Do Eye Wrinkles Reflect a Horse’s Emotional State?

Researchers found that different types of situations affected horses’ eye wrinkle characteristics.
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Horses are expressive animals. Their eyes, ears, and body language can tell us a lot about how they feel. But what about those wrinkles that form above their eyes?

Sara Hintze, DrMedVet, MSc, a PhD student at the University of Bern, in Switzerland, recently evaluated whether there’s a link between horses’ emotional state and the amount and type of wrinkles over their eyes. She presented her findings at the 11th International Society of Equitation Science Conference, held Aug. 6-9 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“Wrinkles above the eyeball are common in horses but differ in number and shape between and within individuals,” she said. “In the horse community, ‘worry wrinkles’ are often associated with negative reactions, but there’s no evidence to support this.”

She hypothesized that horses experiencing positive emotions would exhibit few eye wrinkles, while horses experiencing negative emotions would have increased eye wrinkles

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Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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