries caused by a horse’s anger is to recognize the signs of anger in the horse, to begin with. There would be far fewer equine-related mishaps if people only paid attention to the horse’s body language. Horses rarely lash out without giving warnings first. By being familiar with an angry horse’s body language, you’ll be able to avoid potentially dangerous situations.

Signs your horse is angry:

  • Pinned ears
  • Tense muscles
  • Whites of eyes showing
  • Baring teeth
  • Stomping or pawing the ground
  • Swinging hindquarters toward
  • Lifting a hind leg threateningly

When a horse is angry the best thing you can do is calmly get yourself to a safe place, until the horse has calmed down.

Your Horse Is Saying They Are Curious

Naturally, horses are curious creatures. They are inquisitive immediately as foals, beginning to explore the new world as soon as they are born. This extends for the rest of their lives. Curiosity is the desire to find, experience, and discover new things.

Signs your horse is curious:

  • The horse looks alert, but not fearful
  • Head head high
  • Ears pointed toward the thing they are curious about
  • Eyes appear bright and wide but not so the whites are showing

Your Horse Is Saying They Are Happy

Horses that are happy and content are what we want our horses to feel. These are similar body language signs for a relaxed horse.

Signs your horse is happy:

  • The lower jaw should be loose
  • His lower mouth may hang down with a little bit of drool
  • Nostrils relaxed and round
  • The tail is loose and swings when they walk
  • Ears could be many things, forward, sideways, back and forth while concentrating
  • Rearing and running around, playing in the pasture
  • Taking a deep breath or sigh

One of our main goals in our care and relationship with horses should be to see that our horses are happy and healthy.

A successful horse-human relationship, like any other, is based on good communications. While it may take some time to know your horse’s body language signs, by heart, mastering this skill will allow you to improve communication, training, care, and your relationship with your equine partner.

Horse Books About Horse Behavior & Communication

Disclaimer: The links below are to Amazon. If you click through and make a purchase right away I get a small commission. Thanks for your support. 🙂

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If you have any questions about horse communication or body language and it was not here. Send me an email [email protected] and I will consider adding it to the post or creating a Q&A section.

Cheers,

Kacey

Horse Instincts: Equine Psychology Mini-Series | Part 4


Horse Instincts

Horses are highly intelligent animals but they are naturally reactive creatures seeing as they are prey animals. Which I talked about in the second post of this series that you can check out here:

Equine Psychology Mini-Series: Horses As Prey Animals | Part 2

Like all animals, they have instincts that dictate many of their behaviors. When horses are handled by humans, they must be trained and learn how to go against their animal instincts.

Instincts are inherent behaviors animals have which are natural responses to certain situations and triggers. This comes from the left side of the brain which is the more subconscious reactive side. Unlike the right side of the brain which is more logical and active thinking.

Because of using mainly the left side of the brain horses often react before they think. In order to be safe while handling and working around horses, they must be trained to use more of their right side which is the thinking side to become less reactive.

The reason it is important for you to learn about a horse’s instincts as an equestrian or a person around horses is for your safety, for the horse’s safety and so that you can have more understanding, know what to expect in certain situations, and empathy towards horses when working with them.

Horses are driven by 4 major instincts.

  1. To be perceptive and alert to danger.
  2. To flee from fear.
  3. To be social and gregarious.
  4. To mate

These are not all of the horse’s instincts. But they are some of the main ones that you will be dealing with on a regular basis when working with, riding, and training horses.

Perception To Danger: The Horses Senses

Hearing, vision, smell, and touch are extremely acute in horses. This is so important for them to be able to detect danger. We are often unaware the horse is sensing something because we can’t sense ourselves. The horse may be reacting to these things and we are wondering why the horse is acting this way.

Horses hear things the human ear cannot hear. They can also figure out which direction the sound is coming from.

Humans have good color vision and depth perception, but horses see mostly black and white with some pastel colors and have a good all-around vision but not good depth perception. 

One thing you may notice is that horses get nervous on a windy day. This is because everything is blowing and moving and this makes it harder for the horse to see a predator that could be stalking them.

Horses are also very sensitive to touch. You may have heard they can feel a fly land anywhere on their body. Only in our fingertips do we have the sense of touch that a horse has over its whole body.

The horse’s acute senses help them be extremely perceptive to any potential threats. The more alert a horse can be in the wild the more chances the horse would have to get away in time.

