- Associated Press - Sunday, July 20, 2014

FREMONT, Neb. (AP) - Maddie Thomas knows the importance of being able to “read” a horse.

The 8-year-old Cedar Bluffs girl has been showing horses for three years. Like many young horsewomen, Maddie recognizes that part of doing well in a show ring involves cooperation from the horse.

And that involves knowing the animal.

Maddie recently shared her equine knowledge before competing at the Fremont 4-H Fair with her quarter horse, Josie.

Outside the livestock arena at Christensen Field, Maddie’s horse had a sleepy-eyed look.

“See how they’re half-closed?” Maddie said, referring to Josie’s big brown eyes. “That means she’s really calm.”

If Josie’s ears go flat against her head, she’s not happy. If her ears go forward, she’s looking at something, said Maddie’s mom, Kristyn.

Reese Hanson, 11, of Herman has learned to read some signals from her 6-year-old pony, Annie.

When Annie is bored, she paws on the ground with her hoof, Reese said.

“I can tell when she’s confused: She kind of throws her head up a little bit,” Reese said.

Horses can differ in their reactions.

“Some horses show their emotions differently than other horses,” Jayden Henton, 12, of Blair, told the Fremont Tribune (http://bit.ly/1mOcHdj ).

Not every horse is mad when it flattens its ears against its head.

“Some horses, when they put their ears back, it means that maybe there’s something behind them or they have a fly on them or whatever,” Jayden said.

So it’s important to know the horse.

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