Why Do Horses Stomp Their Feet

Why Do Horses Stomp Their Feet?

by | Jul 30, 2023 | Equine Behavior, Equine Health

Ever caught yourself wondering what your horse buddy is trying to tell you? It’s pretty wild, but they’ve got a whole silent language they’re using all the time. And no, it’s not all about neighing or the tail flicks, but a super detailed combo of body movements that horse experts have spent years decoding.

Now, if you think it’s all about the neighing or hoof stamping, you’re in for a surprise. Horses talk with their whole bodies. Yep, you read that right. Those big eyes, twitchy ears, muscular legs and even the snoot – they’re all part of the horse conversation.

Now, you might be thinking: “But I’m not an expert!” Don’t worry, you don’t need a PhD in Horse Talk to understand these fellas. All it takes is some quality time with them and a keen eye for their body language.

The Language of a Horse's Ears

Let’s chat about the ears, for instance. Those pointy things can tell you a whole lot about what’s going on in a horse’s head. Forward-facing ears? They’ve spotted something interesting. Ears pinned back? Uh-oh, better watch out, they’re not in a good mood. Ears to the side? It’s chill time. Quick, restless ear movements? They’re probably worried about something.

If you’re a visual learner, there’s a neat tool called “Horse Signal’s Poster”. It’s like a cheat sheet for horse body language – super handy!

The Language of a Horse's Head Carriage

Moving on to the head. The head position of a horse is a billboard of their feelings. Low head often means they’re cool and relaxed. High head? They’re alert and checking things out, or it could mean they’re not comfortable, especially if you see pinnedears or a twitchy tail.
A book I’d recommend to get into the nitty-gritty of horse behavior is “Understanding Horse Behavior” by Lesley Skipper. It’s full of insights and helps you really get what these magnificent creatures are trying to tell us.

Oh, and here’s an interesting tidbit – horses use head movements to express themselves. You might see a horse ‘snaking’, which is when they lower their head and wave it side-to-side. It’s a classic ‘I’m the boss here’ move, often seen when male horses are in a bit of a disagreement or herding.

Wanna dive deeper? I found the “Horse Anatomy: A Coloring Atlas” by Robert A. Kainer and Thomas O. McCracken really fun. It’s like going back to kindergarten, but this time you’re learning horse language while coloring. Cool, right?

Talking with the Forelegs

So, you know when you can tell a lot from how a person stands or uses their hands? Yeah, horses have their version of that too, and it’s all in the forelegs. Like when a horse is standing all spread out, leaning back a bit? It’s kind of like when we lean back at the sight of a spider. It means they’re scared and might be about to leg it. If they’re always like this, though, you might want to get a vet to check ’em out. It’s always handy to have an Equine First Aid Kit around for when things get a bit hairy.

So, what's stomping all about?

Ever seen a horse stomping, like it’s trying to squash an invisible bug? It’s not the same as pawing, where they kinda make an arc with their foreleg and end up digging a little trench in the ground. Stomping is more like an annoyed foot-tapping, while pawing is like…fidgeting when you’re bored or anxious.

Why do horses stomp?

Buzz off, bugs: You know when a fly won’t leave you alone? Horses get that too. That’s why they stomp. Something like Farnam Endure Sweat-Resistant Fly Spray for Horses can help keep those pesky critters at bay.

Related: The Best Equine Barn Fly Tape Rolls

Throwing a tantrum: Stomping could also be a horse’s way of saying it’s ticked off. It’s important to make sure they’ve got a comfy space and that they’re well cared for, to avoid these sorts of strops.

What happens if we ignore stomping?

If a horse keeps stomping, it could end up with hoof cracks or strain their leg. Regular visits from a good farrier and some hoof care products like Keratex Hoof Hardener can help avoid these issues.

Those Telltale Hind Legs

The hind legs are a big part of the horse body language. When a horse cocks a leg and looks all chilled out, it’s usually having a bit of a rest. But if they’re showing other signs of being wound up, it might mean they’re gearing up for a kick. Speaking of which, a raised hind leg? It’s their way of saying, “Back off, or I’ll kick!”

Horses can kick pretty hard when they’re ticked off or scared, and trust me, you don’t want to be on the receiving end. Always approach them from the side so they can see you, and if they lift a hind leg, give them some space and remove whatever is bugging them.

The Art of Muzzle Moods

The muzzle is like a horse’s very own emoticon set. A droopy lip or slack mouth usually means they’re chilled or asleep. But if it’s slack while they’re awake, they might be hurt. Chewing when there’s no food? That’s a good sign, they’re relaxed. Tension around the mouth? They’re stressed or scared. And a gaping mouth with teeth showing? They’re angry.

Keeping an eye on a horse’s muzzle can help you spot when something’s not right, and maybe even stop a bad situation before it starts. Remember, always treat horses gently, and try to keep things calm and comfortable for them. Products like Oralx Corporation Calm and Cool Pellet for Horses can help keep them chill.

Related: The Best Calming Supplements for Horses

Eye Talk: What Horses Are Saying with Those Big Ol' Peepers

With their eyes parked on the sides of their heads, horses have a panoramic view of the world around them, which is great for spotting anything sneaky trying to creep up on them. The eyes also tell us a lot about how a horse is feeling. Tightly shut eyelids, lots of blinking, or big, wide pupils can signal stress, fear, chill vibes, or concentration. If a horse’s eyes are calm and open, they’re probably pretty relaxed, but if they’re wide and scared-looking, they might be frightened or anxious.

Eyes that are half-closed or squinting might mean a horse is uncomfortable, stressed, or just plain tired. If a horse’s eyes are always wide open, showing the whites (aka “whale eye”), they might be scared or super alert. Lots of eye movement could be a sign they’re trying to figure something out or they’re really curious about something. Understanding these eye signals is key to keeping your horse comfortable and happy.

Top tip: Check out The Body Language of Horses. It’s full of useful info on horse behavior and body language, including a deep dive into horse eye signals. It’s a must-read for horse lovers and is available on Amazon.

The Perks of Being a Horse Whisperer

Getting to grips with horse body language can seriously up your horse game. If you can tell whether a horse is relaxed, scared, angry, or hurting, you can react in the best way, building trust between you and your horse, and reducing the chance of accidents or injuries.

The more you understand horse body language, the better you can adjust your training methods to suit each horse. For example, if a horse seems scared or uncomfortable during training, you can switch things up, or give them some comfort to help them relax.

Recommended reading: For even more insight into horse behavior and training, The Horse Behavior Problem Solver by Jessica Jahiel is a great choice. It offers detailed looks into horse behavior and solutions to common behavior problems, available on Amazon.


So, why do horses stomp their feet? It all comes down to understanding their body language. They might be irritated by bugs, expressing frustration, or showing signs of discomfort. Keeping an eye on these signals can help you catch problems early, improving both the horse’s well-being and your relationship with them.

Getting on the same wavelength as your horse is key to a solid, trust-filled relationship. It makes sure your horse is happy and safe and helps you avoid accidents and injuries. The best horse handlers are always learning and adapting to their horse’s signals, which makes the whole horse owning, handling, and riding experience way more rewarding.

About The Author

<a href="https://www.equiniction.com/author/emily-wilson/" target="_self">Emily Wilson</a>

Emily Wilson

I'm from the very heart of Kentucky, you know, the place folks think of when they talk about horse love. Had the luck of growing up smack dab in the middle of some of the most awesome horse spots you'd ever see. Can't imagine starting my day any other way than being in that homely barn, waist-deep in horse stuff. My routine? It's a bit of everything really - taking care of the horses, bonding with them, you name it.

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