Why Do Horses Yawn? Reasons Explained


Horses, like humans and dogs, and other mammals yawn all the time. But why do they yawn? Do horses yawn for the same reasons that people do or do they do it for a completely different reason? Wondering all these same questions, I found out myself and after being asked to write about it.

Why Do Horses Yawn?

Unlike in people who yawn when the oxygen levels in their blood drop, horses yawn to help themselves relax, relieve stress, and calm themselves down. Horses also tend to yawn after waking up rather than when they are tired. They also may yawn following the removal of their bridle to help loosen up their jaw and facial muscles. There are many reasons why a horse might yawn, but nearly all of the reasons will point back to the horse trying to calm down or relax.

Is It Bad If A Horse Yawns Continuously?

No, it is not bad if a horse yawns continuously, it basically just means that the horse may be stressed and they are trying to relax and calm themselves down. If you notice however that your horse yawns all the time, it could mean that it is consistently stressed about something so pinpointing the stressful thing that is causing the consistent yawning might lessen the yawning and help your horse relax and yawn less.

One reason why a horse might yawn a lot is if they live alone. Horses are herd animals so if they live alone they may feel insecure or unsafe for any given reason. This can cause them to be stressed or anxious thus causing them to yawn more.

Why Does My Horse Yawn After I Take Off The Bridle?

When a horse is wearing a bridle with a bit, they likely are carrying their head in a certain way and responding to consistent pressure in their mouth. If your horse yawns after you take off its bridle, it is most likely trying to stretch and relax its jaw muscles and mouth after having a bit in its mouth for so long.

This is completely normal behavior and doesn’t typically mean that your horse is stressed if they only do it after the bridle is removed, so don’t worry yourself!

My old Arabian, Bronze, used to do this same thing! Whenever I would take off his bridle he would yawn to help release any tension he had in his face, head, or mouth from wearing and responding to his bridle.

Do Horses Yawn When They Are Tired?

Some horses do yawn when they are tired just like people do, but this is usually not the reason why they are yawning. When people yawn because they are tired, it is because the oxygen levels in their blood has dropped due to the relaxing of the diaphragm and other breathing muscles. Because horses don’t breathe through their mouths as people do, they don’t yawn for the reasons that people do.

Some horses might yawn when tired to help them relax enough to eventually fall asleep, though this isn’t necessarily common.

If My Horse Yawns, What Does That Show?

Yawning can actually be a good thing to see a horse doing. By yawning, this shows that your horse realizes they are stressed and need to calm down. Based on a previous study, it is believed that yawning shows the horse is healthy not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. If the horse is frequently yawning, however, it can show that the horse is suffering from an illness or disease that you might not know about.

Is Frequent Yawning A Symptom Of Disease In Horses?

Though stress relief is the main reason why a horse might yawn, there are other reasons why a horse might yawn frequently. Some of these reasons include:

A Symptom Of Liver Disease

Frequent yawning, if the horse is showing other symptoms, can be linked to liver disease or liver pain in horses. The symptoms of this disease not only include yawning, but also include fever, colic, and discomfort.

A Symptom Of Colic

Some horses try to relieve themselves of the pain of colic through yawning just as they would try to relieve stress. This is why some horses might yawn or do the flehmen response when they are colicking. Other symptoms of colic include rolling, biting at the stomach, and kicking.

A Symptom Of Gastric Ulcers

Gastric ulcers make horses really uncomfortable as they can cause severe pain and discomfort on the horse’s part. A large reason why horses might develop gastric ulcers is actually because of stress. These horses who suffer from gastric ulcers are likely consistently stressed making them already frequently yawn. Other symptoms for gastric ulcers outside of yawning include colic symptoms and anxiety.

Is Yawning A Stress Reliever For Horses?

Yes! This is actually the main reason for a horse to yawn. Yawning is a natural way for a horse to relieve stress and relax. If your horse is stressed or in a stressful situation, you may notice that they are yawning to try to relax and calm themselves down. This natural calming mechanism is seen in all horses.

How Do I Know If My Horse Yawning from Stress Or Yawning From Illness?

There are a few ways to tell if your horse is yawning from stress rather than illness and vice versa. The ways you can tell include:

  • If your horse is yawning due to stress, the trigger can be identified and fixed. Often times horses housed alone away from other horses may be stressed so frequent yawning can be tied to this.
  • Frequent yawning can be traced to illness and disease if all possible stress causes are identified and resolved. If the horse shows discomfort and continues its yawning, it can be traced back to illness and disease
  • Yawning can be related to stress if a veterinarian rules out the possibility of disease
  • If your horse only yaws here and there or whenever you take off its bridle, it is likely not yawning from illness.

Hailey Johnson

Horses have been my passion ever since I can remember. At school, I was known as that weird horse girl, and I would read horse encyclopedias for fun. Over the years since those days, I have only learned more. My experiences with horses of a variety of breeds have taught me a lot. Now I want to share what I know with you!

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