Harsh and Soft Training Tones

A study found no difference in stress levels of horses that received soft or harsh verbal tones from handlers during training, a result that surprised the researchers. Do you feel like your horse responds to the tone of your voice?


Total votes cast: 1486

Comments & Write-in Answers

Wouldn't a difference in stress level mean handler is using verbal tones incorrectly?

5/20/2013 11:49:49 PM

But they know that my change of voice is accompanied by different actions.

5/20/2013 11:16:43 PM

but he is probably picking up on my emotion (frustration,anger) as much as the tone of my voice.

5/20/2013 8:20:59 PM

mine most definetly know by tone of voice, what I am trying to get across....

5/20/2013 7:48:08 PM

OMG these studies are doing my head in!

5/20/2013 6:13:43 PM

She knows she is being corrected by my tone of voice.

5/20/2013 6:00:23 PM

My horse responds more to my body language.

5/20/2013 5:49:36 PM

no question that a soft, gentle "good boy/girl" works and a harsh tone with good words do not.

5/20/2013 4:40:36 PM

Yes, however Im sure my voice and body language interconnect even when I try not too.

5/20/2013 4:04:28 PM

if my mare is grazing and I say:"get in your stall" in a very firm voice she goes into her stall!.

5/20/2013 2:02:21 PM

My horses do respond more immediately to my body language, which seems more important to them.

5/20/2013 10:30:40 AM

Mine know from the tone whether or not I am happy or not - WITHOUT a doubt

5/20/2013 9:27:26 AM

I was surprised by this research but it would be useful if the research also covered body language

5/20/2013 9:09:29 AM

This is hard for me to accept these findings as I have owned and trained so many horses over my life

5/20/2013 12:06:35 AM

He responds to my body language, and whatever energetic vibe I give off.

5/19/2013 11:58:03 PM

Perhaps stress levels need longer exposure time to register. What is apparent is immediate reaction.

5/19/2013 11:05:25 PM

I do not agree with the study. I've worked with horses for 40 years.

5/19/2013 10:14:25 PM

My horse most certainly responds if I raise my voice to rebuke him for some transgression. The voice

5/19/2013 9:13:44 PM

I am sure of it!

5/19/2013 6:01:50 PM


5/19/2013 5:32:21 PM

Just goes to show you can't always believe what you read, even if it is called "science" or "study".

5/19/2013 4:52:17 PM

Yes... Harsh tones will inevitably send a horse away.

5/19/2013 4:08:48 PM

There may also be particular body language cues that we don't realize we are giving as well.

5/19/2013 3:02:37 PM

Yes and no....

5/19/2013 12:27:50 PM

without question

5/19/2013 11:39:15 AM

Use of voice in training is steady, but in the barn is used differently per reason.

5/19/2013 11:23:31 AM


5/19/2013 8:51:24 AM

Absolutely my horse works best with a calm steady voice raising my voice has a negative effect

5/19/2013 2:24:46 AM

and also touch.

5/19/2013 1:58:31 AM

Start with the gentlest of pressure and that means a SOFT voice.

5/18/2013 11:50:24 PM

Horses absolutley recognize the energy level in our voices.

5/18/2013 10:32:33 PM

She appears to be easier to control with a soft tone.

5/18/2013 9:50:20 PM

There is a significant difference between stress and response. I think they tested the wrong thing.

5/18/2013 3:26:43 PM

I use my voice when I am caught without a crop or when I need to calm them down with a coo sound.

5/18/2013 2:55:07 PM

I have had a rescue horse for about 13 years and she get uptight if talked to in an angry or loud to

5/18/2013 10:47:15 AM

Calming and scolding change voice levels which I believe animals distinguish.

5/18/2013 10:17:55 AM

Horses are fully capable of interpreting the energy force behind a person's tone of voice.

5/18/2013 9:09:18 AM

Horses do know the intent behind the voice

5/17/2013 10:01:24 PM

My 11-year-old mare tosses her head back and her eyes get big when I speak loudly/harshly to her.

5/17/2013 9:41:21 PM

Everybody on the farm, husbands, hounds, horses, knows THAT voice!

5/17/2013 8:49:43 PM

Not what I believe!!

5/17/2013 7:37:46 PM

She not only responds to tone... she understands certain words probably through repetitive usage.

5/17/2013 5:09:33 PM

And I suspect I could speak for most horse owners. The researchers have to kidding.

5/17/2013 4:59:13 PM

very sensitive

5/17/2013 2:53:35 PM

My mare wouldn't listen to me if I raised my voice. She would turn her back to me.

5/17/2013 2:28:08 PM

Our horses mind my 85 year old mother better than the rest of us!

