The horse’s eye is our window

horse's eye, horse's eye is a key

Calm horse, calm eye

The horse’s eye is a key to our understanding him. Horses have beautiful, large and expressive eyes and their eyes are an open window into their mood and thinking. The horse’s eye will show us immediately whether he is nervous, anxious, angry or just content to be with us. He can’t hide this. A horse is very open about his emotions. It is up to us to be observant and notice this because our horse is trying to tell us something about how he is feeling. This very placid horse is just looking at us without much of anything else on his mind. He is paying attention but not trying too hard. His eye is lovely.

horse's eye, horse's eye is a key

I see more than you do!

This horse’s eye is quite plainly asking, “Can’t you see I’m a bit nervous?” Something has caught his attention and he is definitely becoming concerned about it. With his head held high he is seeing much farther than you and over a wider area, including behind himself. Now is the time for a person to reassure him before he reacts. Often all that is needed is to have him return his attention to us and to turn his eye back to us.

Another thing to keep in mind is remembering how far a horse’s eye can see when we are mounted! With their head up, most horses are considerably taller than we are and are seeing much farther and wider than we do.  When we are working around a horse in a barn and his head suddenly goes up, he is seeing all or almost all the whole barn area and can see across the tops of stalls and out windows and we have no idea what is concerning him. When we are mounted, horses’ long necks allow them to see around a corner before we get there and they may be startled by something we haven’t even seen yet. Their depth perception is not particularly good and a puddle in a road can look very deep and may require some patient urging to go through. Sudden movements of any kind can startle them, which can make riding on a windy day quite exciting. A horse is just naturally mistrustful about almost anything new and this is only natural considering his history is that of a prey animal who lived by his wits and speed.

We need to remember that horses can see behind themselves but not directly in front. Mother Nature gave them this ability so they could get a head start on a predator. However, a horse has to turn his head very slightly to see right in front. It’s a very interesting fact, I think. If you want to pet your horse in the center area between his eyes, he will lose sight of your hand a short ways before you touch him there. Of course, if he trusts you he won’t move.

horse's eye, horse's eye is a key

Moments of closeness

I greet all my horses with a pat and/or rub between the eyes and if they start off being shy about this they soon seem to like it. Treats are always helpful 😉


Horses’ eyes are very deep. I always wonder what they might be thinking. Thank you for the post! It is a great insight in to the horse’s mind and heart. I am lucky to have found this site because I want to learn more about horses. Maybe, one day I will get my own big hacienda, have my pack of dogs and some beautiful horses.

Thank you for looking at my new website and the nice comment. I certainly hope you get that hacienda someday!

Hi Joan,
I’ve often thought of my horse’s eyes as the window into his soul. He has the kindest eyes I’ve ever seen, and this reflects his spirit and temperament. But I also use his eyes and expression as a measure of his well-being. I can often tell if he’s in some pain or feeling a little off. Have you observed that as well?

Joan Carusone

Yes, absolutely! You really understand your horse and what I was trying to say. The look in your horse’s eye can tell you just about everything of how he is feeling at the moment. When I see that slightly worried expression as I first meet him for the day I immediately start looking for what is bothering him, just as I am sure you do, too. Thanks for your comment and please keep checking here for more of my blogs about understanding horses.


Joan, I love your website — I’ve read it from top to bottom — and this post, especially. I would love if you could post a follow up to this one (or in the body language clues section) with even more examples of the queues that horses provide about how they’re feeling. I’ve found that I’ve developed a fear of horses as I’ve gotten older and I’m certain that it’s because I don’t know how to tell what they’re thinking. I respect that they are much bigger and stronger than I am so I certainly don’t want to upset them.


Interesting fact about how the horse sees behind and not directly in front. I really found this fascinating.

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