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Equestrian Advice & Guides Horse Health
A question that is regularly searched online by equine enthusiasts - why do horses yawn? It is unlikely that there is one specific answer to this and many will choose to ignore this habit as it’s something humans do on a daily basis, but is there more behind the yawing horse than we think? Here we describe the most commonly used explanations and highlight the things you should consider if you catch your horse baring his gnashers!
This is one of the few questions that scientists believe they know the answer to - and the simple explanation is:
No. Humans supposedly yawn when the blood is lacking in oxygen; we inhale as deep as we possibly can to fill the lungs with air, causing a yawn. Research and study suggests that horses do not actually inhale when they yawn (or appear to yawn) meaning that they are doing so for a different reason, so what could it be?
If it is a male horse that has lead you to this page, the experts can back you up. An investigation lead by BBC Earth, suggested that male horses will yawn double the amount that females do, which could mean that it is the testosterone levels of horse that cause it to happen more frequently. This is certainly something interesting to look into as it could be a harmless rationalisation.
A lot of owners say that their horses yawn noticeably after a session of riding. Once again, this is a factor that would be certainly more expected. Bridles are designed to fit horses, but horses are not designed to wear bridles! Although it is usually a necessary piece of equipment, your horse may become uncomfortable after a period of time in the bridle, as it restricts the movement of their jaw. What may look like a yawn, could actually just be your horse stretching its jaw muscles after a long ride - this is nothing to worry about. What is important to keep in mind here is that you have found the bridle that is most comfortable for your horse. You can find tips and offers for the highest quality bridles here.
There is always the possibility that it could be due to something of greater concern. Many veterinary researchers are convinced that yawning is always a sign of distress in a horse, therefore you can always consider contacting a vet just to be safe. Yawning could suggest your horse is experiencing abdominal pain or, more seriously, colic. This is rare but obviously something to think about!
Although some cases may be more serious, the majority of situations will be nothing to worry about at all. Every animal has their funny habits or peculiar traits that don’t really mean anything, but you can never be too careful!
For more information on general horse care, check out our Ultimate Care Guide.