Horses are incredibly sensitive creatures, especially given their history as a prey animal. Their ears have become not only tools for hearing, but also as a means of expression, communication, and a way to read your horse’s mood and what they are focusing their attention on.
While a horse’s ears can indicate many things, one of the big things they indicate is what the horse is focused on. When a horse hears a sound or is watching something, it will point its ears in the direction of what it is listening to or looking at. You can follow the horse’s ears to see where their interest is directed. While the horse may not be able to pinpoint what it’s hearing, it can let you know which direction a sound is coming from.
It is believed that some horses have a tendency to spook more easily because of this sensitivity. When horses were still wild prey animals, they would have used their hearing to look out for predators, with some horses being in more of a watchman role than others in the herd. Still another reason is that horses, like us, are different from each other on an individual basis, therefore some are just more sensitive than others. Some may react with fear to thunder or another loud noise, while other horses may have a greater reaction to a stick snapping or other smaller noises.
Some signs that you can read from your horses ears are:
- Ears pointed forward can mean they are attentive and curious to something in front of them
- Ears turned back can mean they are focused on something behind them, or they are tired
- Ears that are pointed rigidly can signal fear or uncertainty
- Ears that are droopy can indicate a tired, sleepy or bored horse
- Ears that are pinned back can mean a threatening, angry, or aggressive horse, or that the horse is warning you or something/someone else around them
- Ears that are pointing in different directions indicate the horse is focused on two different things at once
- Ears that are rotating indicate there is a lot going on around the horse, that it may be curious, nervous or indecisive about where to focus
- Ears that are drooped out to the side can indicate a depressed, unwell, sleeping or drugged horse
- Ears that are neutral mean the horse is in a normal state