Horses Flee From Fear

Horses are naturally nervous animals, they are ready to run at any sign of danger. They don’t like to feel confined or trapped because that blocks their ability to flee. So that being said they are a bit claustrophobic. 

It’s also worth noting that some horses are more sensitive than others. All horses have these instincts to some degree. But some are more reactive than others.

The horses that are considered brave and not as spooky just have more of a tolerance and it takes more to set off their fear, and flight or fight instincts. 

Think of this. In the wild horses have to flee from predators to survive. So in the wild, horses that are more sensitive and reactive to take off and run tend to be the survivors.

When A Horse Can’t Flee From Fear

Horse Fights When It Can Flee

If a horse feels threatened and they can’t get away or think it can’t get away, then often it will resort to fighting. This may be biting, charging, stomping, kicking, bucking, broncing, rearing, and throwing themselves over backward. 

Often horses display warnings with their body language before they lash out, such as swishing the tail vigorously, pinning their ears, swinging their head, swinging hindquarters toward the threat, biting the air, and grinding their teeth.

It is important to know about these instincts and the warning signs a horse gives when they feel threatened because even though you may be working with trained horses, they will always have their instincts. Horse’s instincts haven’t been trained away. They will stay with horses throughout their lives. 

When something is bothering a horse, causing discomfort or fear, such as an ill-fitting saddle, or something moving in the trees, they can become reactive and instincts kick in. It’s not always that the horse is being bad and I don’t think they are being bad. I think they are not thinking and just working on instinct. 

Horses As Social Animals

In the last post of this series, I talked about horses as herd animals. You can check it out here: Equine Psychology Mini-Series: Horses As Herd Animals | Part 3

Horses’ instincts are to stick together in a herd. Without a herd, the horse doesn’t have the added protection, as well as ears and eyes looking around for potential dangers.

So another main key to survival is sticking together in a herd. It is a lot harder to kill a horse in a herd than one on its own. In the herd, horses communicate mainly through body language which I will be covering in the next post. 

Horses Instinct To Mate

All animals have an instinct to reproduce and horses are no different. Working with horses you will come across this instinct if you are working with stallions and mares. Sometimes but much more rarely geldings too.

Stallions have a very strong urge to mate and in the wrong hands can be very dangerous, if they have that on the mind. That being said some stallions are milder tempered than others and have even been confused to be a gelding. 

Young inexperienced equestrians should not handle Stallions. They can be unpredictable and easily take advantage of someone not knowing what they are doing.

A mare goes through reproduction cycles. So if you are working with a mare you will notice that when she is in season, she will be focused on wanting to mate. Sometimes mares can be more moody or friendly during this time and you just need to learn your horse’s particular behavior during her heat cycle.

Geldings are the most level-headed and they have been castrated so for most the urge to mate is totally gone. However, sometimes a testicle was hidden and not removed and these horses still display stallion-like behavior. Some geldings have been fully castrated and they still are interested in the mares. It depends on the horse.

Conclusion

The most important thing to understand about horses is that they are flight animals. People sometimes think the horse is just being stupid or misbehaving when they run off or act up.

Just remember the horses’ instincts are telling them: 

  • Stick together to survive.
  • Keep on watch for any danger. 
  • Run from any potential danger.
  • Fight the danger if you can’t run.
  • Time to mate

These aren’t all the horses’ instincts like I said before, but it gives you a good idea of what to expect when working with horses.  Next week I will be posting on horse communication. If you want to be emailed when it is available, then sign up for the newsletter below.

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Cheers,

Kacey

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Horses As Herd Animals: Equine Psychology Mini-Series | Part 3


Horse Herd Behavior

There are animals that can be found traveling and living on their own like leopards and bears. Then there are the animals that like to travel in groups, such as wolves, cattle, lions, horses.

There are different names for groups of animals depending on the species. A group of wolves would be a pack, a group of lions a pride, while a group of cattle or horses would be considered a herd.

Horses are herd animals meaning they are gregarious, they like the company of other horses, and they are grazers. Horses like to socialize with each other and develop relationships. They may not vocalize much but horses are constantly communicating with each other through body language, a topic I will be covering in an upcoming blog post. 

