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 Post subject: Horses and vocalisation
PostPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 2:31 pm 

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Location: Western Cape, South Africa
I thought it might be nice to start a topic on vocal sounds that horses make.
Morgan for as long as I can remember "grunts" his disapproval if we have a difference of opinion. So lets say we are walking on a line and are happily going in the same direction. He might stop and decide he would like to go to the other horses or a grazing spot he has seen or that he just decides he no longer wants to walk where we were headed. He will stop walking and grunt.
Today I was cleaning the water troughs that are shared by 3 horses on both sides of a fence. One of the horses was standing guard over the clean water running into the trough and not allowing the others close. At one point I hear what sounds like a "squeak" almost like the squeak you get when washing dishes and they are super clean. I look up to see the other horses move away. I thought I was imagining it, but he did it again. No body movement at all but a warning squeak to let the others know that he meant business.
My friend used to own a dressage horse that always lost points due to the fact that he would audibly "grunt" when doing movements down the long side of the areana, it was so loud the judges could hear it! He would stop if his owner chastised him vocally at home but in a test no vocal from the rider is allowed.
I'm wondering what other vocal sounds horses make to each other that are perhaps too soft for us to notice or possibly only done in a safe area as I can't see horses being vocal for predatory reasons.
When Morgan first started doing this (and it was at the time I changed and he learnt he could have an opinion), I was convinced he was probably starting to windsuck or something odd but it is definitely a sound he makes when he wants to disagree about something.
He will also do a non threatening snort at the end of being made to do something he doesn't want to.

So......anybody else got vocally expressive horses?

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 2:58 pm 
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Cool topic! I will be watching it.

I would not have said Diego was very 'vocal" but in observing and learning I think I was wrong. He simply just does not whinny alot to humans (but when he does it's: :love: as he has a very deep husky/manly whinny).

Groans - He used to groan constantly when working, this stopped after we bought him but would pop up occasionally. People found it hilarious as he'd vocalize at each stride like a child who's going on and on and is bored stiff. He doesn't anymore though - I'm convinced because I don't cause him serious discomfort anymore as a rider.

Nicker/Whuffles - He will occasionally nicker, but I hear it rarely and usually only to a mare or herd buddy. He does do the quieter 'airy" whuffle though to me when he sees I'm preparing his food. Also during trick time when he gets excited.

Grunts - He used to do this under saddle when something went amiss. When he got kicked for something (sadly it did happen :blush: ) or more memorably when we would land wrong over a jump. Often it was accompanied by fierce head shakes. :funny: Almost like him saying "RAWR!" and then "Wrong stride on that one." He now mainly grunts during our trick sessions.... like a pig.... which takes all I can do to keep from laughing. He switches between nickers and grunts when he's done a fantastic move and wants the treat ASAP. Usually in ramener. :clap: He also grunts when he rolls, including the drawn out one when he shakes. :funny:

Squeal/Scream - these are more rare and only come up with new horses. Although he did a very weak baby squeal at Sonny the other day when they touched noses. On occasion when introduced he will scream like a stallion and strike at the other horse. :ieks: Very loud and intimidating.

So after examining: grunts seem to have 2 different meanings for him. Groans = bad. Whuffles = :love:


My pony was very vocal with nickers. The more food you had the louder. We taught her to do it by vocally asking when she was in the crossties (she'd do her rocking horse trick with it). She was also known to freaquently do an extremely high pitched squeal at other horses when nose to nose - she was bossed around alot and tried to keep a touch face on like she didn't want anything to do with anyone to avoid getting in conflicts.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 3:11 pm 
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Oh, what an interesting topic! And how funny about Morgan's grunting when he does not want to do something, I had never heard that before.

For my horses the sounds and corresponding situations are these:

Neighing and nickering
All of them do that when one of them is gone or comes back or towards other horses, but I never heard any of them neigh or nicker at each other in any other situation while they are close to each other already. For me they all neigh when I come, although not every day. Summy does it less than the others, Pia often does those "welcome neighs" like loud squeaks. Titum neighs to call me when he thinks I am paying too much attention to other things or other horses and should come to him. Summy nickers during our training when he gets excited and also when he gets excited by my mere presence and wants to jump me (in this case the nickering is a good warning signal for me so that I can interfere or get some distance in time). Pia is the one who neighs at me most often when I come, but never when I am there already.

