Taste & Touch - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 12-16-2017, 10:40 PM Thread Starter
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Question Taste & Touch

My next questions from my book that I need answered...

Food:
What feeds to horses usually like? (Hay, apples, carrots, any more?)
What feeds do horses commonly dislike?
Why do horses like earth or metal?
Why would a horse reject feed or water?
What strategies would someone use to entice a horse to eat or drink?

Touch:
How do horses react to touch/grooming to these areas?
-face, muzzle, ears, eyes
-neck and shoulders
-back
-loin or hip
-barrel
-flank
-underside/belly
- (Don't make this one awkward just tell the plain facts) Genitals
-Legs

I am often around horses but they are extremely desensitized since they are in a therapeutic program. So I don't know how a normal horse would react.
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post #2 of 11 Old 12-16-2017, 11:19 PM
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well, horses are very capable learners, so what is 'normal' can be modified a great deal, and still be 'horse' behavior.

as far as touch, it varies so much! they can feel a fly land on their skin, and yet, if they are feeling itchy, they will want to be rubbed VERY hard on the itchy spot and get real pleasure from that.

I like to run my hand over certain areas , scratching, and I watch the horse's face to see how he is reacting to each place. He'll tell you where it feels good, and where it doesn't, and it'a a very individual thing.

That said, most horses love to be scratched on the top of the scapula (shoulder bone). real hard! I position my hands so that my fingers are shaped just like the top row of teeth of a horse, and I scratch this way. it feels just like another horse doing mutual 'friend' grooming.
you will know you have struck a sweet spot if you see the hrose stretch out his neck and often do 'air' grooming with his mouth, or at least twitch his lips back and forth in pleasure.

Female horses often build up a later of 'crud' between the teets, and they will LOVE to have that scratched off . folks say, "Gross!", but it's just crud and you can wash your hands later. Do watch the face for a bit to make sure the mare is cool with this, 'cause she might get defensive . . . or she may go into a coma of pleasure!
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post #3 of 11 Old 12-16-2017, 11:35 PM
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Food:
What feeds to horses usually like? (Hay, apples, carrots, any more?) Do you mean in the treat category or sustaining food?
What feeds do horses commonly dislike?
Why do horses like earth or metal? What do you mean?
Why would a horse reject feed or water? The horse might be sick, his teeth might need attention (regarding food), or he might have a sore or an abrasion that makes food and water intake uncomfortable.
What strategies would someone use to entice a horse to eat or drink? For water, you can add flavour like that of apples, carrots, peppermints, or anything else the horse particularly enjoys. Food is much the same, make it taste better using yummy stuff the horse likes.

Touch:
How do horses react to touch/grooming to these areas?
-face, muzzle, ears, eyes Horses usually enjoy being scratched at the base of the ears, on the underside of their muzzle, and their face, although some horses might like being petted more, in the latter area. Most of the time, they'll react to being petted over their eyes by moving away; they usually start feeling trapped and scared when they can't see. Of course, if the horse is head shy, he isn't going to let you pet him anywhere on his head.
-neck and shoulders The withers are a good place to scratch in a circular movement; it tends to relax them.
-back Kinda meh; or at least, my horses don't really care, or have any specific reaction.
-loin or hip If they're not used to being touched on their hindquarters, most horses I know will just kinda tuck it in, and move away... Or they might kick out at you if they think you're a threat.
-barrel Pretty much same as back.
-flank Getting close to sensitive parts, so they'll likely pull away, or at least tuck their belly in to try and avoid touch.
-underside/belly The belly is another place that horses are sensitive/careful with, so unless they're used to being handled they might move away.
- (Don't make this one awkward just tell the plain facts) Genitals Very sensitive place, and they know that an injury inflicted there would be bad, so without desensitization and training, they won't let you touch them there.
-Legs Again, if the horse is trained well and desensitized... no problem. If not, an injury to the legs could prove fatal as they wouldn't be able to run from a threat. (Domestication doesn't matter; they still have these instincts, and they will still act on them.)

