Great story Bsms!
Time, consistency, observation, respect, acceptance and trust are all part of developing a relationship with a horse. At least in my experience.
My heart horse T was not an affectionate horse. She did her job and did what was asked, mostly with a good work attitude. Mostly because, being an opinionated mare there were moments when she gave hers. However, after a brief discussion would do as asked. She was calm, sane and loved her food!
It wasn't until many years after riding and then owning her that there was a slight change in her. She showed her trust and dare I say affection for me by putting her head flat on my chest. Normally T never wanted anything or one restraining or holding her head. Then she started to give me horse hugs by putting her head on my shoulder and leaning her head towards mine. This was huge!
Walka however , is a love bug and prefers to be near/with me no matter what I'm doing. Food is not his motivator. Sadly, neither is work! So while he is quite affectionate, I'd prefer more work ethic like his mom's (T) and we are working and making progress in that direction. Work can be fun, and I have to keep everything interesting and yes, challenging for him.
Misty, my new addition is a riot to me. I do not like to pester a horse when they are "on their own time". After a short time though, she seems to be much like Walka in that she wants to be where I am (maybe I'm her security as she is a little tense in nature), but also has a wonderful work ethic! Joy oh Joy!
Of course I do not have any misgivings about my horses "loving" me. I believe they see me as a leader and security. These are very important to their safety to them. It's as it should be I think. If I want an animal that looks at me with adoration in it's eyes, I will get a dog.