Showing Affection To Your Horse - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 09-27-2012, 08:20 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2012
Location: Louisiana
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Showing Affection To Your Horse

I am trying to find out appropriate ways to show affection to my horse in a way he can understand and appreciate. I do all the usual stuff like fly spray, brushing, scratching in the good spots when he is being good. Based on some stuff I have read on the internet, I have started avoiding touching his face and patting him. He does enjoy having his poll and the base of his ears scratched so I do that as long as he doesn't try to rub his face on me. I stopped patting him at all and starting gently rubbing him with my knuckles or the palms of my hands instead to make the distinction between a correction or admonition and an affectionate touch more distinct.

I try to reserve what I am considering an affectionate touch for when he is being good during a ride (a gentle touch on the neck and a word or two of praise when he is being especially compliant) or during my "visiting" time on days when I don't ride him. I try to spend at least 5 minutes per day with him even when I don't ride him. I am wondering, though - does he consider the touches to be affectionate or am I really only benefiting myself? He enjoys the scratching and grooming, of course, and the rubbing seems to relax him but I can't really tell for sure. How do horses show affection to each other? I'm no horse, but it might be easier for him to understand and appreciate what I was trying to tell him if I did it the horse way.

This is my first horse and I don't have much horsey experience. I have had him for 6 months and we've had our rough patches but I think we've both really come along in terms of our mutual skill as a horse/rider team. He was green broke when I got him but now he's the perfect trail horse for me. I did all of his wet saddle pads and training myself and I'm really proud of both of us. Don't worry, I'm very firm with him and don't let him get a single toe out of line, but I think it's important to be soft sometimes as well as hard. How do you show affection to your horse? Any input from the community is appreciated!
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post #2 of 10 Old 09-27-2012, 08:30 PM
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My horses certainly appreciate a good pat, in fact my 2 year old and 10 year old fight over my attention, the 10 year old with put his head very gently against my chest and fall asleep while I pat his face.
The 2 year old nearly falls over when I get right in for a hard ear scratch session :P

With horses, you just need to remember that they are not dogs. It's nice to give them a pat but they don't feel 'love' towards you, as you do to them.
The greatest security and affection you can provide a horse, is to be a clear leader. They need to respect your boundaries, and trust that in a crisis situation, you will not allow them to get hurt. Patting, cuddling and sweet talking doesn't make you a leader to a horse. You're a source of comfort when all is well, but if something 'scary' comes along, the horse will not look to you to save it.
Ground work, developing control over every part of the horses body is what will create a more secure 'bond' if you like, not cute patting and cuddling.
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post #3 of 10 Old 09-27-2012, 08:57 PM
Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Sterling, Virginia, USA
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Reno enjoys pats, rubs, hugs, and nose kisses.

I have to somewhat disagree with Kayty. My horse definitely feels SOMETHING in the way of affection/love towards me. I only visited him twice at the rescue before adopting him (I did not bring treats, nor was I able to touch him a lot or stay long since it was cold outside). The second time I visited, he saw me and perked straight up from his rescue-horse-slump. One of the people there said something that I absolutely believe is true, "he knows he's yours."

During the almost-year I've had him, I haven't been able to spend a whole lot of time with him other than feeding him and turning him out/bringing him in while I worked at the farm he's boarded at. My days were packed full with barn work and my employment, and my nights were spent resting up for the next full day of work. I live one state away and have hardly had time to even visit him. The BO and students see, feed, train, and ride him more often than I even see him. Yet I'm the only person he perks up with when he sees them.

He follows me around, he gives me horse "snuggles" and "kisses". He acts exactly like any of my former canines. So yes, horses have the capacity to feel affection of some kind. Perhaps not what we define as "love", but they feel something akin to it.
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post #4 of 10 Old 09-27-2012, 09:06 PM
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Petting and talking to them goes a long way. I like to brush and talk to my horses at feeding time because I think they learn to associate me with comfort. Sometimes Victor will even fall asleep with his head in my arms. It's so cute. :)

You can be as lovey-dovey as you want as long as your horse knows his boundaries. I wouldn't be that liberal with a horse that had a tendency to be pushy.

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post #5 of 10 Old 09-27-2012, 09:17 PM
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Reno, I didn't say they felt nothing ;) But horses don't emotionally attach themselves in a 'love' type relationship. If it came to crunch time, no matter what kind of 'special bond' you have with that horse, it will always save itself and leave you behind. Their flight instinct has been ingrained into them for thousands of years, they're just not going to do a "Flick" or "Black Stallion" and take on a mountain lion to save your life.
As I said in my post above, I have a great relationship with my two geldings, my youngster comes to me for a pat and cuddle before he'll tuck into his breakfast or dinner, and my 10 year old pushes other horses out of the way, and chases them off if they come close to me. He'll then thand quietly with his head against my chest, or his chin on my shoulder having a snooze.

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post #6 of 10 Old 09-27-2012, 09:30 PM
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: Ohio
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Levi loves his throat latch area to be rubbed. I just recently found that he likes it on his neck too, right in front of his withers, where horses sometimes itch/groom eachother. He stretches his whole neck out and does a wobbly thing with his lips. Lol.
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post #7 of 10 Old 09-27-2012, 09:34 PM
Join Date: Jun 2012
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Raina LOVES to be curried under her barrel, where the girth goes. I've never seen a horse enjoy that spot so much.

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post #8 of 10 Old 09-27-2012, 09:42 PM
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Oh they do have that fight or flight thing going. Fortunately *knocks on wood* I don't think we'll have to be in a situation like that. One of the mares in particular is a big meanie to him when I visit. Attention hog. She bites, kicks, and otherwise tries to run him away from me. He just calmly walks or trots behind me, the big baby.

Since I'll be working there again soon I'll be spending a lot more time with my boy. Trust building and all that.

I've honestly never seen Flicka or the Black Stallion. I wouldn't expect my horse to protect me or even stick around if we were in imminent danger. He does understand, though, that if I am with him certain things like gunshots in the woods, the plastic bag blowing around the field, that oh-so-scary tractor...they're not going to hurt him. I won't let them (even if they could). He gets it...small things I don't expect a flight response from.

It's scarily odd how affectionate he is.
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post #9 of 10 Old 09-27-2012, 10:01 PM
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Tarpan , from your description, you alreay have a good relationship with your horse and are doing quite well. What you are doing is the way to go. over time you start to see places where your horse wants to be connected, and where he wants to be left in peace. your sensitivity to that and willingness to just be there without always having an agenda is like heaven to a horse.
I think your horse is happy with his human.
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post #10 of 10 Old 09-27-2012, 10:10 PM
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: Maryland
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I take my fingers and massage a part of their crest when I'm riding if we are taking a walk break ond she's been good. It's like another horse nibbling on their mane for grooming/affection. It must release endorphins because my mare always yawns when I do it. Also, when I touch her poll like I'm going to put the bridle on, she starts yawning. Yawning releases endorphins and makes whatever it is (in this case bridling) a pleasant experience. Also, you can "chew" on their withers with your fingernails as long as they don't try to groom back. My gelding grooms back and I've felt teeth before, so I don't do it to him. My mare will turn her head the other direction and wiggle her lips around, so it's ok to "groom" her like a horse would.

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