Being In A Herd Means Safety

When a horse is in a herd they are safer than if they are on their own. There are more eyes, ears and noses, to alert the herd of any potential dangers. Together they make it harder for a predator to catch one of them, whereas alone a horse would become a much easier target.

If you have worked with horses for some time you may have noticed that many times horses get antsy when they leave their other horse buddies.

You might be going on a trail ride without the other horses and your horse stops or calls back to them. Maybe your horse might try to turn around and go back to the barn. You may also notice that your horse acts more spooky or on edge than when you ride in the arena near other horses.

You can also see this behavior with some horses when you put them in a stall, especially if they are the only ones in the barn. They may pace, weave, paw, or whinney incessantly.

These are just some examples of horses getting anxiety when separated from “their herd.” They are not being ridiculous. They are not being bad. They are not crazy. 

It is normal for a horse to be like this. Remember I said being in a herd means safety and being alone could mean becoming a snack for a pack of wolves. 

So once you take a horse away from what they consider their herd they are alert to the fact that they are more vulnerable to threats, so they are more focused on any potential dangers.

Horses Don’t Like To Be On Their Own

You may think, well not all horses are like this. Maybe you work with horses that don’t mind being on their own. Ultimately horses don’t like to be on their own, even horses that seem okay.

There are several factors for why a horse may seem calm, content, or okay with being on its own. Here’s a list of some of the reasons a horse may be okay.

  • They have a sense of trust and safety toward the rider or handler.
  • They are trained to accept being away from other horses.
  • They have a higher tolerance level. There is a spectrum of sensitivity within horses. Some are more reactive and sensitive than others.

Now even if a horse seems comfortable on its own, for the horse’s wellbeing it should never live on its own. They not only need that feeling of safety but companionship as well. 

If you do have a horse that panics when alone or taken away from its pasture buddies, just realize, your horse is fearful and needs kindness, patience, reassurance, and training to overcome the problem.

In the last blog post part 2, I mentioned that horses cannot learn through fear. They become too focused on fear to focus on anything else, learning included. 

So don’t lose your temper when your horse acts like this and feels like you need to give them a lesson, instead come up with a gradual training plan to build trust, and confidence to overcome the separation anxiety.

Horses Have Relationships & Hierarchy In The Herd

I said above horses need companionship. A herd is like a family and they look out for each other, hang out with each other and just enjoy each other’s company.

Horses also have a hierarchy in the herd. It is dynamic and changing, but typically between two horses, one horse will be higher on the pecking order. 

Making the horse’s feet move is the name of the game. A horse that controls another horse’s movement is the horse in charge. There is typically a lead mare that is head of the herd and a stallion that protects the herd. Other than young colts there is usually one 1 stallion in a herd. Young bachelor stallions often form what’s called a band, another name for a herd but with all stallions.

This compulsion for horses to be in a herd is instinct and in the next blog post, I will be covering the instincts of the horse.

Posts In This Series

In the next post coming out on Oct 22nd, we will be going over horses as herd animals. If you want to be emailed the post sign up for the email list.

If you have any questions about horses as prey animals, email me at [email protected] and if it is helpful to others it may be featured in this post.

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Cheers,

Kacey

Horses As Prey Animals: Equine Psychology Mini Series | Part 2


Out in the wild as an animal, you either hunt or get hunted. Those who hunt are the predators and those who are hunted are the prey. Horses are considered prey animals. They are among the hunted out in the wild.

Prey animals like horses are always on their guard because they have to be, in order to survive in the wild. If a predator comes their way their best bet is to run as fast as they can, to outrun them and get away. Although this is not always an option, if the horse gets cornered, trapped, or is trying to protect another horse that can’t get away such as a young foal, or another injured horse.

Prey animals will try to fight if they have no other choice. Although with horses some may be more apt to be aggressive and turn to fight more quickly than other horses. Such as some aggressive stallions or mares trying to protect their foals or herd.

There are 3 main characteristics of a horse that distinguish them as a prey animal.

  1. They smell like the food they eat which is hay and grass.
  2. Their eyes are located on the sides of their head. This gives them good peripheral or lateral vision, which helps them see when a predator is trying to sneak up on them. However they don’t have good depth perception.
  3. They have a high awareness and sense of everything going on around them. They are perceptive to people, changes, things and potential dangers.

As humans we contrast the horse as a predator.

