Flehmen Lip Curl

Flehmen lip curl

The curling of the upper lip in horses (and other animals) is known as the Flehmen lip curl. It can be triggered by pheromones or a noxious stimulus. It often is confused with the actions of a submissive foal to a superior horse, where the weak horse sticks their nose outward and makes a chewing motion. This is called “champing” and is a sign of submission.

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  1. My new horse does this when I spray his face with water, as if he expects the water to go up his nose. I turn the water volume down to a trickle and that helps.

    1. This Flehman lip curl reaction is used for many different reasons which only the horse can tell you about. Some never do it while others do it for unusual reasons. But I have seen a lot of horses do it for water on their heads. Many people believe that this may be a reason for you to NOT spray the horse’s head with water. They may be correct as this lip curl may be a way of the horse telling you that he doesn’t like it. Just remember that while you may think it is “cute,” others watching you may be asking why you are tormenting your horse.

      I really can’t take one side or the other on this regarding whether you should or should not spray the head. I am glad, though, that you decided to change your approach (decreased the water pressure) to find if it was bothering him. This is a great example of listening to your horse. Great leaders (and hence horsemen) always listen to their horses and then ask if what they are doing is helpful or harmful (good or bad). They experiment and adjust and then ask again. I don’t know you or your skills Kim but I just wanted to point this out because of how you responded to your horse. It shows that you listen and horses respect that and return the favor.