Squealing
That's Pia's thing. She squeals whenever she gets annoyed. Some days it's more, some days less, but on extreme days she starts squealing when I (or Titum) look at her in the wrong way. She also squeals when she is scared, like when Titum is chasing her. You can hear if she's really scared or just annoyed by the pitch of her squeals: higer pitch usually means fear. When she is only playfully annoyed, like when she is in heat and flirting with Titum, she pushes herself into him and then squeals like "Ey, don't touch me!" as soon as he finally reacts to her. In this situation the first squeals are rather high. When he keeps on touching her (like rubbing his head on her) the subsequent squeals become lower in pitch, almost like grunting. Titum squeals when he is totally excited while galloping across the pasture, but only when it's playful, not in panic like when one of the others is gone - then he only neighs. I have never heard Summy squealing.

Grunting
That's Summy's most frequent sound when he gets very, very excited. Less excitement leads to nickering or even neighing, high sexual arousal makes him grunt. Titum can grunt too, but at the moment I don't remember in which situation.

Snorting
Titum and Summy do that when they are fearfully excited (not panicking but very alert), like in Summy's case when we are walking past a herd of cows who suddenly dare to move. :funny: The snorting they do then is one single very loud one, which almost sounds like a dog's bark. They sometimes do a softer and longer snorting while they are grazing.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2010 1:06 am 

Joined: Tue Sep 14, 2010 11:59 am
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Great topic!

So nice to get nickers in the morning. But there were other sounds that made me curious. So I've been reading:

Kiley (1972) identified five discrete vocal categories for horses: the whinny, the nicker, the squeal, the sigh and the roar.
The whinny is the highest and longest sound - used to locate family or friends.
The nicker is a low tonality call and was interpreted as a greeting between familiar animals only.
The squeal happens at times of social excitement and tension. Only sub-adult or adult horses communicate this way. Squeals of dominant animals are longer and have higher pitches at the onset. (so you can tell who's boss!)
The sigh resembles a human sigh.
The roar is a snort or a 'high-blow' directed at a source of fright.

What's neat about horses is they are able to alter the ‘loudness’ of what they ‘say’ from a very subtle sound up to an loud shout, or to a scream of panic. Just like we do.
So I can do the same in return. A soft 'no' means, 'please don't do that' and a shouted 'NO' means 'STOP NOW!' .


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2010 4:17 am 
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My guys snort when they're in serious ya-ya kicking out mode -- not fear, but serious over the top excitement and attitude.

Always makes my heart go pitter pat, especially Stardust when he's big and collected and king of the world in that moment...
:love:
:)

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2010 5:49 am 
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Bonnie, when I come into the stable yard just before the morning meal of hay is put out, has a soft squeal that accompanies her low Levade, which transitions into near Courbette, as she springs upward in excitement. This continues for only a few seconds, as she gets herself under control, being a maturing young lady now.

Interestingly, her mother, who never did such things, has picked up this same habit, sans squeal, though she does make sounds in her head and throat. It is quite something to see Altea, with her greater bulk but much more muscular, even baroque body, do this Levade and Courbette. Yes, she comes completely, like her daughter, up clear of the ground.

Bonnie has, from only a few days old, squealed from the effort and excitement as she gatherers herself and blasts off in a wild run down the forest trails. As she runs back and passes us on the return I can hear she is still squealing but more quietly.

But the most exciting sound she makes is when, with me mounted on Altea, we pony her past a nearby pasture with horses in it. I have to run the line out to about 10 to 15 feet to make sure she won't have her neck wrenched and hurt her action is so extreme.

She goes into a wild passage, head up high, nose out forward and then in ramener, then back out extended forward. flirting as mares do with tail pointing straight up just as when she was a baby and ran about in excitement. But the sound she makes, that is the big event.

She trumpets, I think shaking the leaves on the trees and fills the valley we live in, and echos back to us from the surrounding hills. Is it a challenge? Is it excited fear? Her whinney is piercing and hurts my ears it is so powerful. This is now a big lady. A big mare is in there waiting to grow outward and upward, and her voice is a warning of what's to come.

Will I be able to ride when the time comes in just a bit over two years now? I won't consider backing her until she is four, but it's coming closer. We will have to have an attachment so strong that she'll protect me from her own concern and possibly fear at having a predator on her back. Man.

I lay over her now and play with her shoulders scratching her so hard that her lips quiver and she goes starry eyed and unfocused, neck tensing upward. Then she makes sounds like a quiet wuffle, or so it seems to me.

What sound will she make when I have done all the preliminary work, getting up and then down quickly alongside her, stepping over her and off the other side, all this many times, then finally settling down on her back? What sound? What sound? What sound?

