Thursday, September 27, 2007

Horse Vocalization

Horses make more noise then just the conventional neigh. They also whinny, nicker, snort, blow, scream, and squeal. Apart from their vocalizations, they can also convey their feelings via their body language. Their ears, body stance, and eyes have just as much meaning as their vocalizations. If you have ever been around horses then you most certainly have seen or heard their communication. You probably have seen the horse with erect ears standing behind the fence while you feed it a carrot. Or how about the pony at the fair that has been walking around in circles for hours and hangs its head low with its ears back. Even though you are not a “horse whisperer” I am sure you can guess what these horses are thinking. Most horse people are effective at reading horse body language and interpreting it, but when it comes to vocalization, we only have a rough idea at what they are trying to communicate.

There is a new Equine Vocalization Project being done, headed by University of Rhode Island professor David Browning and University of Connecticut professor Peter Scheifele. The plan is to record horses’ vocalizations and play the data in acoustical software. Browning and Scheifele believe there is a direct correlation between pitch of the vocalization and stress level of the horse. So far, they have related high pitch vocalizations to stressful situations and middle pitch vocalizations to a feeling of calmness.

Browning and Scheifele realize their findings will not contribute greatly to the everyday handling of horses. Like stated above, horse people are well aware of what horses are thinking or feeling via their body language. Browning and Scheifele do think their research will bring insight for some basic questions. For example, do horses use different vocalizations for different people?

Whatever information is gained from this experiment I am sure will be useful in one way or another and lead to more research. Currently, the best means of communicating with horses seems to be via body language, but perhaps Browning and Scheifele will change that. Watch out Monty Roberts, Browning and Scheifele may be the next "horse whisperers."

Posted by Kathryn DeLisle (1)


At 4:54 PM, Anonymous Alexandra Sprague said...

Great post, really interesting! I did not know they were doing experiments with equine vocalizations. My only criticism is that the last paragraph seems a bit tacked on. You could expand it by developing your opinion of the research and maybe insert an anecdote about your personal experience with horses' body language versus vocalizations. Cool stuff though.

At 9:27 PM, Blogger PWH said...

This is a very interesting topic. I agree with you though; reading a horses body language is the best way to know what they are thinking.

Posted by Jessica McDonnell(1)


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