What is “that” in the title of this article? It’s anything you don’t understand! While we can teach those who are here for horse riding lessons how to read a horse, those who are here for an afternoon of trail rides don’t really have the time to learn much about how to interpret the actions of a horse. We hope you’ll take a look at this blog before you stop by our stables for your Lake Worth trail ride so that you can learn a bit more about a horse’s behavior. While you don’t necessarily need to know this information, we bet it will make your time with us much more interesting.
It might be obvious to say horses aren’t human, but many times a human will try to project the way they act in a situation onto the horse. Other times it might seem impossible to understand just why a horse would do such a thing (no matter what that thing is). It’s also important to remember that every horse is different, and it might be difficult to understand why they’re doing what they’re doing if you’re only here for an hour or so on a trail ride in Lake Worth. Let’s take a look at some of the more common actions you might see a horse perform while at our trail riding and horseback riding stables.
Champing At The Bit
As we mentioned in this article, it is indeed champing at the bit and not chomping at the bit. To champ at the bit means to gum the part of the tack (horse gear) that attaches to the bridle and reins and allows the rider to direct the horse. A bit goes into the toothless back part of a horse’s mouth, so most of the time the horse can’t bite it. But when a horse is really excited to get going — like at the beginning of a race or even at the start of a trail ride — they can move the bit around and let you know “Let’s go already!”
Pawing the Ground
Horses paw the ground for many reasons, ranging from boredom to serious pain. It’s up to the horse owner to watch the horse over a period of time and determine whether or not it’s time to call the vet. But as a trail rider, you don’t have to worry about these more serious issues! If a horse is pawing the ground for a negative reason, we won’t have them out horseback riding at all.
The reason your horse paws the ground is most likely due to a much more benign reason. Horses might paw the ground because they want attention, either from the humans around them or from other horses. (It might be because they know it’s dinner time!) They might also paw the ground because they’re bored, often if they’re kept in the stable longer than they want to be. If a horse is made to stand around for too long, these two reasons blend and lead to more ground pawing: “Hey, pay attention to me. I’m bored and we should get going.”
It’s not likely that a horse will lie down while you’re around them. The horses we use during a trail riding and lessons are ready to go for a walk or run, and they know that it’s not time to relax. But if you drive up to our Lake Worth stables and see a horse lying down, you might think that something is wrong with it. While a horse in distress might indeed head to the ground, it’s a myth that horses lie down only for illness or injury.
If you’ve heard that horses sleep standing up, you’ve only heard half the story. Horses snooze standing up, which helps to rest the mind but not enter into REM sleep. Horses need REM sleep like every other mammal, and in order to get this deep sleep they have to lie down. But lying down is dangerous in the wild, so they do it in short bursts, usually about 20 minutes at a time. If you see a horse at a stable lying down for longer than that, it means that they are very comfortable in their environment are getting even more deep sleep.
(As an interesting side note, horses can snooze while standing because they can essentially “lock” their kneecaps. With their kneecaps in this position, they don’t have to use any muscles in order to remain standing.)
Neighing or Whinnying
You might be surprised to know that horses are relatively quiet creatures. If you thought they were talkative, it’s probably because the horses in Hollywood are much more vocal than those in real life. Horses are often associated with action — and therefore noise — but the primary noise you’ll hear during a trail ride is coming from their feet, not their vocal cords.
Still, horses do neigh. As you might expect, a neigh (or whinny, pretty much the same thing) is a form of communication. It is most often associated with the horse trying to verify that they are still part of the group, since horses are herd animals and very social. Basically, the horse is saying, “I’m still here, are you out there too?” If the horses are in a line on a trail ride and can’t see the other horses, the horse might neigh with the expectation of getting a response from the other horses in line.
Ready For Your Trail Ride?
As you can see, horses are complex creatures who are always communicating, even if you don’t realize it. Some horse reactions can be difficult to interpret, but the ones above should give you a little bit more insight as to what your horse is trying to say.
There’s nothing we like talking about more than horses, so if you have any more questions about why your ride is doing what they’re doing during your trail ride, we’d love to enlighten you. Schedule your Lake Worth trail ride today!