Horses communicate in manyways, including visual displays,sounds and even through smell(Heird, 1998). Understanding how ahorse communicates is important tothe 4-H Horse Project member forthree important reasons:
1. Diagnosis of medical problems –
Learning how a horse behaves whenit is sick is important not only soyou will know it needs attention,but also because certain behaviorsare linked with specific problems.Naturally, a veterinarian or otherexperienced person may need to becalled upon for more detailedinformation, but it is never too soonfor a young person to start learningto tell the difference betweennormal, healthy behavior and thebehavior of sick animals.
2. Assessment of Emotional Stateor Temperament –
As yourexperience and skill in assessinghorse behavior increases, you willfind that you can “read” a horse’semotional state. This knowledgecan be applied when assessing how“friendly”a new or unknown horseis, or it can be used to tell if a horseyou ride every day is in an unusualmood or is experiencing emotionaldifficulty. Sometimes a horse isreacting to the presence of anotheranimal, or it can be related tosomething as simple as the weather.
3. Safety –
Horses usually communicatea warning before they causeharm. Learning the communicationsignals — ears back, head lowered,teeth bared, turning into a “kicking”position, tail swishing, etc.— thatwarn of danger are important inavoiding harm. Nervous or “jumpy”behavior can possibly be as danger ous as aggressiveness. Learn torecognize the signals that couldresult in harm, whether it comesfrom the horse you are riding or onethat is being ridden by someoneelse in your vicinity.
Learning by Application:
Write ashort story about something relatedto horse senses or basic horsebehavior that applies to your horse,a horse belonging to a friend or ahorse story you have read. Ifpossible, share this experience in a4-H meeting.