How Horses Communicate through the Neigh
Alan Erickson is an Austin, homebuilder who delivers custom design-build solutions. An avid equestrian, Alan Erickson takes part in western riding events with significant prize money on the line. One of the essential communication tools of steeds is the neigh, which is used in greeting and in conveying emotions.
Unlike with humans, vocalization is purely a social behavior in horses and not related to causes such as pain. The neigh can be a greeting between two horses, or between a horse and the rider. It may also convey anxiety and tension, as when an equine becomes separated from the herd and is trying to find friends. It is calling out “I’m lost, where are you?”
Interestingly, the whinny that a horse greets its owner with when being fed is typically much lower and less frequent than the high-pitched cry horses use in communicating with fellow steeds. Neighs accurately convey moods, if one knows how to read them. When you suspect a neigh is due to anxiety, look for telltale signs such as ears that flick forward and backward, a tucked tail, and sweating. There are also times when a horse neighs out of confidence, and this is characterized by ears pricked forward, tail slightly lifted, and a bold demeanor.