Just the wind in my ears?

Image

Bonnie as an early yearling. Now at eighteen months she is much bigger and sometimes even more magnificent appearing. Even when she is difficult, excited, full of herself, in a moment, asked to come, she will stop it all and approach for a soft sweet kiss, and a little wuffle. Her best sound of all.

Donald, Altea, and Bonalaria Magdalena.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2010 6:14 am 
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Ruphina nickers when she has done something right, she knows she's right and I already rewarded her with the voice 'click' and she is waiting for the treat.
Only with very well deserved treats as if saying 'yes, I was right... and totally happy with myself right now'.
This is especially when she finally understands an exercise I was asking for, but she didn't get before.
At one point... she understands it, knows what she has to do, I give the cue, she does very well... and nickers :funny:

But another horse, she grinds her teeth very clearly (is this also vocalisation? well it's a sound at least) when you ask something of her that she doesn't want to do, but when you insist on her doing so (stepping off from your toe for example). She first does so, and then grinds her teeth.
It is the first horse I've ever heard grinding her teeth so clearly with such a clear reason :)

Very nice topic :smile:

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 Post subject: Equine vocalizations
PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 5:01 pm 
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Edit by Romy: The following posts were split from Volker's diary of Nepomuk.

I loved the opportunity to dream of spring with the beautiful pictures...thank you so much, and your description of the dawn is so book-worthy. Sigh. Anytime that anyone here can write in a way that transports my imagination like that is joyful for me. Thank you!

Quote:
(BTW what´s the difference between neigh/whinny/whicker/nicker? In German there´s only one word for it. :ieks:)


The neigh and the whinny are the full-on calls. Neeeeiiiiigh! Whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinyyyyyyyyyyyy!

The whicker and the nicker are the little intimate "chortles" :D Er Er Er Er. Have you ever seen a silent nicker? You can see the nostrils vibrate but you don't hear the sound? Those are amazing.

When my Tam whinny's, he sounds like a rooster. It's a rather unpleasant, piercing sound that stabs right through my head if I happen to be near HIS head when he trumpets it out.

The nicker is a soft flutter of a sound that tickles my ears and makes me smile...regardless which horse it is. Such a lovely sound.

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 Post subject: Re: Nepomuk
PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2011 12:26 am 
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I've been considering that horses learn to whinny and that they have herd identifying accents or dialects.

Why would I think this?

My mare Altea has a very peculiar sort of nicker she uses when she's hungry. It sounds almost exactly like the softer sound mules make when they bray gently. Very breathy.

Why would she have this call?

Her last home had about 8 mules she lived with, and they were all in love with her, and talked this kind of soft love talk call to her. I know she misses her mules.

So far Bonnie hasn't picked it up, but then it's rare that Altea uses it.

We all, as with horses, can speak, but we all have our own accents learned from our care givers.

I used to call out to Bonnie, when she was all excited running toddler, "EEEEeeeeeEEEEEEEEEeeeee." When she hears me come out of the house and she's at the barn or upper paddock close by she whinnys in this very way. But too with a horse accent. Or she whinnys like a horse with a human accent. LOL

One of my dogs, an orphan at birth, learned how to bark from me. He only whined until I taught him. Guess what his bark sounded like.

Is the German word 'wuffle.' I forget now who first used that, but it was one of our European AND friends I am sure. I use it so much to describe that softer sound that I'm hearing others around me start to use it.

Let's collect all the words in all the languages that are descriptive of horse vocalization. In fact all equine vocalization.

I think you've started something. LOL

Donald, Altea, and Bonnie Cupcake

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 Post subject: Re: Nepomuk
PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2011 10:00 am 
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Oh Donald, this is excellent! Horse dialects! I´m certain there is something like that. I know of a study about dialects of sparrows where this topic was thoroughly researched, so why not dialects among horses as well? I know that Mucki adopted the low grumbling nicker of Lily after a while. He certainly did know how to nicker like this before, but he was encouraged to do it more when he listened to Lily. It´s her favourite sound. Mucki is more of the ear-splitting, blood-curdling, straight to the marrow whinnying kind. ;)
When Lily talks she talks mostly to humans, like nickering when we prepare food for her. Mucki talks mostly to his herd members, not to humans.

I also know of a haflinger who learned a very funny singing whinny, because the girl who rode him used to sing all the time when riding out. It was most astonishing!

