Affection and Dominance - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 09-21-2017, 07:21 PM Thread Starter
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Affection and Dominance

The horse I've been taking care of has recently begun to gently push his nose on me. He doesn't really push me, but he will kind of place his nose on my front pocket while I'm petting him. I always push his head away, but a few minutes later he'll do it again.

I don't carry treats in my pockets nor hand feed him. It's pretty cute, but I'm wondering if he's actually being dominate. He's a alpha type horse, and can get nippy, so I don't want this to turn into something else. The barn manager's advice is that he shouldn't ever come into my space uninvited, and that I need to be more forceful in my correction.

What are your opinions on this? Also, how do horses show affection to a person? I know that I need to be the leader, but I also want him to like me and want to be around me. How do you do both?

This is my first horse (although I don't actually own him: see my other posts for the story), and I want to do things right. I'm still learning how to be the "lead mare".

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post #2 of 14 Old 09-21-2017, 07:45 PM
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Why do you push the horse away when he is showing affection? That isn't a dominance issue and shouldn't be treated like one.

Horses tend to "hang out" with buddies. Dominance is when one is moving another one or preventing it from eating or drinking or such.

When I am petting my horses, they know all is good. They are relaxed and happy to be with me. My mare will sigh and rest her head on my shoulder when I pet her neck. She isn't being dominant "coming into my space" she is being affectionate. It is very important to be able to tell the difference.

That is why when I drive up they come up to the gate. When I walk into the pasture, they follow me. They are checking to see if I want them for anything. If I ignore them, they wander off, but a whistle will bring them back immediately.

That is dominance, kind dominance.
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post #3 of 14 Old 09-21-2017, 08:01 PM
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My horses are home. Every single morning, when I come in the barn, the one I have to walk past catches me with his lips --- he never tries to bite. He could brush my face, my arm, my hair --- just depends how I pass him.

If I stop to smooch him, he stands very quiet. With his head down (over his stall) enjoying the moment.

If you have children, you already know "how to do both" ------ be the leader yet have them like/love you:)

As for the BM ____ I Would imagine for the sake of safety with new people around horses, the one size fits all rule has to be applied. Even though the horse was not doing anything wrong in this instance, the BM can't afford to have anyone hurt by not following the rules.

A Good Horseman Doesn't Have To Tell Anyone; The Horse Already Knows.

I CAN'T ride 'em n slide 'em. I HAVE to lead 'em n feed 'em Thnx cowchick77.
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post #4 of 14 Old 09-21-2017, 08:26 PM Thread Starter
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That's my issue. I'm so new to this, that I don't really even know how to tell the difference.

When I was leading him back to his stall, he was being pretty pushy. He had heard the grain cart go by and knew there'd be grain in his stall. He usualy walks really well, but this time he was almost dragging me. I stopped him, and made him back up and we tried it again. Once he was walking nicely again, we went to the stall. He pretty much pushed his way to the grain. So I made him leave the stall and we walked around the barn and past his stall a couple times until he walked nicely in. Then, I let him have his grain after I got his halter off. Was that the right way to handle that situation?

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post #5 of 14 Old 09-21-2017, 08:39 PM
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YES, that is the right way to handle that.

The better way though is to not put any feed in the stall until the horse is already in it. They can get very anxious around feeding time. Use as much force as necessary to let the horse know that you are boss. I have even stood in front of the food bucket and pretended to eat some to make sure the horse knew I was #1 and he could be #2
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post #6 of 14 Old 09-21-2017, 08:52 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by walkinthewalk View Post
My horses are home. Every single morning, when I come in the barn, the one I have to walk past catches me with his lips --- he never tries to bite. He could brush my face, my arm, my hair --- just depends how I pass him.

If I stop to smooch him, he stands very quiet. With his head down (over his stall) enjoying the moment.

