Although some may say horses are boring, the truth is, horses have comedic side. They might make faces and do things that look funny to us humans. But in general, there is a reason for their funny actions. Here's a list of five funny things that horses do and why they do them.
1. Showing their upper teeth
Horses will raise their noses in the air and curl their upper lip towards the sky, revealing their upper teeth. The result is they look like they are having a good laugh. Actually, what they are doing is called a Flehmen response. By curling the upper lip, the horse forces a smell to go further into the nasal cavity to be analyzed. Horses will do this when they encounter new smells. Stallions will do this to investigate if a mare is ready to be bred. Horses can also be trained to do this on cue using a strong or unusual smell and then rewarding when the horse curls its lip.
2. Scratch each other’s butts
It is not uncommon to see two horses standing side by side. One horse is facing one direction, and the other is facing the opposite direction. They will be using their teeth to scratch each other’s butts. This area can be a tough place for horses to reach on their own. It is beneficial to both of them to work together to reach the itchy spots. Grooming between herd members is also a sign of respect and acceptance.
3. Follow things on the ground
When we think of a horse trotting across the pasture, we envision head held high, with a flowing mane and tail. But what is a horse doing when they are trotting across the meadow with their noses to the ground? Horses are curious by nature. But they don’t have very good eyesight directly in front of them. When they see something on the ground that intrigues them, they have to lower their head to get a better view.
This may look comical, but it can be a self-preservation act. For example, in Wyoming, there are a lot of prairie dog towns. When a horse is trotting through one of these towns, they will keep their nose to the ground to keep from stepping in holes.
One thing on the ground that seems to intrigue some horse are snakes. This can be especially true for younger horses. As the snake slithers along, the horse will have its head lowered following it. We kept a non-poisonous bull snake around to teach the foals about snakes. They would follow the snake, and it would strike at them.
They learned that snakes were not that intriguing. This was an important lesson to learn because Wyoming is known to have large Diamond Back Rattlesnakes.
4. Playing with toys
Horses are intelligent animals that get bored easily. If they are in a stall for long hours with nothing to do, they can develop bad habits like cribbing, wind sucking, and weaving.
There are several ways to combat boredom in horses. One of these is giving them toys. This is a good article about some do it yourself and store-bought toys for horses.
Toys aren’t just for in the stall. There are oversized horse balls that make it possible for a horse to have a good kickball game. Some of these come with handles so that they can be picked up and shook around. It sure beats them picking up feed buckets and waving them around!
5. Rolling around
Have you ever watched a horse roll on the ground and try to guess if they will make it over to the other side?
Rolling can have several benefits
Chiropractors say that horses that have the opportunity to roll regularly have fewer back problems and can potentially have a longer riding career. That one itch that they just can’t reach may be their reason for a good roll. Rolling after a bath is not a way to get back at their human but rather a way to loosen up the hair and put everything back to normal again. Keeping the bugs from biting is a good reason for a roll in the mud.
Rolling can be a sign of trouble
When gas builds up in a horse’s intestines, it can result in bad cramps. A horse will roll to get the gas moving to relieve these cramps.
If the gas does not move, it can be gas colic. This article explains the different types of colic and what signs to look for.
We can have a good laugh watching horses. There are reasons for their comedy acts. We just need to know what the reasons are.
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About the Author
Wendy Sumner grew up on a quarter horse ranch in Wyoming. She helped raise and train horses to be shown in the American Quarter Horse Association. At college, she received her Equine Science degree and pursued her love of everything equine. She has spent the last 35 years raising and training horses and teaching lessons. We are excited that she has agreed to join our team as a researcher and writer.