Horse psychology? I know nothing about horses at all. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 02-26-2012, 01:13 PM Thread Starter
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Horse psychology? I know nothing about horses at all.

Hi, I am just curious about something so I thought I'd drop by a horse forum because there might be people here who are experienced with horses and their behaviour.

Just for the record, I know nothing about horses. I've never ridden a horse, I've never owned a horse, I've never taken care of a horse. I have 0 experience with horses. I want to learn to ride a horse but it'll be a long time before I can afford lessons.

Okay, on-topic: My question is, can anyone explain the behaviour in the following story?

I was walking past a field today and two horses were standing in the field. I had been walking for a while and I was tired so I thought I'd take a break and watch them graze while I rested and drank some water. I stood by the gate and they both came over to me. The bigger one lifted its head over the gate and sort of sniffed me. I wanted to pet it but it pulled its head away quickly so I retracted my hand. It then lowered its head to the ground by the gate and kind of snorted and then lifted its head up and walked off.

The second slightly smaller one then lifted its head over the gate and put its nose right in my face. I got nervous and took a step back but I know animals can sense fear and I didn't want the horse to get nervous too. It let me pet it on the nose and side of its face before swinging its head up and down, then it lowered its head and pressed its forehead right up against my chest and gave a gentle push, not quite a nudge.

I wanted to complete my journey before it got dark so at this point I decided to resume my walk. As I walked away the bigger one neighed loudly.

I am terrible at reading horse behaviour. I haven't a clue if these horses were irritated, nervous or just plain curious or even playful. Does anybody else have any clue if the horses were irritated by my presence? Maybe that's what the head-swing and head-push was all about? I mean, I don't have any idea, so that's why I'm asking.

I realise it's probably quite hard to tell without having actually been there to see it, but maybe my description offers enough clues to make some educated guesses as to how the horses felt about me? Also, what's the best way to approach a horse? Again, I have no idea about that either.

If there's any more information you need me to add just let me know.
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post #2 of 11 Old 02-26-2012, 01:22 PM
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From what I gather, and I am no expert, but have had horses my whole life...and I take it as they were curious who you were cause horses by nature are very curious animals..the snorting and sniffing...they were just smelling you to see what you were and what you smelled like. Some horses are just not 'people' sociable and will tolerate a simple pat and then they are done..and then there are some like the other horse that put it's head in your chest that want a little more loving..he could of also had an itch on his face and was simply trying to itch it. I don't believe they were irritated with you, if they were you would've known it..they possibly would've pinned thier ears back and tried to snip at you..I believe they were just curious and when they found out what you were...they were satisfied and went back to thier regular routine. And the neighing could've just been a simple way he was saying hey, look at me!
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post #3 of 11 Old 02-26-2012, 01:46 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for your quick reply. It's relieving to know they weren't irritated - their ears were propped forward and they didn't snip at me or anything. I do get nervous with horses admittedly due to a lack of experience with and understanding of them. The ponies I passed on the way to uni used to just try and eat my clothes so I tried to avoid them, not that I didn't love them to pieces (grew quite attached seeing them as I passed nearly every day), I was just too nervous to approach them.

Hoping to start volunteering at a stable soon, maybe I can learn to relax around horses.
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post #4 of 11 Old 02-26-2012, 02:04 PM
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They were just checking you out. Horses are very curious, and the one that walked away, may have been mainly coming to see what you might have to eat.

May also have been that first horse was not the leader, so walked away when other horse wanted to see you.
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post #5 of 11 Old 02-26-2012, 04:35 PM Thread Starter
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They did seem curious, true. It was a bit scary having such a large animal come up to me like that, I was raised a city kid so I'm just not used to it. But I was just in such awe, they're such beautiful animals. I just wish I knew their language. Perhaps I can learn how to read them better.
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post #6 of 11 Old 02-27-2012, 03:02 AM Thread Starter
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Can anyone advise how to best approach a horse? Are horses one of those animals that you shouldn't look directly in the eyes?
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post #7 of 11 Old 02-27-2012, 04:24 AM
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Ideally unless you know a horse you shouldn't approach it. Remember they can be dangerous. Ella is just as likely to try take a chunk out of you as she is to be your buddy. Also some people can be really funny about people they don't know interacting with their horses.

If you can try volunteering at a local barn most places would be happy for you to pick poo fill hay nets in exchange for some basic handling 'lessons'

If not a barn perhaps their owner if you know them. Seriously you can come pick up poo/weeds fix stuff for me ANYTIME
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post #8 of 11 Old 02-27-2012, 04:41 AM
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Prinella is right, you shouldn't approach horses you don't know without their owners knowing or supervision, especially if you can't read their body language yet. For example, my BO has a mare who looks like the sweetest thing from a distance and will even approach you in a friendly manner. But in fact she has hormonal issues which make her extremely mare-ish and cranky, and she may strike, bite and kick absolutely out of the blue when in heat, so everybody is warned to stay clear of her. If you encounter such a horse, you may put yourself in great danger - horses can kill.
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post #9 of 11 Old 02-27-2012, 09:53 AM Thread Starter
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Hmm... maybe I should rephrase. I should have maybe said "what's the best approach to take to horses". I didn't mean actually walk up to them and interact with them, I'm scared of them anyway so that's not going to happen.

But you answered my question anyway (I think?) in that maybe it's better to back away from them if they come near me. But I want to not startle them. As I said, when it lifted its head over I got kind of nervous but I was too nervous to back off in case I scared them so I could only manage a slow step back. What's the best way to handle that kind of situation?

Also, another question (sorry... lots of questions) sometimes when I am walking by horses on country roads I get really scared that they're going to kick me as they walk by (I've seen enough youtube videos of it happening unexpectedly without warning). How can I best avoid that from hapening? The rider either usually smiles and says hi or ignores me, but that doesn't really put me at any ease. How do you look at a horse as it's walking past, do you avoid looking them in the eyes like most other animals?
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post #10 of 11 Old 02-27-2012, 10:32 AM
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Those horses were probably looking for treats & when none came they wandered off.
If you meet a ridden horse it is best to give it room & let the rider handle it.
Yes, you can look at horses in the eye.
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