  1. We smell like the food we eat which includes meat, unless you are vegetarian or vegan.
  2. Our eyes are on the front of our heads which says predator to a horse. We can focus on an object well and have good depth perception. But we don’t have good lateral vision.
  3. Humans are often not good with being perceptive, to things, changes, people or dangers like a horse is.

So when you work with and ride horses you need to see from the horse’s perspective. You are a predator and the horse is the prey. A horse thinks differently than a predator. A predator has a direct line of thinking, this is what we are going to do, whether it is a lion focusing on the kill or a human with a halter going to catch a horse in the field.

However, the horse’s mind is constantly going and changing trying to figure out where they need to go to flee and get away. When dealing with a human especially when untrained or green, they may think about whether to trust and stay or run away to stay safe.

Seeing as horses are prey animals one thing you must realize is that they do not learn through punishment. This is because when you punish a prey animal they become afraid of you. Horses cannot learn when they are frightened. When a horse is afraid they get consumed by fear and can’t think of anything else. Just to be clear I am not talking about negative reinforcement. I am talking about beating the horse, yelling at the horse or punishing them by scaring them in some way.

Horses see us as predators so when we do this we are confirming to them that we cannot be trusted.

You need to prove to horses that you are not a predator so that they can develop trust. Once a horse trusts you and no longer sees you as a danger or a threat then they will put you in a pecking order. Where do you fit, high or low on the authority and respect scale? When the horse trusts you, you need to make sure you maintain or build respect. This involves moving the horse’s feet. If you can move the horse’s feet you can gain respect, without having to punish the horse.

So when working and riding horses keep in mind your prey-predator relationship, and how your behavior may influence the horse.

Posts In This Series

In the next post coming out Oct 15th we will be going over horses as herd animals. If you want to be emailed the post sign up for the email list.

If you have any questions about horses as prey animals, email me at [email protected] and if it is helpful to others it may be featured in this post.

.

Cheers,

Kacey

Understanding Horse Behavior Before You Work With Horses: Equine Psychology Mini Series | Part 1 Intro


It is very beneficial and I think it is important that BEFORE you start working with, riding or training horses you understand the horse’s basic psychology. Then you will have a better idea of what it’s like being a horse and why they do what they do. 

Though I am just going to be covering the basics and you probably won’t remember everything, the information you utilize from this will help you become; 

  • more aware and safer working around horses, 
  • communicate more clearly with horses,
  • have a higher level of empathy for the horses you work with. 

You will have a better understanding of the horse’s perspective and actions.

It takes years of study and working with horses to get the horse sense of an experienced Horseperson. This is also called being Horse Savvy. So this short series is just the beginning of your journey with horses.

If you have been working with horses and or riding for a while, it is still useful for you to read over this insight into the mind and behavior of horses. 

Maybe you haven’t actually learned much about horse psychology or maybe you could use a review. This will only improve your interactions with the horses you ride and work with, and help you have more empathy because you will better understand or be reminded of why your horse may be acting a certain way. 

Sometimes horses are mistaken for having bad behavior when really it’s just the horse reacting, trying to communicate something, or doing what they think is the easiest thing to do, to solve their problem.

So in this series, I am going to cover several topics regarding the psychology and behavior of horses. 

  1. Horses As A Prey Animal
  2. Horses As A Herd Animal
  3. Horses’ Natural Instincts
  4. Horse Communication & Body Language

Although this is not typically a prerequisite to riding lessons or working with horses, I really think it’s worth taking the time to learn because you are working with a living breathing animal, not a bike, vehicle, or machine.

This animal has a mind of their own, feelings, likes, and dislikes. And at the very least you should know the basics of how a horse behaves and some of the whys. They are not big puppies contrary to what some people think of how they act. 

They have their own unique set of instincts and traits. 

Now that you have an idea of the importance of knowing the mind of a horse before you start working with and riding them, in the next post I will first be going over horses as a prey animals. What a prey animal is and the traits horses have that make them a prey animal.

I will try to give the basic information you need in the following posts and try to keep them short and sweet and to the point.

Posts In This Series

If you have further questions about the topics send me an email to [email protected]. I may add your questions to the post if they would be of help to others.

The following posts of this series will be published one at a time each upcoming Friday. Next post is on Oct 8th. Stay tuned. Sign up for the email list to get emailed the blog’s latest posts.

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Cheers,

Kacey