The horse's reaction also does depend on a lot of things, so my answers are just to give you an idea. And I'm also still learning, so... Take it with a grain of a salt?

Hold on to what makes you happy! If it tries to buck you off, just hold on even tighter!
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post #4 of 11 Old 12-17-2017, 12:37 AM Thread Starter
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@JoBlueQuarter

For foods I would like to know about both sustaining feed and treats. My book doesn't specify so I need to know both. :)
I would like to understand why a horse would want to lick metal or the ground, i've never actually seen a horse like the ground...

Thanks for answering some questions. I hope to figure out more about the food part though!


@Tiny lily I love seeing horses respond positively when I scratch the itchy spots. It puts a smile on my face.
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Last edited by AllAboutHorses; 12-17-2017 at 12:42 AM.
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post #5 of 11 Old 12-17-2017, 02:09 AM
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Horses are designed to eat forage, as the main part of their diet, if not the entire diet. They prefer lush green grass over hay, nice leafy green hay over more mature hay, ect
Horse s, like us, can get an acquired taste, and unfortunately, horses do not know what is good for them and what is not. Give a horse a chance and he would binge in a grain bin, then colic or founder. High sugar treats taste good, so of course hroses love them.
Thus, we have to be the adult, and feed a horse as to what is good for him, and not what he likes.
Horses have died from grabbing some olenander, have foundered eating high grain diets, forage too high in nSC.
Therefore, you would be better off learning as to what is good for a horse, and not what the horse just likes.
Would you let a child binge on candies and chocolate, just because the child likes them?


Why taste dirt and metal?Well, taste is one way horse learns about an object, and why foals in particular are very mouthy. Eating dirt can just be a bad habit, or the horse might be missing some minerals

Horse not drinking or eating, with drinking being the biggy-first, take a temp.
You have to investigate the 'big'picture. If a horse has been on lush pasture all day, he is not likely to eat some mature hay. Change of feed, can also be a cause
Drinking, after temp, check to make sure there is no short ,if you have a heater in the trough. If it is strange water, your horse will be drinking on a trip, start adding some flavor to his water before you go, so he is used to that taste. In cold weather some horses don't have a thirst trigger, so add some salt to his feed, to encourage drinking.
Far as where they liked to be touched and how, Tiny has answered that.
Unless your therapy riding included equine reproduction and sheath cleaning, I don't think you need to worry about handling equine genitals
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post #6 of 11 Old 12-17-2017, 11:39 AM Thread Starter
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@Smilie Somehow I forgot that horses eat grass, must be because we're in the middle of winter of here. Haha.
I totally agree with not feeding too much grain or high sugar treats.

Thanks for your answer for food they enjoy and reasons a horse would refuse food.
As for how horses respond to touch, I don't necessarily need to know for my riding but the study that I'm doing in school needs me to know how they respond before I go get tested for it. However, I did assume that a horse would not appreciate being touched there if they weren't desensitized... and even if they were.
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post #7 of 11 Old 12-27-2017, 05:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smilie View Post
.?
Eating dirt can just be a bad habit, or the horse might be missing some minerals
I agree that it can be because they are lacking minerals but, horses graze very close to the ground and ingest a lot of dirt

Horses on stable rest, if you pull a large clump of grass with roots and leave it with them, all that will be left is any stone.

Having cut open many dead horses I have seen a lot of dirt through the gut. Sand is heavier than soil and it will impact in the gut which is why there can be problems.
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post #8 of 11 Old 12-27-2017, 08:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AllAboutHorses View Post
My next questions from my book that I need answered...

Food:
What feeds to horses usually like? (Hay, apples, carrots, any more?)
What feeds do horses commonly dislike?
Why do horses like earth or metal?
Why would a horse reject feed or water?
What strategies would someone use to entice a horse to eat or drink?

