When Ears Go Back - Pat Parelli

The ears are the most expressive parts of a horse's body; read them and you can read the horse's mind. Remember, the horse is a huge animal and if you can't read its body language you risk being seriously injured.

Ear speak

Pat Parelli, an internationally acclaimed horseman, stood in a paddock watching several mares and their foals. He was particularly interested in the way the animals were using their ears to show fear, anger and dominance. As the horses were feeding, a buckskin mare strayed too close to the dominant chestnut mare and her foal. The chestnut mare flattened her ears right back. Her nostrils were wrinkled and flaring and her mouth was open with the lips drawn back. The buckskin mare was resentful but walked away, looking out of the rear of her eye. Her ears were well back but not flattened against her neck, and her mouth was curled down at the corners. When a horse threatens another horse, the threatened horse is very likely to kick out. You are in danger from both sides if you stand between them.

Don't invade my space!

Pat explains that horses have 'personal space' around them in the same way that humans do. We feel uncomfortable if someone comes too close and 'invades our space', and so do horses. The personal space of the horse is an oblong or oval shape, and varies in size. The buckskin mare in the paddock had a personal space of around 1m (3'), but the dominant chestnut's space was twice as large. Pat thinks it is really important to be aware of this space around horses, and understand that you're taking a calculated risk every time you move into that space.

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