5/17/2013 1:22:26 PM

If I'm calm he's calm,get wound he winds

5/17/2013 11:29:55 AM

and the sound of my car and I think he knows my tones too

5/17/2013 10:51:28 AM

He definitely know the tone that I have had enough, stop

5/17/2013 10:20:02 AM

Its not the tone of voice its the sharpness of the word. Cluck is a sharp tone, woah is soft. etc

5/17/2013 8:01:29 AM

also recognize individual peoples voices and vocabulary

5/17/2013 6:24:57 AM


5/17/2013 4:41:12 AM

I always talk nicely to him.

5/17/2013 3:25:10 AM


5/17/2013 2:43:25 AM

Horses that never learned harsh tone leads to punishment have no fear of a loud voice.

5/16/2013 10:38:17 PM

they calm down and react better to quiet talk

5/16/2013 9:45:36 PM

I can get about 3 seconds of attention when I change my tone..Guess it doesn't stress them, good!

5/16/2013 9:09:38 PM

No need for shouting , i whisper and they change gaits etc and hand signs its wonderful t

5/16/2013 9:00:46 PM

perhaps because they already know what you're thinking!

5/16/2013 8:22:33 PM

If I scold my stallion he lowers head, flops ears & looks away

5/16/2013 7:52:41 PM

I know my horses understand consistency in the level of my voice and when I fluctuate they respond

5/16/2013 7:36:35 PM

The test given by the researchers could perhaps use revision. Horses do respond to tone.

5/16/2013 7:11:06 PM

Miss Brandy will even back up when I whisper "Back up."

5/16/2013 7:06:08 PM

We handle yearlings from the first day of training to race time. Harsh tones set them on edge.

5/16/2013 5:57:34 PM

He doesn't stop attacking me in some way, or tipping the barrow unless I shout.

5/16/2013 4:56:10 PM

I explain to him what I feel he's looking at to hard. I can tell him by my voice it's a log.

5/16/2013 4:32:27 PM

I have trained my mare since she was 6 months old to understand many voice commands and to respond t

5/16/2013 4:26:57 PM

No so much in ridden training, but definitely when being handled. That, and body language.

5/16/2013 3:23:33 PM

absolutely..change in eye contact and begins licking when i change the tone of my voice.

5/16/2013 3:13:37 PM

I am always gentle when I speak to my horses.

5/16/2013 2:30:26 PM

More by my body language.

5/16/2013 1:45:20 PM

Your horses will learn your moods by the diffeent tones of your voice.

5/16/2013 12:31:24 PM

When he is being "naughty" during grooming, raising my voice slightly (or maybe its the tone, works

5/16/2013 11:28:15 AM


5/16/2013 10:50:09 AM

Most of my horses absolutely. There is one that is not affected at all by verbal tones

5/16/2013 10:02:00 AM

When I have had enough of a situation a sharp tone with his name does it. body lanauge is part of it

5/16/2013 9:09:58 AM

Yes, softer, happier voice. Discipline has more of a growl. She knows the difference.

5/16/2013 8:50:00 AM

All about body language. But harsh tone usually equals big moves.

5/16/2013 8:14:45 AM

What about the 'firmness' of a pat for being good, light tickle or a firm pat

5/16/2013 6:52:21 AM

Different horses respond in different ways. Most react more positively to quiet but assertive tones

5/16/2013 2:41:47 AM


5/16/2013 12:43:39 AM

My Morgans are very sensetive to voice and tone.

5/16/2013 12:17:07 AM

i feel a bond with my horse -- i know he does too, my voice tone is very important to him

5/15/2013 11:42:46 PM

I know they do!!

5/15/2013 11:01:37 PM

emotional tone yes i.e. intention or stress in voice

5/15/2013 10:56:24 PM

How I feel and so act is reflected in my tone of voice- they pick up on how I act for sure

5/15/2013 9:00:57 PM

'Whoa" or "Halt" said in a loud angry voice leads to adverse reaction because body language changes

5/15/2013 8:49:08 PM

It's my opinion that handling my horses using a calm unhurried voice encourages them to likewise.

5/15/2013 8:42:42 PM

When my husband yells or is stern with the horses they respond accordingly

5/15/2013 6:53:25 PM

and body language

5/15/2013 5:30:21 PM

not all of them resspond in the same way, some seem more sensative than others

5/15/2013 5:10:54 PM

My mare does. She goes the other way when voices are raised, even if it's not directed at her.

5/15/2013 5:05:52 PM

I find my voice DOESv affects my mare. A soft calm voice calms her & a stern tone deters her.

5/15/2013 4:50:02 PM

I sometimes need to increase the volume and tone in order to get what I want from my horse .

