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Heavenly High Whorls

They’ve just got to be extra. They can’t help themselves. It’s who they are.
Not that it’s a bad thing.
They have big personalities, big emotions, big sensibilities.
When a horse has one single whorl placed above eye level they will be an extrovert. Extroverts are very aware of all the things going on around them. They don’t miss a single thing. That can be great if you want a cutting horse who will get down and work a cow, never missing a move they make. If you were hoping to walk quietly down the trail on a horse who wont take a wrong step it might make life a bit more exciting than you had hoped for.
With all their emotions out there for everyone to see their feelings are easily hurt. Force and a heavy hand will leave them crumpled and crying on the ground.
If you recognize their need for attention and adoration they will sparkle and shine, doing their best to please and putting on a brave act to show you how much they can do.
Right brain or left brain extrovert does make a difference. Right brain will be your artist, emotional and sensitive, even more so. Left brain, a brainiac, curious and lacking in some basic social skills as they stick their nose in your business wanting to be involved, to help, if you’d just move over and let them they really could do it for you.
Either one is crazy smart, able to figure out what you want faster than you can. It takes a lot to stay ahead of them, keep them entertain and busy. All without crushing their delicate flower like feelings. When you can manage that they will love you desperately. Gazing at you with those huge puppy dog like eyes in adoration. A high whorl can never get enough love and gentle affection. To pet them too hard is akin to an attack, especially when the right brain is at the helm. To get it just right with them is to gain a devoted follower for life.
Welcome to the high whorl club. Are you a member?

Sensible Single Whorls

Those single whorl horses.
They have an amazing reputation in the horse whorld. Steady, dependable, unchanging. They are the unicorn of whorls.
Yes, this is mostly deserved. It’s entirely possible that they can be those things.That single whorl shows a lack of extremes. Extremes are good to avoid with anything in life. The middle of the road, a little of everything and not too much of anything.
Most of the time a single whorl comes with a straight profile, squared off muzzle, a very rectangular shaped head. All the things that come with a steady dependable horse.
Most of the time.
Those times when they don’t are the time people say whorls don’t work. They say they had a single whorl horse and he didn’t fit any of the expectations!
That is why we can’t just look at the whorl when we have a single whorl. It tells us there are no extremes to be seen in the whorl, not that there are no extremes at all. Sometimes the head shape will show us differences in temperament, sometimes it will be other whorls on the head. A center whorl is a good solid steady starting spot but it isn’t the entire journey. Here more than any other whorl the details are the important thing. Is the profile dished? Rounded? Are there quirk bumps? Or is the profile straight to keep that center whorl sensible.
When all the features are aligned a single center whorl is the perfect whorl to look for for people who want a quiet, dependable horse who is the same horse every day, without the drama and excitement of more complicated whorl patterns. Baby sitters and trusted rides single whorls are usually the trusted stand by that people reach for again and again.

Double Whorl Club

They have a bad reputation. Watch out for those double whorls. Nothing but trouble. Said to have double personalities, wildly swinging mood changes. Jekyll and Hyde temperament. Avoid them when you can.
And yet.
There are a select few of us who like our double whorls.
What is a double whorl?
For this purpose it is two whorls stacked on top of each other or next to each other. There are other whorl patterns with two whorls but they aren’t usually included in this. Although they are welcome to join the club!
Yes, two whorls does show a horse that has a little extra. You can even quite rightly say that they will have double personalities. Twice the whorls mean twice the horse. They have so much to give, with the right person. Intelligent and sensitive they need a rider who is confident and willing to listen to them. Who will offer support and not get made at small, or large, meltdowns. One who enjoys the idiosyncrasies and a more exciting ride than quiet uncomplicated horses will give.
When given these things a double whorl horse will give all they have to offer.
There are differences in the horses depending on whorl placement of course. A stacked double is going to be different than a side by side double.
Stacked double whorls show a horse who can be quiet and excitable, spooky but trustworthy. They draw from both the introvert and extrovert sides of their temperament. The change from introvert to extrovert and back can come as a shock, leading to the double personality claims. The wider the space between the whorls the greater the differences in the temperament. When the whorls are touching, or nearly so, the swings will be small. When they are far apart the differences greater.
High double side by side whorls show a horse who is a left brain extrovert, with some right brain extrovert mixed in. They are sensitive, extremely quick learners. Bold, calm, curious, and confident, they can concentrate intently on a job but will get bored with repetition. You have to give them a reason to be interested. They can be a super power in the right hands. Without steady confident handling they can completely run over a person.
No, these horses aren’t for everyone. People who aren’t fans can take the whorl as a warning and find horses who suit them better. People who like them get to be members of the double whorls club. A select and rarefied group. Are you a member of the double whorl club?

