Thanks to some new research we now know that when horses snort a lot they are communicating that they find the situation favorable. Researchers see this finding as a valuable tool for those working in the animal welfare arena…
Few studies have examined acoustic indicators of positive emotions…but new evidence that horses reliably produce more snorts in favorable situations could improve animal welfare practices.
Anecdotal reports have indicated that horses frequently produce snorts in positive situations. Following up on this evidence, Stomp and colleagues evaluated snort production by 48 horses that lived either in restricted conditions (i.e., riding school horses that spent much of their time in individual stalls) or naturalistic conditions (i.e., stable groups of horses always in pasture).
Snort production was significantly associated with positive situations and with a positive internal state, as indicated by ears positioned forward or sideways. For example, riding school horses produced twice as many snorts in pasture than when they were in stalls. In addition, horses living in naturalistic conditions emitted significantly more snorts than riding school horses in comparable contexts. Taken together, the findings suggest that snorts are reliable indicators of positive emotions in horses.
“These results provide a potential important tool as snorts appear as a possible reliable indicator of positive emotions which could help identify situations appreciated by horses.” –Dr. M. Stomp, researcher
Journal Reference: Mathilde Stomp, Maël Leroux, Marjorie Cellier, Séverine Henry, Alban Lemasson, Martine Hausberger. An unexpected acoustic indicator of positive emotions in horses. PLOS ONE, 2018; 13 (7): e0197898 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0197898