I found this website, with a wonderful collection of horse sounds:
http://www.horsepresence.com/shop/SoundsHome.html
It´s fun to browse them, thinking of our horses. Snorts, groans, blusters & roars!
As Karen pointed out, there are also the silent ones. Silent nickers, where only the nostrils and lips are trembling. And even silent whinnies. Mucki can do that almost unhearable. I think it happens when they are only inhaling while whinnying and leaving out the loud exhaling part. I really love that sound. It´s also a bit like singing. :)

Donald Redux wrote:
Let's collect all the words in all the languages that are descriptive of horse vocalization. In fact all equine vocalization.
I second that motion! :thumleft: Especially the onomatopoetic ones are interesting.
Unfortunately there is - to my knowledge - only 1 (in words: one) German word for horse related sounds! That´s "Wiehern" for whinny. That´s it. Now what does that teach us about the horse culture in German-speaking countries? I´m afraid we concentrated too much on how to ride like a nice cavalryman, instead of hearing what the horse has to say. :sad:

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 Post subject: Re: Nepomuk
PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2011 10:23 am 
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Donald, that whole "whuffle" thing came out of a misunderstanding, I think. Josepha was looking for the English word for the sound horses make when breathing out, like when they got dust into their nose or when they relax. Someone (I think it was Wendy) suggested "whuffling" and then you started using it for the nicker. But originally it was meant to describe blowing out air - and it's English. :smile: When you google it, you can find it here for example: http://www.wordnik.com/words/whuffle

Houyhnhnm wrote:
Unfortunately there is - to my knowledge - only 1 (in words: one) German word for horse related sounds! That´s "Wiehern" for whinny.


Here people also use "brummeln" for nickering, but then it's not a real horse word but describes a soft, humming sound.

P.S.: I found the posts where the whole whuffling thing started. It was in Ino's diary (starting on the first page).


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 Post subject: Re: Nepomuk
PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2011 12:36 pm 
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Equine Vocalizations

German:
Wiehern
Brummeln

English:
Neigh
Whinny
Wuffle
Nicker
Bray

Other languages, anyone?

Donald, Altea, and Bonnie Cupcake

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So say Don, Altea, and Bonnie the Wonder Filly.


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 Post subject: Re: Equine vocalizations
PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2011 1:24 pm 
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Just copying a post by Leigh, because it fits perfectly here.

Leigh wrote:
A study on horse whinnies...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/engl ... 784790.stm

They've "discovered" ;) that horses identify each other through whinnies, which seems fairly obvious to anyone who spends time with horses.

But -- what's cool about what they're thinking from their research is that horses have a "visual memory" of other horses based on the reactions to whinnies that don't match who they think should be whinnying.

Again, on some levels, not surprising, but an interesting thing to think about, and yet another study that is suggesting that animal cognition is higher than many of us human types have imagined...apparently it's a type of "cross-modal recognition" that it was assumed only humans could do...

...and it got me to thinking about how this might be helpful in supporting horses who are in stressful situations -- like being in the hospital, or being trailered -- what might happen if they were played a tape of their horse (or human) herd mates? Could this memory/emotional connection help to keep them feeling calmer and safer?


I have the full article:

Lemasson et al. (2009). Horse (Equus caballus) whinnies: a source of social information. Animal Cognition, 12, 693–704.

If someone wants it and can't download it, just email me and I will send the PDF. :smile:


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 Post subject: Re: Equine vocalizations
PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2011 1:29 pm 

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I remember seeing a documentary where song birds of the same species had similar calls but with a few variations in different regions. I expect other animals to use vocalisations in a way that also uses dialects.
Here in the UK I would need a translator when speaking to people from the part of the West Midlands known as The Black Country (very industrialised) or if visiting "Geordies" using their own phases and dialect in the Newcastle area. xx

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 Post subject: Re: Equine vocalizations
PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2011 1:45 pm 
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Thanks Romy for moving the posts!

Done some researching on the web and found this page:
http://www.eleceng.adelaide.edu.au/personal/dabbott/animal.html

It lists transcripts of how people imitate a certain animal sound as that often differs from the word for the action.

Also interesting - though slightly off topic - is that the mentioned website also lists commands for slowing down and speeding up horses in different languages. I witnessed several differences in horse commands myself in the countries I´ve been trecking in.
Mongolia: tchoo! (speed up), drrrrrr (slow down)
Kyrgyzstan: tch! (speed up), drrrrr (slow down)
Jordan: jellah! (speed up), shhhhhh (slow down)

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