What Sounds Do Horses Make When Scared?

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  • Post last modified:August 3, 2023
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Horses are one of the most vocal animals and are very open in their communication. You, as an owner, will know whether they are happy, worried, excited, or scared because your horse will tell you. 

They use sounds, and today we shall look at the horse when it is scared. In other words, this article aims to answer an essential question for you. 

What sounds do horses make when scared? Read on, and you will know all about the hows and whys of a horse being scared. 

What Sounds Do Horses Make When Scared?

What sounds do horses make when scared? White Horse Near Hay Stack during Day

When scared, horses make a variety of sounds to express their fear. Among these, the most common is whinnying, which can be loud and high-pitched. While whinnying is typically associated with a horse’s excitement to see a human or another horse, it can also occur when the horse is scared.

Other sound horses may make when frightened is a snort, often coupled with physical behaviors like increased heart rate, rapid breathing, or even sweating.

Some sources elaborate that horses have various distinct vocalizations, each with a particular meaning, but it’s also crucial to remember that body language, like a head held up high and tense muscles, can often tell more about a horse’s fear than their sounds.

While each horse is individual and may react differently, observing these common auditory and physical signals can usually provide a good measure of a horse’s fear or discomfort.

How Can You Tell If A Horse Is Scared?

One of the keys to this is understanding his body language, and yes, horses do have a body language through which they give you signals on how they think and feel.

He will raise his head and hold his ears back when he is worried, tense his nostrils and cheeks when in pain, wrinkle his nostrils when angry, and show a relaxed posture when he is happy. 

Now, all this is not hard to detect and interpret. 

And finally, when he is scared, he leans back with his head raised as he looks at whatever scares him. 

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What Do Horses Do When They Show Fear?

Apart from the above sign, there are a few other things that a horse does to show fear. For one, his breathing can get heavy, and he may even start snorting. 

Sometimes, he may even show the white of his eyes, a sign that the horse is afraid. 

He may make a zigzag movement if he walks instead of going straight. He may even stomp, paw, or bolt and run off in extreme cases. And so, in all these times, remember to be patient with him. 

How Else Do Horses Express Fear?

Sometimes horses can feel fear to such an extent that they start biting their lip to ease their anxiety. 

He may not make much of a noise at this time, but he is going to fidget a lot, which will break your heart if he is your baby. 

One way to detect the object of his fear is by trying to gauge the thing he is trying to stay far away from, and then, you steer him away from there to get him off his fear. 

How Can You Calm a Scared Horse?

If you ever encounter a scared horse, there are several ways you can try to calm it:

  1. Stay Calm: Horses are perceptive creatures with a keen ability to pick up on human emotions, so having control over your own fear and anxiety can help calm the horse down. Approach the horse slowly and confidently.
  2. Speak Softly: Talk to the horse in a low and calm voice. This can reassure the horse that it is safe and there is no threat present.
  3. Approach Slowly: Sudden movements can heighten a horse’s sense of fear. Try to approach the horse slowly and subtly to reassure it.
  4. Use Familiarity: If the horse is familiar with you, let them see you and smell you. This recognition can help relax them.
  5. Lead Them Away: If possible, lead the horse away from the source of its fear. This might be moving it away from a busy road or an aggressive animal.
  6. Use Physical Interaction: Depending on the horse and your familiarity with it, grooming or touching the horse in a calming and comforting manner can help to ease anxiety.

Each horse is unique, so what calms one horse may not work for another. Also, try to get to know the horse as each has different things that scare it, and thus need different ways to feel reassured.

What Is It Called When A Horse Gets Scared?

When a horse gets scared, they usually call it a spook, which is often a situation when a horse jumps sideways due to being startled by a person or object. 

It may be fun to be riding the horse now, but if you are a novice, it can also be dangerous, for you never know what a scared horse can do. 

His quick movement could be quite unsettling to a new rider, which could bring down your confidence. 

So, if you are new to riding horses, ensure you know how to handle a spook. 

Why Do Horses Snort When Scared?

This is because when a horse is scared, her adrenaline level fails, causing a steady flow of mucus to flow down and make the noise you hear. The poor horse reacts to the mucus accumulated in her nasal cavity. 

And in a way, she is also alerting you to any impending danger. She is trying to tell you that she is unsure about where you have taken her and thinks it is unsafe. 