Touch:
How do horses react to touch/grooming to these areas?
-face, muzzle, ears, eyes
-neck and shoulders
-back
-loin or hip
-barrel
-flank
-underside/belly
- (Don't make this one awkward just tell the plain facts) Genitals
-Legs

I am often around horses but they are extremely desensitized since they are in a therapeutic program. So I don't know how a normal horse would react.
Food:
What feeds to horses usually like? (Hay, apples, carrots, any more?)

Some horses are picky or dainty eaters, others are Hoovers. Mine love grass, hay, alfala (fresh, cubes & pellets not so much), beet pulp, apples, carrots, bananas, peppermint & licorice horse treats and of course, any high sugar grain.

What feeds do horses commonly dislike?

It varies from horse to horse. And horses are suspicious by nature, so any time you change their feed or hay, they won't eat it just because. I remember buying Timothy hay once, gorgeous stuff, $26/bale back when you could buy 100# bales of alfalfa for $6, and they threw it on the ground, peed on it, pooped on it and did everything but eat it. One of them was so incensed about it that he threw his hay feeder out of his corral. In a week, it was the best stuff on earth.

Why do horses like earth or metal?

Frequently because they're missing something. Especially foals. If I see a foal licking dirt, I start with the Gro Strong Minerals. They quit licking the dirt when they've gotten their minerals balanced. Metal...who knows? Copper for the taste and I suspect sometimes it's like a pacifier effect, lick the metal and they calm down.

Why would a horse reject feed or water?

Illness or injury or suspicion. Some horses have to have water from home when they travel or the refuse to drink.

What strategies would someone use to entice a horse to eat or drink?

If a horse appears to not be drinking enough, I salt their food and give soaked beet pulp. If the are off their feed as well, then a tube of electrolyte paste (very salty) will usualy get them started again. In the case of illness or injury, pain can cause them to go off. Giving Banamine or Bute to break a fever or stop pain can make it so they become hungry and thirsty again.

Touch:
How do horses react to touch/grooming to these areas?
-face, muzzle, ears, eyes
Varies from horse to horse. I have a mare who LOVES to have me rub her face/cheeks and others who look at me like, "For the love of Gawd will you QUIT?"

-neck and shoulders
Most horses love having their necks/shoulders/withers rubbed and scritched. They'll stretch their neck and make "parrot face" with their upper lips, do air grooming or if another horse is close they'll groom on them, or they'll try to groom you back All of the other areas are pretty much the same, it'll vary from horse to horse which is the BEST spot and that can change from day to day, too.

-back
-loin or hip
-barrel
-flank
-underside/belly
This one can be touchy. My stallion dies and goes to heaven when I scratch and curry his belly. My mares, not so much. Gelding, it depends on the day. Some days they love it, some days they don't. I wouldn't walk up to a horse I don't know and start fumblig around his belly. The spot between the front legs seems to be a universal YES spot.

- (Don't make this one awkward just tell the plain facts) Genitals
As said before, on mares this can be a YES spot and it can be a very loud NO spot complete with kicking and squealing. I always go slow around the teats until the horse tells me they want them attended to or they don't. Some stallions & geldings love sheath cleaning and will drop and make your life easy. Others........not so much. Another go slow until you know area. Being cow kicked is very unpleasant.

-Legs
Again, depends on the horse. I have some who LOVE to have their inner thighs scratched and others who detest it. They'll tell you.

