Monday, 15 February 2016

The Sounds that Horses make!!

Tommy does a lot of snorting (or so I thought before writing this blog), more than any horse or pony I have ever known and it has made me think about the different  noises that horses make.  Many we don't hear very often, certainly Basil and Chesney only ever snort when they have been bombing around the field being silly.  

So what do the different noises that they make mean?

The Snort

This means 'there may be danger' and I guess that really explains why Tommy snorts so often.  When horses snort they are saying that they aren't sure about something, they are slightly fearful but they are also curious.  The snort clears the respiratory passages so that the horse is ready for flight and it also signals to the herd that there might be danger here!  The horse will usually hold his head and tail up high but will have his mouth closed.  As the nostrils flutter it gives the snort a pulsing sound.  Tommy actually sometimes snorts with his head down as he is edging towards it - if I have put something different for him to see!  However, he is always ready to run as are most horses if they snort!

Usually the snorting horse will be facing the scary object or threat and so the sound will also tell the others where the threat is coming from.  The noise of the snort is not so loud that in the wild a predator would hear it, it will just carry to the herd.  Stallions will also snort when challenging one another.

The Blow

This is actually similar to the snort but without the pulses in the noise.  It is just an exhalation of air through the nose and is not communicating fear as much as asking what something is!  I have also read that it is thought to sometimes be a horse saying 'Life is Good'

So perhaps Tommy is sometimes just doing this and not snorting - it would be nice to think he is saying 'Life is Good' :)

The Squeal

I have heard the horses all make this noise occasionally when they are playing in the field, but Basil does it most.  It is a defensive sound and is a warning not to push any more or 'I will retaliate!'  Squeals can be short or long and can often  be heard quite a lot further away than a snort. 

Mares sometimes squeal too when approached by a stallion.

The Nicker

There a few types of nicker...

  • The Greeting is a low pitched, gutteral sound and is used at close quarters.  When the 'friend' has been recognised a horse will nicker a greeting.  It is a welcoming sound that horses often also do at feed time!  
  • The Courtship nicker is performed by a stallion as he approaches the mare.  Again it is a greeting, but a flirty one.  This is longer and lower than the greeting nicker and is often 'broken' . 
  • The Maternal nicker is obviously from a mare to her foal.  A soft, quiet sound to encourage the foal to come closer.  The foal response is innate, they will automatically respond from birth.

The Neigh

This is probably the most widely recognised sound and is sometimes also called a whinny.  It is the longest sound that a horse makes and can be heard considerably further away than any other sound, up to half a mile away!  A horse will make this sound  if he is separated from his friends or can see them in the distance. Usually the neigh is answered as it will help to keep a group close together.  Chesney makes this sound when I take Basil out on a hack, although generally only once or twice, and Basil sometimes answers.  Horses all make slightly different sounding neighs, certainly I can tell the difference between Chesney and Basil's and knew Fidget's too - I am not sure that I have heard Tommy yet!  It really is just horses talking to each other and checking they are still there.

Have a look at this video from PeanutandAmy97 for lots of different neighs!

The Roar

I don't think I have ever heard this, which is a good thing as it is the noise horses will make when they are seriously fighting and it demonstrates fear, rage or both.  The roar is generally only heard in wild herds when stallions are fighting.

Horses sometimes grunt and groan and I have definitely heard them snore.  They often seem to grunt and groan when rolling so I guess these are happy sounds!  

If you haven't seen this video on You Tube yet check it out here

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Until next time!


  1. Hmm your post is truly amazing, the theme, the topic, the ideas, the solution each and everything is really perfect.