December 2, 2020 – Ask Monty Newsletter

Question: Do horses communicate with their eyes?

Dear Monty,

I have a horse that I love very much and when I make a move to rub my horse between the eyes sometimes he just flies away from me. Other times he seems to enjoy it. What is the problem?


Monty’s Answer:

Dear Mikaela,

When I was less than 10 years of age, I remember being so short that it was difficult to rub my horse between the eyes. His name was Ginger and I thought the world of him. Once in a while he would fly away from me when I give him a rub. Other times he would seem to enjoy the rubbing.

It wasn’t until 1973 when decided to work with wild deer that I became aware of how important eye movement is in the world of communicating with Equus. As a very short child, I would first look at his nose and try to touch it. Sometimes he would lower his head and allow me to rub between his eyes with no trouble at all. Other times he would fly away.

Throughout my growing up years I knew virtually nothing about why this was happening. The deer informed me that when I looked at the nose but reached for the forehead, I would snap my eyes up to the intended area. That would produce flight behavior instantly. Later I learned to drag my eyes only and the horse’s behavior would remain calm and inclusive of me.


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