Ears Back

We’re taught from the beginning with horses that when they lay their ears back it means they are mad. It’s a threat of attack. We need to teach them to respect us if they have their ears back when they are with us.
That can be entirely misleading.
There are many reasons why a horse will carry their ears back. It can be in intense concentration. When a horse is focusing and working hard they will often have their ears flat against their head.
When a horse is in pain they will lay their ears back. This is one of the first signs of pain shown on the pain grimace scale, used to judge a horses discomfort.
An often overlooked reason why horses carry their ears back is temperament. For many horses it is just they way they are. Introverts naturally carry their ears like this. It is a good way to judge temperament when looking at the head. Ears being held back in one picture can just be a moment in time. If they are held slightly back in every picture or every time you see the horse you can bet they will have an introverted temperament.
What else do we expect to see in an introvert? Aside from a low whorl or diagonal doubles, introverts can have a single center whorl. Head shape can be anything, convex, straight, or dished.
An introverted horse is a horse who is content within themselves. They are thinking, processing the information around them. Sometimes people make the mistake of underestimating their intelligence because they don’t respond immediately, which is a major mistake. Introverts can be extremely intelligent, they just don’t run around telling everyone about it like an extrovert does. They have a quiet, droll sense of humor.

Chins, Cause or Effect?

There are so many parts of the horses head that give us clues to their temperaments.
The chin and lips are some of these. They are unique from things like eyes and ears in that they are muscle.
The shape of eyes, ears, and profile are fairly well set. The horses are born with them and they don’t change. Chins and lips change and grow with the horse as the horse matures and develops their own unique personality. Which brings us to a very important question.
Does the shape of the chin and lips, the muzzle, show what the temperament will be or does the temperament cause the shape of the muzzle?
Frown lines don’t cause a person to spend their time frowning. Frowning causes frown lines to develop. Or, to the contrary, laugh lines. The way a person thinks, acts, and holds themselves is the cause of the way the lines of the face develop.
If a horse is curious and wants to explore with their mouth does this develop the muscles in the upper lip making it shapely and curvaceous? If a horse carries tension in tightly drawn lips does this build the muscling of the lips and chin adding lines, ridges, and layers for a complicated chin?
Some things, certain shapes and characteristics, are inherent and unchanging. A chin that comes to a point that gets hard with the lip flattening and extending when the horse is upset, is a born trait that accompanies several other traits. The sensitive skin that tends to wrinkle more than normal, that accompanies this chin type is far deeper than muscle development.
Looking at the way the muzzle develops over time can give us a lot of information. How much is cause and how much effect? That is hard to say.

Cattle Whorls

Whether choosing a steer to train or picking out a heifer or bull, we can gain clues to what they will be like by looking at the whorls on cattle’s head.
Whorls form in utero as the rest of the animal develops. When there is any abnormality in the cells, a whorl in the hair develops over it. As the brain forms, whorls develop where there is activity. Whorls on the outside of a cow give us a unique view to what is going on inside the cow. We can use them to judge temperament, health, and fertility.
There have been many studies done on cattle and their reactions to being run through the chute in comparison to their whorls. For the most part, cattle with center whorls were quieter and didn’t fight as much as cattle with higher whorls. Like in horses, high whorls on cattle show an extrovert, energetic and reactive. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They are also curious and interested in everything around them. In a small study, cattle with high whorls were less likely to lose calves to predators. Being aware of surroundings and alert to everything around them can have benefits.
No whorls at all show the same basic temperament as a high whorl.
A center whorl is normal and basic. It shows that there are no extremes of temperament in any direction. They are generally thought to be easier to train.
Low whorls show quieter cattle. A good thing, but there are pros and cons to everything. Cattle with low whorls have been found to be harder to handle in a herd, they will leave instead of staying in the bunch. They are also more likely to lose calves to predators.
Any unusual whorls, long lines or set off to the side, show low fertility or difficult temperaments. Bulls with long whorls have been found to have very low fertility.
We can gain knowledge from the whorls across a cows body too. A long line, horizontal across the lower belly, can tell us if a cow is bred. High whorls on either side of the brisket are a sign of good health. Whorls on the hind legs show rich milk.
There are so many ways we can make use of cattle whorls to tell if they will suit the job we have in mind for them. It’s well worth a look at the whorls on your cattle!

