Swirlology: What’s in a Whorl?

Lila Gendal shares a few theories about how the whorl on your horse’s face might directly correlate with his or her personality.

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From Lila:

Ever wondered about the whorl on your horse’s face? How high up or low is the whorl? Does your horse have a double or single whorl? Usually, this becomes a topic of conversation when my vet comes every spring to draw Coggins, as this document describes the horse’s physical appearance.

This is my mare, Valonia.


Her whorl is above her eyes. Of course there are whorls, or swirls, in several other places on your horse’s body, like the chest, neck, temple, etc. Does this simple swirl on your horses head mean anything, or could it mean everything?

For starters, what the heck is a whorl, or a swirl? Simply put, it’s a patch of hair growing in the opposite direction of the hair that surrounds the area. These whorls are most commonly found on the head, the face in particular. The whorls found on other body parts are typically referred to as trichoglyphs or “cowlicks.” The theories surrounding whorls and how they dictate personality characteristics in horses have been talked about and studied for thousands of years. There are countless theories out there, which is why I am not about to stamp my name next to one particular claim. Instead, I want to provide some ideas about the various whorls and see whether or not these theories line up with our own horses personalities!

After some research, I have found that most of the studies tend to favor these explanations regarding the positioning of the whorl on a horses face:

1)      A whorl positioned right above the eyes represents the most common whorl and tends to result in an even-tempered and uncomplicated creature.

2)      Whorls below the eyes usually results in a horse with a higher IQ. In other words, this below-the-eye whorl horse might be a trickster who likes to plan his or her escape out of their stall in the morning. They are inquisitive and can be sneaky.

3)      Whorls on the left of the face could suggest a complicated but trustworthy horse.

4)      Whorls on the right can indicate an obstinate personality.

5)       Horses with one long whorl tend to be people-friendly.

6)      Double whorl horses can have multiple personalities. They tend to be more complicated and difficult to read at first glance.

7)      Three or more whorls are extremely rare and suggest unpredictability… so watch out!

 There might be more swirlology to study, but for now, that’s all I have. So… where’s your horse’s whorl and does the description match your horses personality?

My name is Lila Gendal and I am 27 years old. I am from Vermont and have been riding horses since I was 6 years old. I have been eventing since I was 10. I have been riding and training with Denny Emerson for the last 7 years. My goal is to compete at the upper levels someday. I currently have a 2005 Holsteiner mare, “Valonia” (Contester X Parlona), who is currently going training level, and I am riding one of Denny Emerson’s horses, a 2005 Selle Luxemburg gelding, “Beaulieu’s Cool Skybreaker” (Beaulieu’s Coolman X Une Beaute by Heartbreaker) who will be moving up to training soon! When I am not on a horse or in the barn I am likely working in my office on what I like to call Equine Media… or social media for equestrians and equestrian websites.

V aug jump school!


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