(A FACS system adapted for horses)

What EquiFACS is:

The Horse Facial Action Coding System (EquiFACS) is a scientific observational tool for identifying and coding facial movements in horses. The system is based on the facial anatomy of horses and has been adapted from the original FACS system used for humans created by Ekman and Friesen (1978). The EquiFACS manual details how to use the system and code the facial movements of horses objectively. The manual and certification is freely available (see below). 

More info regarding the development of this FACS system can be found here:

Wathan, J., Burrows, A. M., Waller, B. M., & McComb, K. (2015). EquiFACS: the equine facial action coding system. PLoS one, 10(8), e0131738.


EquiFACS is not an ethogram of facial expressions, and does not make any inference about any underlying emotion or context causing the movement. Instead this is an objective coding scheme with no assumption about what represents a facial expression in this species. It will not explicitally teach you horse facial expressions. 

What EquiFACS isn't:

Accessing the manual

Accessing the Test

To access the EquiFACS manual, please fill out the form below. Further details, including a link to the manual, will be sent to the email which you provide. 

If you do not receive the manual within 24 hours (this is usually instant) please contact us. 

To become a certified EquiFACS coder, we encourage you to take the associated test. The EquiFACS test involves trainees to accurately code the facial movements in a series of video clips.

The materials for the test, and further instructions, can be found with the manual, and can also be accessed via the form below. 

The people behind it

EquiFACS was developed thanks to the joint effort of:

  • Jennifer Wathan, University of Sussex
  • Bridget M. Waller, Department of Psychology, Nottingham Trent University. 
  • Anne M. Burrows, Department of Physical Therapy, Duquesne University
  • Karen McComb, University of Sussex


We would like to thank countless owners for letting us video their horses. Particular thanks must go to Sussex Horse Rescue Trust, Bowler’s Riding School, and Little Park Farm. Katie Slocombe, Will Teasley and Becky Spooner helped with the collection of video data. We are grateful to Cátia Caeiro and Karen Schmidt for valuable advice, and also thanks to Cátia, Kate Grounds, Amy Smith, and Charlotte Lillis for help with the reliability coding. We must credit and thank Tim Smith for the anatomical drawing. Perry Habecker at the New Bolton Centre, University of Pennsylvania, sourced the specimen for the dissection. Emily Durham deserves a huge thank you for dealing with the specimen and thanks to Helen Spence for giving a second opinion on the age of the horse.