Pet vs Pat - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 38 Old 04-12-2019, 02:24 PM Thread Starter
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Pet vs Pat

So, I was kind of wondering pet vs pat.

I never pat my horse - I pet, so I was wondering about those who do.

When some people physically praise their horse by patting, does their horse actually like that? I mean, it doesn't really seem as "normal" (I know, everything we do with horses isn't "normal") compared to petting (or stroking or scratching).

I know that some sensitive horses don't really like it, and that others can become desensitized/ignore/tolerate it, but do they actually learn to like/enjoy it over petting as physical praise? If so, how can you tell they actually like it rather than simply being "used to it"?

I also know that some horses simply don't like any physical praise, so that's not really what I asking.

Last edited by Equilibrium; 04-12-2019 at 02:29 PM.
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post #2 of 38 Old 04-12-2019, 02:29 PM
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Here is a funny thing I heard once and paying attention to it I think itís true in my experience. I heard rubbing a horse is praising him and patting a horse is praising oneself. Now, if I pay a lot of attention to myself I do notice that my feelings are in line with that statement. Watching other people I notice it too.

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post #3 of 38 Old 04-12-2019, 02:33 PM Thread Starter
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That's interesting.
I've seen videos YouTube, and some people are basically slapping their horse as praise whilst yelling "GOOD!"
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post #4 of 38 Old 04-12-2019, 03:50 PM
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I never whacked a horse with the intent to "praise" it. It's a stroking rub or a scratch. I also don't rub their faces like I'm polishing silver...unless they start to lean into me. Then I offer them my fingernails and let them have at it at their preferred level of intensity - which is sometimes surprising! :)
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post #5 of 38 Old 04-12-2019, 03:53 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mmshiro View Post
I also don't rub their faces like I'm polishing silver....
Yeah. I've noticed a lot of people like to man-handle the horse's face to praise it, like a dog. Some horses seem to kind of like it, but others would prefer not.
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post #6 of 38 Old 04-12-2019, 04:11 PM
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Some people tend to get carried away and slap the horse's neck as a "praise". I'll pat gently, but it's usually a rub or scratch. That's what horses would do to each other when they groom.
If I manhandled my mare's face like a crazy person I wonder if she'd bite me. She would hate it, that's for sure. No sudden slappy motions around her head, thanks.

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post #7 of 38 Old 04-12-2019, 05:29 PM
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I don't pat either because I heard it can confuse the horse. Both my boys LOVE scratchies though--especially around their eyes, ears and under the jaw. My paso even likes it when I use the manure fork to scratch his belly! My sister's qh will back his hind end up to you and expect you to scratch his dock and buttcheeks. Oh, and neck rubs--they love that, too.
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Last edited by pasomountain; 04-12-2019 at 05:37 PM.
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post #8 of 38 Old 04-12-2019, 06:30 PM
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I do all three at different times for different occasions, my pats are never hard tho'.
Standing with my horse I will stroke her neck while talking to her and sometimes give her a good scratch, she is good at letting me know where to scratch but often riding I will pat or rub her neck (Not hard) and praise her and she seems to know what I mean.

I had a young gelding that we were having a problem getting the right lead, left lead was fine but not the right. One day I asked for the right lead and got it right away. I was so pleased and patted him and praised him extravagantly, tried and got it again, more praise.
Then after some different schooling I asked for the good lead, the left and he stepped out on the right one. I had to laugh I guess he figured if the right one pleased me so much he would do it again. Does that mead pats and praise do the job??
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post #9 of 38 Old 04-12-2019, 06:49 PM
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I think it mostly depends on the body language and whatever else the horse reads. I believe a friendly slap on the butt as one walks by is a positive if the feeling is positive and the horse knows you. Horses will sometimes give one another friendly nudges.

That said, Temple Grandin says firm stroking brings memories of the mothers tongue licking. I've experimented with that on both horses and bovines and it seems to work in calming them somewhat. The woman who thinks like a cow should know!

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post #10 of 38 Old 04-12-2019, 07:10 PM
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Another good question OP. If you're doing it with the intention of rewarding the horse, or just being nice to him, IME horses don't generally like being patted/slapped, however gently - although my old mare used to enjoy being smacked hard on the rump, and I've met a cat that loved that too, and one of my dogs does too. So never say never! But a lot of horses IME don't really like being 'petted' or groomed either. So if you're intending it as a reward for the horse, you need to take notice of whether the horse actually likes whatever you're doing/giving.

Of course, patting or whatever else can become a meaningful *signal* when it's paired with a meaningful consequence, either 'good' or 'bad'.

And I do also pat my horses as part of their desensitisation training, because other people who meet them are inclined to do this and I don't want them reacting when they're smacked on the neck.
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