Pectoral Whorls

All horses have them. A feathered whorl down each side of the chest above the front legs.
Usually the pectoral whorls are even. Either both reaching high into the chest or both short and compact. The breed, type, and movement of the horse reflected in the hair.
Sometimes that isn’t the case. Occasionally the whorls will be uneven, one higher than the other. When this happens there will be a leg preference. The horse will want to reach farther with the leg that has the higher whorls. This will be the preferred lead.
What other consequences can it have?
It goes without saying, but still needs to be drilled into our heads, the entire body is connected. When there is something going on in one place it affects all the other body parts.
When a horse is out of balance in the front legs, what does it do through the rest of the body?
The first thing we would do is check the underside of the jaw and belly to see what those whorls look like. If they are even the effects will be less. If those whorls are uneven too, the whole body will be working against itself. The crookedness having far reaching consequences.
The higher pectoral whorl shows a stronger front leg. That strength and preference is echoed in the opposite hind leg. With these two legs being strongest, the hind leg opposite the low whorl will be weaker. Between overloading the front leg with the lower whorl because they like to use and reach with the leg with the higher whorl, and overloading that front leg because the corresponding hind leg is weaker, the leg with the lower whorl is more likely to be injured. This can range in severity from tendon and other soft tissue injuries to uneven hoof angles, hi/low syndrome.
The connections through the entire body are so strong that any unevenness ricochets from the chest through the hind quarters then back to the front legs. Little thing,s like a slightly stronger front leg, can have far reaching effects.

Neck Whorls

Lots of horses have whorls down the underside of their necks. Most of the whorls are small enough that they don’t make a lot of difference. A small whorl will be a small spot in the neck where the neck will be straighter. There will be a little bit of extra muscling there.
As the whorls get bigger the effect they have will grow. Long whorls the length of the neck will make a major difference in how the horse carries the neck. What that difference will be depends on the type of whorl. There are two basic types of whorls that take up space under the neck.
A zipper whorl is narrow and tight. The hair grows towards center making a ridge along the middle of the whorl. These whorls lead to an arched neck. A high arched neck if they are only on the neck, or a low neck that is carried forward instead of up but rounds nicely if the whorl goes down into the chest. These horses have a natural tendency to carry themselves balanced and working off the hindquarters.
An open splaying whorl, for lack of a better name, has hair that grows outward from center. If there is a ridge of hair it is along the outer edges of the whorl, circling it like a frame. The neck will curve downward into these whorls. Often horses with open splaying whorls will be built down hill and want to carry their noses in the air. With poor riding these whorls can accompany horses who will be uncomfortable and poorly balanced. They need help finding a good way to carry themselves.
Two very similar whorls with two very different outcomes. The small details are always important.

Mule Whorls

Looking at the forehead whorls on horses is understood and there are fairly basic rules. High shows an extrovert. Low shows and introvert. That much is simple.
What happens when we start looking at some not so basic equines?
Most mules and donkeys have low whorls. Those low whorls almost always have feathering. Does that mean that all donkeys and mules, I’ll call them long ears for ease of typing, are left brain introverts? Is there so little variation among them?
Not at all.
Long ears are different than horses in more ways than just the ears. Whorls on horses are located in close relation to the olfactory bulbs. The olfactory bulbs receive information about smells from the nose and send it to the brain by way of the olfactory tracts. These are very important to equines who have such a strong sense of smell. It isn’t surprising that whorls would be related closely to such a strong link to the brain. The olfactory bulbs in long ears are smaller and rotate inwards. Their whorls are NOT in as close of relation to the olfactory bulbs as horses are.
Instead long ears have whorls that are set farther down the face.
A center whorl on a long ear is half way down their nose in a position that would be an extremely low whorl on a horse. A whorl centered between the eyes is a high whorl for a long ear. There can still be low whorls on donkeys and mules, they are just lower low whorls.
Seeing an extrovert long ear is very possible! They posses all the usual patterns we would expect to see in horses, high whorls, low whorls, even double whorls. The one whorl type that is far more common in long ears than horses is no whorl at all. This shows a right brain animal, emotional and sensitive.
We can apply all the rules of whorls to long ears that we can to horses. We just need to readjust our view a little.

Understanding Horse Whorls

Understanding Horse Whorls is now available in paperback!

Since its release as an ebook in April of 2021 Understanding Horse Whorls has sold around the whorl. Here in the US, next door in Canada, from England to Australia, as well as the non English speaking countries of Norway, Germany, Paraguay, South Africa, Bulgaria, Germany, and the Netherlands. There have been others, but who can keep track!

People kept asking when it would be available in paper form? An ebook is great but a book you can hold in your hands has a special appeal. After lots of work and with a few new pieces of information, the transformation is complete and ready to be offered as a real book.

Full of pictures and in depth explanations Understanding Horse Whorls covers the whorls on the head, as well as throughout the entire body, the meanings of head shape, and even possible effects of color are covered. From old stories to new science every aspect of horse whorls are explored.

Then in the end the individual pieces are brought together as we look at real horses and show how a horse whorl analysis is done.

Click here for a video walk through of the book

Click here to find it on Amazon

Click here to join us for book discussion as well as more horse whorl talk on Facebook