Last Updated on August 4, 2020 by Allison Price
Neighing is an endearing sound. But too much of it can be disturbing or puzzling. We need to know why our horses neigh all day. So, we can help prevent it.
Neighing signifies everything from courtship desires to a simple “here I am.”
Why do horses neigh?
Looking for someone
You horse may be neighing nonstop because he cannot find his favorite companions. The sound can travel quite far since neighing is an extended vocalization.
Horses neigh because they may be trying to show the specific spot to someone he so misses. It is important to know where your horse’s pal is. So, you will be able to point your horse in the right direction.
Just a reaction
If your horse keeps on neighing, it may be a general reaction to another horse’s neighing.
Sometimes you cannot figure out why your horse is being so vocal. It may be because he is conversing with a remote member of his herd.
Frustration and nerves
Some horses also neigh when they are feeling frustrated, nervous, or even lonely. If your horse is feeling on the edge about being away from others… he can emit rather piercing neighs always.
Aside from neighing, he may also express his tension by giving off some loud screams. If that’s the case, your horse may be dealing with serious separation anxiety. And it goes beyond just trying to track down another animal.
Do not hesitate to consult a veterinarian… if you are concerned that your horse’s neighing is not normal anymore.
Nonstop neighing can also state hunger. If your horse neighs around the time of the day when you feed or give him a treat… he may get impatient and start neighing to you as a reminder.
If you have given him a little later than usual, don’t be surprised if he neighs nonstop until he gets what he needs.
Sometimes horses neigh in the presence of other horses. It can be because he notices something peculiar in his field of vision. And he may be cautious to alert his pals to the possible threat.
If your horse continues to see the peculiarity, he may not stop neighing… until the others notice what’s going on as well.
Your horse may keep neighing if he is feeling happy and excited about something.
He may be reunited with one of his greatest buds and he can’t contain the emotion.
There will be times when a stallion is hormonally-fueled. Especially when his sights are set on a specific mare. He may communicate the interest in mating. It is by wooing her with a bunch of soft, deep, and extended neighing sounds. If he neighs nonstop, he’s maybe really serious about getting her attention.
Interpreting other horse sounds
Horses are very vocal. So, we want to know the sounds they make and what they mean. It is also part of understanding your horse and establishing trust relationship.
Like other animals, horses don’t make particular sounds that convey a single idea. But they use vocal noises to get across general ideas or emotions.
Horses seem to sigh, draw in a deep breath. Then let it out slowly and audibly through mouth or nostrils. Much more around humans than when interacting with each other.
There’s a sigh that seems to express relief. Like “Aaaah!” when you remove a pair of tight boots. You may hear this as grooming or massage releases tension in your horse’s muscles.
There is also a relaxation sigh that you can hear when lounging to loosen him up and make sure he is calm before you get on. That is when he puts his head forward and down and exhales a deep fluttering breath through his nostrils.
Some horses also give a sigh when there is boredom.
Like humans, groaning can be a habit in horses. But it can also signal pain. So, it calls for some detective work. Especially if the horse is new to you. And you don’t know yet which noises and in which situations are normal for him. If he groans on landing from his fences and pins his ears or rolls his eyes, something is hurting. It could be his back, legs or feet, or his insides.
Sometimes they groan only with certain riders. It may be because a rider thuds heavily into the saddle after a jump or at sitting trot. And he is hurting.
Groaning when not under saddle could also be a sign of gastric pain from ulcers.
Some horses also groan when the work is over.
Your horse uses his vocal cords but keeps his lips closed to produce this soft sound. It’s usually a friendly recognition and welcome. It is sometimes coupled with an alert expression. Like raised head and ears pricked in your direction.
If you look like you are bringing food for them, the nickering may say they are happy. If others get fed, the nicker may become more rapid and high-pitched.
Blowing or snorting
This is when your horse inhales quickly. Then puffs the breath out through his nostrils so they vibrate with a loud purring sound. Your horse is excited and hoping that something will happen. He may be seeing you getting his lead rope at turnout time.
This is one of the most painful and scary sounds your horse can make.
It is a clear sign of extreme pain or anger.
Horses rarely scream even when fighting with another horse. But when they scream, it means they are hurt so bad.
Now that you know what the horse sound are all about. Listen more carefully and respond. It can help our bond and relationship with them grow.
Your horse will learn to trust you when you respond well to its communication. And it will make your ride a lot easier.
What’s more? The two of you will be able to develop a bond that surpasses even that of master-trainee. And you will become friends.
So, the next time you are around your horse, be attentive. And you will know what exactly he’s trying to communicate to you.
Communicating well with horses is wonderful!
Neighing is the most basic noise that horses make. It communicates either anxiety or confidence. But it also depends on the tone of the neigh. And the body language that goes with it. We need to be sensitive to their sound so we will know what they need. It also helps us gain the trust of our horses.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!