Do horses like music? This is a question that I’ve asked myself countless times. For us, it’s more about music taste, which varies from person to person. However, we all enjoy listening to some form of music or another. In the case of horses, things are quite a bit different.
Horses react positively to some music genres such as classical music and country music, but they seem to dislike jazz as well as rock music. Of course, a horse could go on its entire life without listening to music. Equines don’t seek out music as humans do. They don’t need the mood boost that it provides. However, they do seem to be positively influenced by country and classical music, as they are calmer and better-behaved when they listen to it.
How do we know this?
I should probably tell you where I got my information from. After all, you don’t have to take my word for it. A couple of years ago, a Bachelor of Science student named Clare Carter conducted a scientific study at Hartpury College in England. She wanted to figure out if horses like music, and whether some types of music impacted them in a positive or negative way.
The study is called “Auditory stimulation of the stabled equine; the effect of different music genres on behavior.” You can look it up if you want to.
She decided to base her study on four different genres, namely jazz, rock, classical, and country music. The study was conducted with the assistance of eight Thoroughbred geldings, which were stabled for a total of three hours. She played a song from each music genre for 30 minutes and noted how it influenced the geldings’ behavior.
How are horses influenced by music?
The results of the study were interesting, to say the least. The researchers used an equine ethogram, which is a catalog containing all possible behaviors and actions exhibited by a horse. Naturally, their actions and reactions while listening to music were compared to their behaviors in complete silence.
When the horses were listening to Beethoven and Hank Williams Jr (classic and country), they were calmer, better behaved, and they were eating quietly. Eating quietly is a sign of calmness, so listening to these types of music appeared to have influenced the horses in a positive way.
When she switched up to rock and jazz music, the horses started to express more stressful behaviors. They were stamping, snorting, tossing their heads, and even vocalizing. As for eating, they were grabbing the food in short, quick bursts, which is an indicator of stress.
Horses don’t like jazz music. Why is that?
The geldings seemed to be bothered by jazz music in particular. This is probably because of this genre’s reliance on fast tempos and the minor key. Keep in mind that horses don’t hear things exactly the same way that we do, and their interpretation of music is likely to be entirely different from ours. Their overall sense of hearing is similar, but they can also detect higher and lower pitches than we can.
I should also note that the researchers played the music at a relatively low volume, quite a bit lower than that of a normal conversation. It’s safe to assume that the horses were not bothered by the music’s volume but its actual content.
Should you play music for your horse?
Now that we know a thing or two about horses’ music preferences, should we actually play music for them? The study established that music can have a calming effect on horses – it just has to be the right kind of music. Most horse owners opt to leave a radio on somewhere in the stable, as it creates a more homey ambiance. You can definitely do that as well, just make sure to avoid rock or jazz stations in particular.
Also, make sure to place the radio somewhere out of the horse’s reach, and preferably at the same level as your horse’s head. Don’t overdo it! Don’t let the music play all the time, as this will have a detrimental effect on your horse. Music can be stimulating, and horses do need some peace and quiet from time to time. Generally speaking, you should leave the music playing for around an hour or two each day. You can even have the same songs on repeat as horses won’t get bored of them.
There’s also a handy little gadget called Pet Tunes, which is basically a speaker system designed specifically for animals. There’s one for horses, and it plays music created for these animals from scratch. Naturally, you can find plenty of music for horses on YouTube or other free platforms.
Using music for calmness.
You can also use music’s calming effect on horses to minimize stress. For instance, hearing its favorite song while being at the farrier or at the vet will help your horse get through these potentially stressful situations. Furthermore, you can leave music playing in the barn overnight if you think there’s going to be a thunderstorm.
Horses are frightened by sudden, loud noises caused by storms, fireworks, and general commotion. Having some music playing in the background will keep its mind busy and will cause a welcomed distraction.
What musical instruments do horses like the most?
There are no scientific studies conducted on this subject, so I figured I’d do my own research. I came across a great number of YouTube videos of horses listening to different musical instruments, and I kept a close eye on their behavior.
From what I gather, horses enjoy listening to cello music, and will actually go up to the performer if he or she is playing in their proximity. When exposed to violin music, they seem to be genuinely curious about it, although I suspect that the high-pitched sounds of a violin are not as pleasant to their ears as the lower tones of the cello.
The guitar doesn’t seem to have that much of an effect on horses. They do go up to the player and seem quite interested in what’s going on, but they’re most curious about the guitar’s smell and appearance than the music that’s coming out of it. It’s safe to say that horses don’t dislike guitar music, as they didn’t feel the need to back away or avoid it.
The Native American flute has a very interesting effect on horses. As soon as someone starts playing it around them, the horses immediately point their ears towards the performer and listen carefully. They seem to enjoy the deep sounds coming out of this old instrument, and just like the guitar, they are also interested in the smell of the flute.
Today we learned that horses do enjoy listening to music, just not any type of music. Music can have a calming effect on horses and can help them get through unpleasant situations. Here’s a quick breakdown of what you should keep in mind:
- Horses are calmer when listening to classical or country music.
- Horses react poorly to jazz and rock music.
- You can play music for your horse, but remember that they need some quiet time as well.
- Music can help your horse get through stressful encounters.
- There are gadgets available that play music designed specifically for horses.
- Horses enjoy listening to certain musical instruments such as the cello, Native American flute, and guitar. They might not like high-pitched instruments such as the violin, though.