arabian racing

Horse Body Language for Writers

Hello! Because I see a lot of bunk weird-ass body language used in fantasy novels, I thought I’d drop some knowledge on actual horse body language, as opposed to that you’ll see in corny movies. You cannot trust movies, okay? They add horse sound effects in every scene with horses when in reality horses are very quiet. Movies lie.


Here’s some basic facial expressions:

Interested (and sometimes fearful). Horses with their heads way up in the air and ears forward can be stressed and looking for a friend. But they can also just be listening or interested in something in front of them.

Bored/Tired(only one hind foot taking the weight is common; horses tend to lean on only one foot when they’re sleepy/bored/comfortable). Their heads are lowered, their eyes and ears may be droopy, and they’ll be sighing a lot. What’s most hilarious is when their mouth hangs open as such:

If you’re like me, you then play with that lip and go LIP LIP LIP LIP because you are about six years old.

Notice that the ears are PINNED back, not just facing backward. A horse moves their ears based on what they are listening to. It’s possible that their ears are just facing backward to listen to something behind them. But if the horse looks tense, their ears are pinned to their neck, and they look prepared to bite, they are angry or afraid.

Listening (when ears move forward and backward)
One key thing to look for in a horse that’s listening to you is that they are a) moving their ears back and forth b) lowering their head and c) smacking their lips. This is horse talk for “I’m paying attention to you.”

Being weird

Sometimes your horse is just weird and does this lip thing. We had one horse who would do it when you gave him wormer. He did not like the taste of wormer. So he did this. It’s hilarious every single time, no matter how long you’ve had horses.

As terrifying as horse yawns look, they are not being aggressive. They are just sleepy babies with nasty teeth.

Some things horses WILL do:

  • Come when called (they must be trained to do so with many treats; it does not come as naturally to horses as it does dogs)
  • Tricks, such as bowing or rearing
  • Throw you off and not look back (if they’re a dick)
  • Throw you off and stop after a bit and wait for you (if they’re not a dick)
  • Bite people/buck people off they may not like.
  • Run under low branches to knock a rider off. Horses! They’re dicks!
  • Enjoy running up hills more than they enjoy running down hills (don’t ask me, horses are weird)
  • Change their personalities depending on who is handling them. This is not a drastic change, usually, but horses may become gentler or more stubborn depending on whether or not they sense their handler is confident
  • Go lame (lame=limping) at the most inopportune moments
  • Roll over with a rider still on them (aka bucking for the lazy, passive-aggressive horse)
  • Kick you if you stand behind it. I mean, most horses don’t do this, but it only takes one.
  • Paw at water. Think of horses as giant toddlers who like splashing puddles.
  • Eat things/poop while they walk and run (don’t anyone tell you that humans are the only multi-taskers)
  • Poop on you and fart in your face. A pastime horses enjoy.
  • Pick things up in their mouths and toss them around.
  • Lie down (some horses do lie down to rest, but they only do so when someone else in the herd is standing up. Think of it as guard duty. Horses can sleep standing up, and they most likely will not lie down if they’re in the open country and if they are the only horse)
  • Lie down like this:

Some things horses WILL NOT do:

  • Fight wolves to protect you (sorry; every man for himself)
  • Jump over their own paddock fence to come when called (I mean, maybe? IDK, teaching a horse to jump out of their pen sounds like an awful idea)
  • Jump random objects in their way when they’ve never jumped anything before, especially ravines (take it from me— horses do not leap over ditches if they’ve never done it before. I found that one out the hard way)
  • Put their lives at explicit risk for you (they’re not dogs. Again.)
  • Snort constantly like they do in movies, unless they’re sick
  • Talk to you via snorting/shaking their head. Horses do not understand English. (They can be trained to do this stuff to signals, like a dog. But they don’t understand what you’re saying.)
  • Charge into battle without regard to what they’re charging into (war horses are a thing, but I see a lot of CGI movies in which horses just fucking RAM into the other side, and I’m pretty sure this doesn’t happen. Horses can be taught to tolerate gunshots and canon fire and all kinds of stuff, but they generally enjoy not being stabbed and running straight into other horses)
  • Become exhausted from a relentless desert marathon, lay down to die, and then get back up when the rider gets in touch with his indigenous ancestors (thanks, Hidalgo!)
  • Start liking you just because you gave it an apple, even though you’re a wild Mustang and don’t like people. (thanks, Flicka!)
  • Pull a plow Day 1 with zero training because you decided it was a good idea to buy a Thoroughbred with the money your papa gave you a for a plow horse (thanks, War Horse!)
  • Run as an Arabian in a race meant for Thoroughbreds with an 8-year-old jockey or whatever (thanks, Black Stallion!)
  • Do magic (to my knowledge!)