If you have children, you already know "how to do both" ------ be the leader yet have them like/love you:)

As for the BM ____ I Would imagine for the sake of safety with new people around horses, the one size fits all rule has to be applied. Even though the horse was not doing anything wrong in this instance, the BM can't afford to have anyone hurt by not following the rules.
He's a lesson horse, so I think that's what the bm is thinking. Just like how we aren't allowed to hand feed the horses. She said that little kids fingers look too much like baby carrots!

And no kids for me, thank God! Lol

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post #7 of 14 Old 09-21-2017, 09:42 PM
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this is such a convoluted subject, that can't be answered in black and white, and need the person to read the horse, thus decide if it is just affection, or a lack of respect
The just is no ABC book to horse handling or training, , but rather it requires a learning process, so you read a horse correctly, and thus keep that fine balance of your own reaction.
One horse might just be nuzzling , showing affection, while another might be frisking you for a treat! You the human, much read that horse correctly.
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post #8 of 14 Old 09-21-2017, 10:25 PM
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I agree with @Smilie in that you can't put it all under one umbrella.

If YOU sense that the horse is not 'pushing' on you, in the sense that it is trying to "make' you do something, then you should allow it to do what it wants to do. If you feel that is is 'pushing' you to do something, such as scratch it somewhere, or move your body somewhere, or give it a treat, then it's up to you to carefully consider how to react to that.
One can 'hear' the horse and oblige them (such as when they move to present their hind end for yoiu to scratch somewhere really needy), only IF you know that if the horse in question becomes overly entitled and pushy you can easily remind him of his place, then, IMO, by all means oblige him.
If not, then you tell him "uh-uh! get your hiney out of here! now!" and he won't ask you again.

all of this depends on how well YOU can read this horse, and how flexible this horse is to be allowed some freedom.

sorry there is not YES/NO answer to your question.
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post #9 of 14 Old 09-21-2017, 10:41 PM Thread Starter
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When he would put his head on me, my first reaction was that he was being affectionate. Kind of like how he's taken to putting his head down really low to let me scratch behind his ears (one of his favorite spots). But then I second guess myself.

I hope that the more I work with him, the more I will be able to read him. Like I said this is my first daily interactions with one horse.

I've only been helping around the stable since April. In fact I was surprised when they asked if I'd like to take care of him. I figured I didn't know nearly enough to be trusted with such responsibility. Granted, I have the guidance of everyone at the barn. It seems like everyone there has more faith in my ability than I do.

I'm also more than a little nervous that I'm going to do something wrong and ruin him. Not like I'd kill him or something, more like I'll teach him bad habits. Luckily I've heard that horses are pretty forgiving. With him being a beginner lesson (and a great one, I've been told) horse, I hope he is even more so.

There's so much to learn!

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post #10 of 14 Old 09-22-2017, 08:19 AM
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It's all so very contextual. I am not a proponent of the "horse showing respect (i.e. visible submission)" and "fill out forms in triplicate before being allowed to enter my personal space". So when my horse has a sweaty face after a ride and she wants to rub, I'll actually take her into a head-lock by putting my arm over her face and put some weight on it. Does she move me around when she rubs her face? Yes. Does it entail a risk that is not necessary to take? Yes. Does she disrespect me? Well - when I need her to back up, I tap her chest with my index and middle finger (like you'd tap them on a table) and I say, "Excuse me!". I'd say she respects my authority enough.

As for personal space and affection: I once stood next to her in her stall, leaning against the wall with my arms crossed. She rested her nose on my arms, upon which I rested my forehead between her eye and her ear. We stood like this for about a minute or so, until a distraction occurred. Could she have spooked and knocked me over with her head? Yes. Would I do it again? Anytime!

If your horse listens to your cues, and those cues are light, you don't have a "respect" issue. There is a risk when an animal that weighs over 1000 pounds shows affection, and only you can decide whether you want to take on that risk. If you correct him, you should do so for the right reasons.

Pro-tip: If you do not want your horse rubbing on you, let them rub on your front wearing a heavy metal belt buckle. It's self-correcting! :)
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