While it sounds more like a snore, it is more like a scream as she tells you to be careful. Sometimes it can also be a form of play. She is pretending to be scared, just to have some fun with you. Yes, horses can be mischievous that way too. 

What Is A Horse’s Biggest Fear? 

No, it is not human beings, for horses love humans and vice versa. The things that scare a horse are puddles (for he knows that there could be deadly creatures hiding in them), butterflies, chickens, materials like plastic and velcro, and new things you introduce him to. 

After all, he is a horse and doesn’t understand what you are up to, so be sensitive to him when you go with something new. 

And then, some predators will always scare a horse away. A horse knows he can’t be friends with a lion, a tiger, or other such preying animals, so he will run away when he sees one.

Finally, horses do not like loud and sudden noises, which scare them too. 

Do Horses Cry When Scared?

No, horses don’t cry. Perhaps you are asking this question because you have sometimes seen your horse shed tears. Well, this is not him getting emotional. It is just a response by his tear ducts which are blocked. 

But this does not mean that horses cannot get emotional. In other words, a horse shedding tears is merely facing irritation in his eye, not sorrow. 

However, they do cry, but when they do this, they do not shed tears. Instead, they will vocalize their emotions by whining and neighing. 

Sometimes they may even squeal, which is their form of aggression when scared. 

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What Is the Cry Of A Horse Called?

You would have heard it by now as it is one of the most common sounds a horse makes. It is called a neigh. 

They do it when they are happy, they do it when they are frustrated, and sometimes they even do it when they are scared. So, there are delighted neighs, and then there are also whines and brays. 

And then, there are grunts, groans, nickers, squeals, blows, and snorts, all of which come under the kind of sounds that horses make to express different types of emotions it feels, some of which you have seen and some of which, well, in time you will see. 

Do Horses Smell Your Fear?

Horses get scared and can sense when you are afraid, too, by smelling your sweat. 

Studies say that a horse can detect your emotions by the odor of sweat. And this will affect their feelings, as horses love and care for their owners. 

He can sense it when you are sad, upset, or happy and will behave likewise. So, don’t get fooled, for the horse is one of the most socially intelligent animals you can have as your pet. 

Some studies even suggest that the horse can sense the heart rate of humans as they ride them, which means they can sense the fear of their riders. 

Are Horses Scared Of Humans?

Only if humans scare them, horses generally are very friendly around humans and bond with them over time, responding to them with understanding, sympathy, and respect. 

So, when a horse neighs on seeing you, know that he is doing it out of happiness and not because he is scared of you. 

However, as a new owner, it may take some time for you to earn your horse’s trust and so don’t get upset with the sounds he makes at you in the initial phases. 

If you treat him right, your horse and you will soon become best friends. 

Final Words

All this on a frightened horse would have left you sad and upset, but don’t worry, for there are many things you can do. 

Rule number one here is to be gentle and patient with him. Don’t force him to approach something he is reluctant to. 

Retreat when he wants to retreat but take this as an opportunity to train him. He will learn if you slowly expose him to a scary object. 

Your horse is a courageous one. He needs a little backing.


So, now you know all about your horse’s fear, but before you go, let us read a few FAQs here. 

Q1. Why do horses get scared easily? 

Ans: That is how they are made, with a high level of fear often bolting for a speedy retreat. This could arise from the fact that they have always been animals of prey. So don’t let their size confuse you into thinking this is one brave beast. These gentle giants need our love and affection to live comfortably. 

Q2. What noises do happy horses make?

Ans: A happy horse will neigh and neigh and neigh. Sometimes they will even whine, so when your horse does these things, know that he is no longer scared, and you, too, can be comfortable all day. And they smile at times like this, showing you an equine happy face so you can recognize their contentment on such days. 

Q3. What other emotions do horses face?

Ans: Horses are social and emotional beings with various feelings, including negative ones like loneliness, pain, and grief. Studies say that horses even feel jealous, so beware if you have another horse and ensure they get the right amount of attention from you. 

Q4. Does music scare a horse away?

Ans: No, horses love music, as long as they are not too loud, with many drum beats to scare them away. So, if you like soft classical or country music, why not play it while they are around to lift their mood and let them enjoy it with you?