This is basically about the line between between a horse showing affection vs. dominance, and where you all think that line should be. It's all about a TWH gelding my friend purchased a few months back, whom I've been working with and training on a regular basis. She wants him to be a trail horse. However, the complication lies in that he was abused for the first three years of his life, and he is VERY afraid of people in general, and very untrustworthy when it comes to a herd environment.
Recently, he's started nuzzling and putting his head on my stomach, and sometimes even licking my arm. I fully understand a horse body language, and all my other horses respect both me and my personal space, so that is not the issue. I know that some of these behavior might lead to pushing or nipping, but I honestly do not think this is the case. He does not do this to anyone else, and I think it may be because he not only trusts me, but respects me more now (we've done A TON of groundwork). Is it acceptable to let a horse get away with such behavior? He was isolated and, in all honesty, does not understand how to act around other horses, so is it possible that he simply doesn't understand how to display his trust or submission? I must sound rather stupid...but I've just never dealt with a horse with this kind of history, and I must say, he is somewhat throwing me off!!
Anyways, what do you all think about this behavior? Should I let him proceed, or should I not let him? I'm not looking to be bashed on my horsemanship, he knows his place, I'm just wondering what your opinions are on whether or not this is acceptable given the circumstances, and how you think I should act towards him when this happens.