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My horse snorts if she sees something she isn't too sure about or if she's just had a bout of thundering over the field. I've always thought it's a build up of adrenaline and possibly endorphins but could this also be communication based?

Does a horse snorting indicate to other horses that something's up?

  • Actually, the reason most horses don't try to communicate with us is because most humans do not try to understand the horse. The more you start listening, the more your horse will "talk" with you in any creative way that comes to the horses' mind. My arabian e.g. whom I bought at the age of two knows that I am listening closely and so he is absolutely used to "talking" to me - he does this with exaggerations as he knows I am a little "deaf and blind" compared to other horses, and he does that with more patience, but yes, that is the way of your horse to talk to you and express its feelings ;) – kaiya Mar 8 at 12:39
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Everything horses do is a form of communication, as they have no words, so rely totally on body language and sounds.

Horses are experts on interpreting other horses. So if she is concerned by something and snorts, another horse will note that she has seen or sensed something she is wary of, depending on the context.

Snorting can be a reaction to fear, an unfavourable sensation, or clearing the nostrils. It's arguable that snorting can be associated with positive or negative emotions. So it's important when interpreting any type of horse behaviour to take in the whole context of body language and the situation/environment.

A horse that comes across something it fears, like a strange dog, may approach the dog with head high, neck arched, high on the toes and snort. This is part of an aggressive type of snorting, that encompasses flared nostrils. As you mentioned, it is theorised this type of snorting is a response to a release in adrenaline.

When rolling or eating a horse may get dust up their nose and the snort will be literally to clear out the nose. The horse may be perfectly content.

So taken in context, other horses will definitely take heed of a warning snort. As they rely on one another to stay safe as a herd.

It's also noteworthy that snorting is similar to blowing, but there's different ideas about why horses do this.

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