Relationship Horse vs. People - The Horse Forum
  • 2 Post By LesandLily
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post #1 of 9 Old 04-18-2013, 07:16 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2012
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Relationship Horse vs. People

Hi all,

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.
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post #2 of 9 Old 04-18-2013, 08:58 PM
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I don't tend to allow this behaviour at all *until* the horse has already learned well to 'respect' my space, not to push, etc. After that, I do *allow* it - that is, invite the horse into my space, but not just 'let' him do it whenever. I think it's up to you pretty much what you allow, so long as you keep safety in mind at all times & realise what behaviours may easily get out of hand... not just with yourself, but with others who may not be as consistent with timing & discipline. Eg. don't set him up to get into trouble with others.
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post #3 of 9 Old 04-18-2013, 09:14 PM
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I would let him do it as long as he isn't nipping or pushy. He is communicating and my horse lips me regularly and is never pushy.
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post #4 of 9 Old 04-18-2013, 09:17 PM
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If you watch two horses the dominant one is the one who initiates grooming and affection. Therefore I try to do this with my horses too. If I invite them into my personal space then they are welcome and I wil love on them and they can love on my all they want...within respectable reason. However if they come In uninvited then they get pushed back and not allowed to enter until I say. No different then a dominant member of the herd would do. If that is how it is set up I think you have a great, trusting, respectful relationship with your horse. If not then be sure you invite them in and while they are there they have to be respectful of their fragile human.

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Les Voorhis
Cowboy, Nature and Wildlife Photographer
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post #5 of 9 Old 04-19-2013, 05:49 AM
Green Broke
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This is not a good thing to me.

I don't allow this as it leads to problems down the road.

I want horse to focus on what I am doing and wanting it to do, not be licking me or nosing around.

And is a bad habit to get a horse into for that matter.

Where Baby Huey had been, the renter there in house would let him lick his arms and hands, and it has been a heck of a time to get him to stop. He has gone from being respectful, and knowing where to keep his head, to a pain.

Never get this started. You aren't a horse, and the grooming behavior does not relate to your interaction with one.

Horses make me a better person.
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post #6 of 9 Old 04-19-2013, 06:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Palomine View Post
And is a bad habit to get a horse into for that matter.
Oh I dunno - it can be a nice habit when you're hot & sweaty, bending over their hooves & they lick your back & cool you down!
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post #7 of 9 Old 04-19-2013, 06:49 AM
Green Broke
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Personally, I let it go. When we're just standing around or I'm grooming her, I have no problem with her rubbing my arm/hand with her lip and licking me.

If we're doing something, it doesn't happen. She knows when it's acceptable and when she'll get smacked in the face for it.

The only time I've had her crowd my space is when she's unsure about something. But even then, I don't view it as crowding me, she just inches a little bit closer as we walk over/through/past whatever it is. She still stays a respectable distance, but I usually lead my horses behind and off to the side, not at the head. So, crowding my space is different for me than with someone else who leads by the head. I like to be able to stop and do something without my horse right beside me, most likely in my way. In which, I don't always appreciate that she walks up to my shoulder, but that's where she was originally taught to lead from and think she feels more secure, has never run me over though.

I've had horses that you couldn't let lick/nuzzle you because they used it to get out of work and be disrespectful, it depends on the horse, IMO/IME.
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post #8 of 9 Old 04-19-2013, 10:40 AM
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Take it one step farther. If your horse is nuzzling your belly and something should suddenly frighten it, this same lovey horse will go over top of you. Horses have survived for millenia by being reactive.
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post #9 of 9 Old 04-19-2013, 01:01 PM
Join Date: Oct 2012
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My new mare is VERY cuddly, at first I was weary of it as my gelding is often like this but only if he senses I am upset or sad.

I have come to found my mare is just a complete sweetheart, she is not nipping or has even gestured a mean manner. I think it is completely BONDING. She is trained in Level 4 Parelli, if I want my space I give her the correct body language and she gives me my space.

Personally, I would be fine with it. If it turns into biting, etc, then get after your horse.

~A Cowboy's Chance~
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