5/15/2013 4:13:05 PM

They are NOT accoustomed to loud voices, so when I raise my voice, it gets their attention.

5/15/2013 3:51:18 PM

My goodness--my horse responds to tone just like a human!

5/15/2013 3:13:57 PM

No doubt about it.

5/15/2013 3:06:15 PM

Yes, but I think it is a learned response. The horse has to learn to associate soft tone w/reward

5/15/2013 3:04:05 PM

deffinately! When I am soft with them, they are wonderful and respectful of me. I try to never scold

5/15/2013 2:35:38 PM

All of my horses respond noticeably to my tone, inflection and of course eye contact.

5/15/2013 12:44:27 PM

They've learned that if I raise my voice, they better stop what they're doing or they get reprimande

5/15/2013 12:39:28 PM

Our pony knows by the tone when he is in trouble

5/15/2013 12:37:21 PM

Could be my energy corresponds with the tone of voice.

5/15/2013 12:14:35 PM

But he does what he wants anyway

5/15/2013 12:12:31 PM

I can see that if trained with a louder/hasher tone then not, otherwise mine would be reactive.

5/15/2013 11:22:08 AM

My horses know when I say the word "No" or "back"

5/15/2013 10:46:46 AM


5/15/2013 10:42:38 AM

Horses definitely respond to tone of voice, but can be desensitized to it if done repetatively.

5/15/2013 10:09:05 AM

Of course!

5/15/2013 9:29:09 AM

He knows the difference between praise and scolding.

5/15/2013 8:10:43 AM

a harsh tone of voice certainly gets a pause in the activity with ears back and a high head

5/15/2013 7:43:09 AM

It probobly has more to do with my facial expression

5/15/2013 7:39:48 AM

Yes, but could be a learned response like allowing us on their backs; not a natural thing for horses

5/15/2013 7:22:19 AM

you can really see when you lunge or loose school how much they listen

5/15/2013 6:57:14 AM

Interesting the majority of my horses do, especially on in particular who suffered previous abuse.

5/15/2013 4:27:13 AM


5/15/2013 2:11:46 AM

my ponies will respond to a sharp loud shout every time but don't overuse it.

5/15/2013 1:47:21 AM

responds more to body language, stress levels more to do with environment than tone

5/15/2013 1:10:30 AM

I think you have to look at the circumstances in evaluating voice responses..

5/15/2013 12:27:50 AM

every horse should be treated like a human..they are all different in their response...some more tha

5/15/2013 12:02:44 AM

The study surprised me but I still sweet talk my horse.

5/14/2013 11:42:24 PM

I know he does. He snaps right to it when he hears "that tone." He loves baby talk too!

5/14/2013 11:32:57 PM

If my horse leaves his stall without permission, a harsh, loud NO sends him back into his stallQUICK

5/14/2013 11:30:16 PM


5/14/2013 11:28:14 PM

I always talk softly with my horses. When my voice rises in tone and pitch, they do pay attention.

5/14/2013 11:27:42 PM

tone AND volume

5/14/2013 10:31:22 PM

I rarely speak loudly/harshly/angrily to my horse, so when I need to, it gets his attention.

5/14/2013 10:28:24 PM

Every horse I interact with definitely responds/reacts to the tone of my voice.

5/14/2013 10:09:35 PM

when I growl at misbehavior they listen and immediately quit it.

5/14/2013 10:09:22 PM

Soft verbal tones soothe anxious or nervous horses. Firm tones are useful but never harsh tones.

5/14/2013 9:55:07 PM

He definitely responds to my voice but tone seems irrelevant.

5/14/2013 9:54:08 PM

when I speak to my TB mare in a harsh way she gets a scared look on her face and looks for a way out

5/14/2013 9:52:14 PM

An abused mule that I recently acquired sure does.

5/14/2013 9:43:46 PM

i have an Arab gelding and when he gets yelled at he puts his head down and acts depressed.

5/14/2013 9:36:51 PM

My lesson horses know which one I am speaking to andact appropriately. I have been told they will b

5/14/2013 9:26:28 PM

Horses read and respond to body language,and hardly ever react to verbal language.

5/14/2013 8:43:44 PM

Does not mean raising the voice, just a change in tone works wonders.

5/14/2013 8:38:35 PM

I am sure that our horses rrespond to the tone of our voice!

5/14/2013 8:30:15 PM

He makes eye contact. His ears respond either moving forward to focus or backward in objection.

5/14/2013 8:27:56 PM

Any one says different knows absolutely nothing about horses. Horses respond to voice tone definite

5/14/2013 8:24:24 PM

Sometimes the soft voice works, and sometimes a louder, more demanding tone is neeed

5/14/2013 8:03:11 PM

When I make a loud sharp noise like "Ahhh" he generally stops what he is doing.

