Horse Yawning After Eating – Good or Bad?

Horse yawning, an intriguing behavior that often captivates horse owners and enthusiasts, is more complex than it appears. Yawning can signify various underlying reasons that warrant attention, making it essential for horse caretakers to understand the behavior.

Comprehending why a horse yawn, especially after eating, is crucial for identifying potential health or stress-related issues. By addressing these concerns, you can ensure your equine companion’s well-being and forge a stronger bond.

Why is Horse Yawning After Eating?

Horses may yawn after eating due to gastrointestinal discomfort, such as equine gastric ulcers. This yawning can be a way for the horse to relieve stress or pain associated with stomach ulcers. If your horse frequently yawns after eating, it’s essential to observe for other symptoms and consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Reasons for Horse Yawning

Horse Yawning After Eating

Lowering stress

One common reason horses yawn is to lower stress. They may yawn during a strenuous ride, training session, or when placed in an overwhelming environment. Although occasional stress is not alarming, eliminating unnecessary stressors can positively impact your horse’s overall health and happiness.

Oral pain and stretching jaw muscles

Horses may also yawn after removing their bridle, presumably to stretch their jaw muscles and alleviate oral pain. This behavior could hint at dental issues requiring veterinary attention, such as sharp enamel points, periodontal disease, or tooth abscesses.

Social context and displacement activity to release tension

Research suggests that yawning in domestic horses serves a social context and acts as a displacement activity to release tension. Frequent yawning may relate to increased frustration, warranting consideration in a horse’s welfare evaluation.

Understanding the social dynamics within the herd can help identify any tension, allowing you to take appropriate steps to resolve conflicts or address social stress.

Environmental stress or anticipation

Environmental stress or anticipation of events, such as herd dominance or social cues, can also trigger yawning in horses. Monitoring your horse’s environment and social interactions can help you identify and mitigate potential stressors.

Additionally, ensuring a safe, comfortable living space with appropriate shelter and resources can promote a relaxed environment for your horse.

State of drowsiness and relaxation

Yawning in horses can signify drowsiness and relaxation, unrelated to the reasons humans yawn (drops in blood oxygen levels). Like humans, horses may yawn when they are sleepy, signaling a transition between different states of arousal and rest.

Horse Yawning After Eating

Gastrointestinal discomfort, such as equine gastric ulcers

Horses may yawn after eating due to gastrointestinal discomfort caused by equine gastric ulcers. These ulcers can result from stress, increased gastric acid production, and the prolonged use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The gastric acid attacks the horse’s stomach lining, causing pain and discomfort.

Pain and stress associated with stomach ulcers

Frequent yawning in horses could express pain and stress related to stomach ulcers. Yawning can help the horse relieve stress and create relief for themselves. Monitoring your horse’s behavior and noting any sudden or unusual changes can help you identify potential health issues, including gastric ulcers.

Tail swishing as a sign of gastric ulcers during feed consumption

Tail swishing during feed consumption is unusual for healthy horses and a clear sign of gastric ulcers. Tail swishing indicates pain and discomfort experienced by the horse while consuming and digesting food. Additionally, horses with gastric ulcers may display other signs, such as reduced appetite, slow eating, or reluctance to consume specific feeds.

Licking and Chewing Behavior in Horses

Relationship with relaxation and returning from a spell of acute stress or pain

Licking and chewing in horses often reflect relaxation, specifically after a period of acute stress or pain. Observing this behavior can help you gauge your horse’s stress levels and overall well-being. Licking and chewing can also indicate the release of endorphins, which promote relaxation and pain relief in horses.

Identifying and Addressing Gastric Ulcers in Horses

Symptoms of equine gastric ulcers

Symptoms of equine gastric ulcers include poor appetite, weight loss, dull coat, behavioral changes, colic, and poor performance. Identifying these signs can help you detect and address gastric ulcers in your horse promptly.

Keep in mind that not all horses with gastric ulcers will display obvious signs, making regular check-ups and monitoring essential.

Diagnosis and treatment options

If you suspect your horse has gastric ulcers, consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment options. Diagnosis typically involves gastroscopy, where a flexible camera is passed through the horse’s nostril and into the stomach to visually inspect the stomach lining.

Treatment may include medications such as proton pump inhibitors or histamine blockers, as well as changes in feeding and management practices.

Preventive measures to reduce the risk of gastric ulcers

Preventive measures include providing frequent small meals, increasing access to forage, reducing stress, and ensuring your horse has regular dental check-ups. Additionally, consider adjusting your horse’s diet to include more fibrous feed, as it can help buffer stomach acid and prevent the formation of ulcers.

Implementing a consistent daily routine and providing ample turnout time can also contribute to your horse’s overall well-being.

Building a Positive Relationship with Your Horse

1. Establishing trust and understanding between you and your horse: Building trust and understanding with your horse is essential for fostering a strong bond. This involves consistent handling, training, and care, as well as being mindful of your horse’s emotional state.

Paying attention to your horse’s body language and responding appropriately can help deepen your connection.

2. Consistency in training, handling, and daily routines: Maintaining consistency in training, handling, and daily routines is crucial for your horse’s sense of security. Consistency helps reduce stress, promotes relaxation, and strengthens the bond between you and your horse.

3. Encouraging relaxation and reducing stress through proper care and management: Proper care and management can encourage relaxation and reduce stress in your horse. This includes providing a safe, comfortable living environment, balanced nutrition, regular exercise, and socialization with other horses.

Additionally, practicing low-stress handling techniques and using positive reinforcement during training can enhance your horse’s overall well-being.


Can horses yawn due to exhaustion, similar to humans?

While horses may yawn when they are drowsy or relaxed, it is not directly associated with exhaustion like it is for humans. Horses yawn for various reasons, such as lowering stress, social context, environmental stress, or pain relief.

Does yawning always indicate a problem with my horse’s health?

Not necessarily. While frequent yawning can be a sign of stress or discomfort, occasional yawning may be a normal part of your horse’s behavior. It is essential to observe your horse’s overall behavior and demeanor to determine if there is an underlying issue.

How can I help my horse feel more relaxed and reduce yawning related to stress?

To help your horse feel more relaxed and reduce stress-related yawning, establish a consistent daily routine, provide a comfortable living environment, and ensure they have access to socialization with other horses.

Additionally, practice low-stress handling techniques and use positive reinforcement during training.

Is there a connection between a horse’s diet and yawning?

A horse’s diet can indirectly affect yawning, especially if the horse is experiencing gastrointestinal discomfort or gastric ulcers. Adjusting your horse’s diet to include more fibrous feed and providing frequent small meals can help buffer stomach acid and prevent the formation of ulcers, potentially reducing stress-related yawning.

How can I determine if my horse’s yawning is due to gastric ulcers?

To determine if your horse’s yawning is due to gastric ulcers, observe for other symptoms such as poor appetite, weight loss, dull coat, behavioral changes, or colic. If you suspect gastric ulcers, consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.


Understanding the reasons behind a horse yawning after eating can help you identify potential health or stress-related issues that require attention. This includes lowering stress, oral pain, social context, environmental stress, drowsiness, gastrointestinal discomfort, and gastric ulcers.

Observing and understanding your horse’s behavior, such as yawning, licking, and chewing, can provide valuable insights into their health and well-being. By addressing any concerns, you can ensure your horse remains happy and healthy.

Building a strong bond and effective communication with your horse is key to their overall well-being. By establishing trust, maintaining consistency, and encouraging relaxation through proper care and management, you can create a positive environment that promotes your horse’s health and happiness.

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