A place you missed that is a universal YES is the top of the dock and top of the buttocks. Most horses LOVE to have their butts and tails scritched. I have a mare who'll back up to you and follow you around backwards to get her tail scritched. It's one of the first things I teach foals. If you can scritch their tails/top of their butt, you can freeze an otherwise uncatchable foal in its tracks. When we're teaching haltering to the foals, I have one person put the halter on while I stand at the back and scratch. They very quickly associate the halter with pleasure and will stand like a stone to get haltered if you scratch their backside while you do it. After a while, you can put on the halter, scritch the top of the tail real quick and off you go.
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post #9 of 11 Old 12-27-2017, 02:26 PM
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Guess I'm kinda different, far as making it acceptable for foals to present their back end to be scratched, tot he point they will turn their butt to you, back up towards you, to have that *** scratched
Yea, I know it is innocent, most times, and does not escalate tot hat foal kicking the person, but I don't ever want to form a habit, where a horse, as he grows and, keeps presenting that rear end, hoping for that scratch.
Okay for a horse to be tied, and I scratch that tail dock area, but not acceptable for them to demand it, at liberty,by, presenting their rear to me. Right from the start, I want a horse to face me, when I approach,including foals
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post #10 of 11 Old 12-27-2017, 03:08 PM
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Food:
What feeds to horses usually like? (Hay, apples, carrots, any more?): Horses typically like things that are sweet. They evolved to eat forage (grass) as the main part of their diet, but they'll also eat leaves, fallen nuts like acorns, fruits, shrubs, weeds, and tree bark if they are hungry enough. Some horses also will just eat things like leaves and tree bark because they're sweet in flavor, even if they're not good for them - a good example of this is the Red Maple, which while green aren't too terrible, but once the leaves wilt/dry out become very toxic.

As far as individual tastes go, each horse has likes and dislikes. I have seen horses that don't like carrots or apples, and sometimes they like weird foods - my first horse LOVED soda pop. If you were drinking a soda near him, he'd reach up with his lips to try to grab the bottle from you.

What feeds do horses commonly dislike?


They really do not like anything that is bitter. This is an evolutionary trait we share with them, since many poisonous plants are bitter in taste.

Why do horses like earth or metal?

I can't say I've ever seen a horse that was healthy who liked dirt or metal. Any horse that eats dirt or metal objects is either doing it by accident or has some sort of mineral deficiency, in my experience.

Why would a horse reject feed or water? Sometimes if food or water smells "weird", some horses won't touch it. This can happen away from home if you're trying to get a horse to drink water from a foreign water source, or switching it to feed it's never had before.
What strategies would someone use to entice a horse to eat or drink?

It depends on the individual horse. Some people will bring water from home, or add something to their horse's water to get it to drink. Sometimes you need to give them salt so they feel thirsty, especially if they've lost a lot of salt through hard work or sweating/peeing. As far as feed goes, sometimes they just don't want what you're giving. Other times, if they're not feeling good or they're under stress, you can put something they like in with their feed, make it a different consistency, or swap it out for something a little less healthy that they like more.

Touch:
How do horses react to touch/grooming to these areas?
-face, muzzle, ears, eyes
These are probably the most sensitive areas on a horse. They rely on their vision and hearing to look out for danger, and their muzzle is very sensitive to touch so they can find food. With trust and training they can accept handling in these areas, and many horses like having their foreheads rubbed.

-neck and shoulders
Nearly every horse I've ever seen loooooves having these areas groomed and scratched, because they're the areas their herdmates would go over when they mutually groomed one another. I use a scratch on the neck or withers as a reward for good behavior many times.

-back

Some horses like having their backs scratched by a nice stiff brush, but some can be sensitive if they have back problems or soreness, just like people.

-loin or hip

They're fairly indifferent as long as they're accepting of people being near their hind ends.

-barrel

Some are ticklish, some love it especially during fly season because it's an area they can't scratch by themselves.

-flank
Same as the neck/back/barrel.

-underside/belly

Again, some love it, some don't. It really does depend on the individual, but most I've seen enjoy it.

- Genitals

Well, they're mammals just like us, and they have a limbic system just like ours (that's the part of your nervous system that controls things like arousal). All genders can get aroused or "excited" in that way, though a human should never, ever be handling a horse that way unless it is for a veterinary reason. They should be trained to allow a human to handle their genitals for basic maintenance, like cleaning a mare's teats and vulva, or cleaning a gelding's sheath. Other than cleaning or first aid, there's no real reason to go there :)

-Legs

Legs can be sensitive, since they have very little padding in the way of fat. They want to protect their legs and feet by instinct, because that is how they escape from danger. Every horse should be trained to allow a handler to handle their legs and feet, but some horses just never quite make it there due to poor handling or abuse.
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