Some things that are very rare for a horse to do:

  • Charge at you. A horse who did this would be considered very dangerous. Humans being able to handle a horse is entirely dependent upon the horse’s assumption that you can kick its ass. Once it realizes it can kill you, you have a predator animal on your hands, and dealing with a 2,000 lb predator with hooves and teeth is NOT a horse you want to have around.
  • Rear, just cuz. Horses rear when they are playing or fighting, and when a horse rears with a rider on, it usually means they’re being a dick, not just cuz they feel great and the sunset is behind you and you’re a cowboy. A horse can be taught to rear on command, as they do in movies. But they don’t just do it unless they’re mad at you.
  • Enjoy its head being hugged. Horses love hugs (or at least are neutral to them), but generally resist head hugging. I mean, what if a strange person came up to you and just clutched your head to their chest? Like, BOUNDARIES, okay?
  • Act like a dog in any shape or form.

Very old pics! This is Dahess, an arabian race horse (speed races, not endurance) I saw in Albi back in 2008. He was then a stallion for the Haras Nationaux.

Ranked best arabian race horse in 2007 (IFAHR rating), Dahess run 48 races, for 28 victories - 13 of which were Group I races. He won on both short and long distances, and acquired more than 980 000€ in gains.

What shocked me is how different arabian race horses are from the flashy show horses.

I would love to hear some feedback on his confo ; muscle-horse-appreciation and notanarabianhorse come to mind to give me some enlightenment?


The World Arabian Horse Organization recognizes 5 major “blood lines” from 5 countries; Russian, Polish, Crabbet, Egyptian, and Spanish. There are smaller “blood lines” from other countries such as France, Brazil, Australia or South Africa but they aren’t as established but they still make in impact on global breeding. The reason why these “blood lines” are so big and purity is a huge deal is that each one has their own characteristics and traits.



The Russian stud book was established in the late 1800’s, but their breeding stock didn’t take off til 1930 when they introduced 6 more horses into their breeding program. The Russians favored the racing Arabians so as a result we have extremely athletic horses from those lines. During the wars there was an influx of Polish horses to Russia in order to save precious breeding lines. Having these horses added into the breeding pool helped strengthen the Russian bloodlines. 

Example Studs

  • Balaton  - 1982 ( Menes x Panagia)
  • Murhib - 2004 (Amer x Kachia)



Polish stud book was established in 1932 officially even though Arabians have been in Poland for hundreds of years because they made such great war horses. Poland has a heavy racing influence too because they wanted to physically test the horses they were breeding by seeing how they carry weight on their back and seeing how they recover after a hard work out. Usually, during the annual Polish Auction we see brood mares and maybe a young stallion just off the track there. The Auction is world wide famous because it’s the only time of year the Polish horses get exported from Poland.

Example Studs

  • Bask - 1956 (Witraz x Balalajka)
  • Piaff - 1997 (Eldon x Pipi)



The Crabbet horses were first bred by the Blunts in 1878. However, the breeding stock was seperated in 1906 when the Blunts split up. They continued to trade horses and import more horses from the desert to improve their breeding stock. However, the trading between barns ended once two precious stallions perished on the sea and they were too fearful to lose more horses. Crabbet Arabians have a huge influence in other strains like the Polish and Russian Arabian.

Example Studs

  • Negatiw - 1945 (Naseem x Taraszcza)
  • Volcano - 1989 (Bakos x Victorine)



Egypt and other desert dwelling countries, especially Arabia and Iran are where the Arabian horses come from. True pure Arabians (Asil-Arabian) are few and far in between but Egypt is the holder of almost all of these Arabians. Official records started being kept of these Arabians in 1908 by the Egyptian government so they could keep these horses pure. We do see a lot of Egyptian related stallions out there, however, most of them are not pure, or Asil-Arabians, which only makes up 2% of the “purebred” Arabian population.

Example Studs

  • Thee Desperado - 1989 (The Minstril x Ak Amiri Asmarr)
  • Ramses Mishaal Nadir - 2006 (Mishaal HP x Ramses Minx)



The Spanish Aabians are the oldest recorded Arabians outside of the desert. They were formed in 1847. However, they have been in Spain much longer than that. For example, Queen Isabel II bred her private stock to lighter and better for riding. The modern Spanish Arabian horses were bred upon by imports from the desert and Poland were they were looking for horses with type, stamina, speed and height. These horses brought in shaped the look of the Spanish horse we see today.

Example Studs

  • Thamil - 1987 (El Nambid x Hadi)
  • Sidsational AA - 2001 (Sidi-Brahim x Jaleas Et)
Representation spotlight: M

Name: Claudette St. Croix

Alias: M

Debut: Uncanny X-Men #316

Earth: 616

Gender: cis female

Sexuality: unknown

Race: Arabian

Disability: Autism

Claudette has an identical twin sister named Nicole with whom she shares a mutant power of telepathy, the ability to open interdimensional gateways, and merging their physical bodies together, although it is only Claudette who has autism.

The twins are most well known for using their ability to merge to pose as their older sister Monet who went missing. This ruse was eventually seen through because although the twins created a perfect replica of Monet, Claudette’s autism would often emerge and leave “Monet” in a catatonic state.