Equine Ethology

Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky

3 Mares

Ethology is the scientific study of animal behavior. Technically, ethology is the study of animals in their natural habitat. Several things make a horse unique in the animal kingdom:

  • Horses are strongly social. They are herd animals and are very comfortable when they can see other horses.
  • Horses are herbivores, or plant-eating animals. They rely on grazing grasses and leaves for food.
  • Horses typically show a tendency for imitation between young and

Fundamental Training for Horse & Rider

In this set of videos, basic ground work, longing and handling methods are demonstrated, as well as numerous suppling and basic training maneuvers are shown to develop quiet, broke horses. An additional presentation discusses behavior of horses.

Presenters: Gary Stauffer and Monte Stauffer, UNL Extension Educators

This presentation was given at the 2007 Equestrian Academy at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Ground Handling with Monte Stauffer

  • Ground Handling: Gaining Confidence When Handling Horses
  • Ground Handling: Putting on a Saddle and Bridle

Ground Handling Horses Safely

By understanding life from the horse’s point of view, you can learn to anticipate and safely react to your horse’s natural instincts.

This video demonstrates safe and proper methods for:

  • Approaching
  • Haltering
  • Leading
  • Tying and
  • General handling of horses.

This video program was a cooperative effort of equine and safety specialists from the University of Idaho, University of Nevada, Reno, and Washington State University. It is a must for riders, instructors, horse camp counselors and anyone involved with horses.…

Horse Touch

Rider's Leg Cues for the Horse

Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky

The sense of touch is one of the most developed and important for the horse in terms of human interaction. The nose, lips, mouth, and possibly the ears are the most sensitive areas to touch. Although hooves do not respond to touching, various parts of the hoof are able to feel touch.

Understanding the degree to which horses are sensitive to touch can be valuable to the trainer. Horses can feel the slightest touch …

Horse Smell

Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky

Horses have a highly developed sense of smell, and they use their ability to distinguish different odors in their everyday lives. Horses use smell to identify other horses. A mare uses smell to pick out her foal from others in a group. Smell is also used during mating. The stallion checks mares to detect those in heat (estrus). The classic head-raised, lip-curling behavior of the stallion as he recognizes the smell of females is …

Horse Vision

Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky

Horses have very large eyes with very large pupils. The eyeballs are placed toward the side of the head, giving horses a wider field of vision. In contrast, dogs and coyotes have eyes placed toward the front of their heads, which narrows their total field of vision.

Horse's Eye

Horses (as well as some other animals such as sheep and cattle) have a much wider visual field than do dogs or coyotes. Horses can scan their …

Horse Hearing

Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky

Horse's Ears

A horse’s hearing is much keener than ours. They use their hearing for three primary functions: to detect sounds, to determine the location of the sound, and to provide sensory information that allows the horse to recognize the identity of these sounds. Horses can hear low to very high frequency sound, in the range of 14 Hz to 25 kHz (human range = 20 Hz to 20 kHz). Horses’ ears can move 180 degrees …

Horse Body Language

Understanding the behavior and body language of horses can keep you and others safe while working with horses. This article provides some common body language signs and signals, along with descriptions or translations of each.

Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky

Most of the time, horses use body language to communicate with each other. As horses communicate with each other, they can tell if they are playful, mad, or submissive. The more you are around horses, the better you will …

Types of Equine Behavior

Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky

Animal behavioralists have classified the social behavior of horses (and other animals) into the following categories:

Mare's head
  • Contactual behavior – behavior related to seeking affection, protection, or similar benefits derived from contact with other animals
  • Ingestive behavior – behavioral activities associated with eating and drinking
  • Eliminative behavior – behavioral activities associated with defecation and urination
  • Sexual behavior – behavior related to mating between males and females
  • Epimeletic behavior – behavior related to giving care and

Horse Senses

The senses are an important part of what makes horses behaviorally distinct. They are the tools that a horse uses to interact with its environment. This article discusses how horses use their five senses to interact with their environment.

Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky

Animals, like humans, have five basic senses: vision, audition (hearing), olfaction (smell), gustation (taste), and touch. The senses are an important part of what makes horses behaviorally distinct. They are the tools that a horse …