5/14/2013 8:01:17 PM

I use body language, very rarely do I talk

5/14/2013 7:53:13 PM

the energy I emit when using harsh tones scares my horses. I had to yell at my dog and my horses bac

5/14/2013 7:52:44 PM

My Appendix gelding is a worrier, and harsh tones set him off mentally

5/14/2013 7:51:40 PM

I know my horse responds to the tone of my voice because he will put his ears back when I scold him.

5/14/2013 7:42:05 PM

without a doubt...they know when I am mad(voice only)

5/14/2013 7:41:27 PM

if anger is a factor in the harsh tone, then the horse picks up on it.

5/14/2013 7:41:21 PM

Definitely. As do the dogs, the cat and the husband. Silly to think otherwise.

5/14/2013 7:39:30 PM

Every time my husband speaks to my gelding, he sulks.

5/14/2013 7:26:44 PM

that study is obviously flawed...anyone with half a brain knows otherwise..

5/14/2013 7:24:21 PM

My horse is habituated to voice commands, including tone of voice.

5/14/2013 7:22:30 PM

She really calms down if I laugh at/with her.

5/14/2013 6:53:27 PM

I feel they are aware on a physiological level of tension or relaxation that accompany our verbalizi

5/14/2013 6:41:53 PM

They know when I'm mad! :)

5/14/2013 6:31:54 PM

He pays more attention when I speak softly. A loud voice is definitely a punishment.

5/14/2013 6:08:20 PM

Yes definately! He's an Arab, and very sensitive to changes in my voice or abrupt body language!

5/14/2013 5:45:28 PM

My mare can hear me talking before entering the trainers barn by whining until I get to her.

5/14/2013 5:41:43 PM

My mares know the difference between a sarcastic "will you quit that" or a low "goood girl".

5/14/2013 5:25:27 PM

That research is flawed. The proof over centuries shows that ANY animal responds to a human's tone.

5/14/2013 5:10:44 PM

She listens for the sound of my voice, but what she makes of it is anyone's guess.

5/14/2013 5:07:55 PM

They like to be talked to in a softer lower tone.

5/14/2013 4:55:34 PM

I wonder if it has to do with how the horse is used to being spoken to by his trainer.

5/14/2013 4:53:40 PM

My horse is very reactive to my voice.

5/14/2013 4:53:19 PM

Especially when I say No in a firm tone

5/14/2013 4:47:58 PM

I can lull my horses to sleep with just the tone and rhythm of my voice

5/14/2013 4:45:33 PM

Definitely! Soothing enthusiastic praise goes a very long way in making a happy easy to train horse

5/14/2013 4:26:23 PM

My home bred really does know!

5/14/2013 4:13:23 PM

This "test" must have been done by people who don't understand horses!

5/14/2013 3:35:19 PM

Definite difference in response!

5/14/2013 3:32:40 PM

He actually responds better to a sharply spoken tone

5/14/2013 3:20:05 PM

My horses come up from their pasture only when I call sweetly. They do not respond at all when I yel

5/14/2013 2:59:18 PM


5/14/2013 1:31:56 PM

They know when they are being praised or reprimanded.

5/14/2013 12:55:46 PM

I think they "read" body language better. Raising my voice is ignored unless accompanied by a stance

5/14/2013 11:12:11 AM


5/14/2013 11:06:55 AM


5/14/2013 10:57:53 AM

Absolutely. If you raise your voice, he gets very nervous, sometimes even freaks.

5/14/2013 10:38:14 AM

Mine definitely respond, but then I am the lead "horse" which = respect & response.

5/14/2013 10:30:47 AM

Just as people respond to soft versus harsh tones, I believe horses do as well

5/14/2013 10:14:44 AM

If I say no nicely he doesn't care but if I raise my voice when I say it he listens

5/14/2013 9:59:38 AM

My 5 horses react strongly on the rare occasions I raise my voice.

5/14/2013 9:58:53 AM

IF I yell at him he goes to the back of his stall, and will not look at me.

5/14/2013 9:50:25 AM

"Mental Response, results" level is definitely a different story !!!

5/14/2013 9:36:15 AM

Stress levels may not vary but immediate cognitive action is displayed by the horse

5/14/2013 9:30:20 AM

When you have an established relationship, it makes a difference!

5/14/2013 8:52:43 AM

The horses in the study weren't trained to respond to vocal cues, but my horse is. So he responds.

5/14/2013 8:44:33 AM

I have minis and all are more atuned to my quiet voice

5/14/2013 8:19:41 AM