Equine Video Ethogram

Written by Lauren Fraser

Understanding body language is one of the core skills anyone living with animals needs in order to make the best decisions about their care. If you can see that what you’re doing is making your animal uncomfortable, that’s important information to help make predictions about what might happen if you continue doing it.

There are countless great resources online to help people understand dog body language, aimed both at pet owners and animal behavior professionals. However, when it comes to horse behavior, these materials are much harder to find. That’s why we’re starting a new project in the journal: the Equine Video Ethogram. Each issue of the journal will feature a few short videos of horses engaging in different natural behaviors, to give owners and trainers a visual guide to interpreting what their horse is doing. We’ll also be featuring a companion piece in most issues, focusing on the foundational skills needed to train horses successfully using positive reinforcement–based methods.

Horses’ names: Butter and Montana

Submitted by: Heather Rubenstein

Mutual grooming – members of the same species simultaneously grooming one another. Relieves itches that can’t be reached alone, helps remove loose hair during shedding, and enhances social bonding between participants.

Behavior category: Maintenance (grooming and insect control) and social behavior.

Horse’s name: Joey

Submitted by: Trish McMillan Loehr

Category: Grazing – using the lips, tongue, and incisors to select and gather vegetation that is passed into the mouth to be chewed and swallowed. Horses are trickle feeders, and spend up to 20 hours a day grazing, with voluntary fasting periods generally less than one hour.

Behavior category: Maintenance behavior (ingestion)

Horse’s name: Lucy

Submitted by: Marcie Marshall

Category: Grazing (see description above) from an elevated hay feeder.

Behavior category: Maintenance behavior (ingestion)

Lauren Fraser is an IAABC Certified Horse Behavior Consultant, and is also the organization’s Horse Chair. She provides horse behavior consultations and educational events for both horse owners and equine professionals.