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29yr Arabian mare, 14.5hh
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My horse loves rubbing her head on people, and I don’t really mind it, however it can freak other people out when I have someone out there and even tip a small kid over. My mare means well, she only rubs her head when she’s excited or curious about something new or fun, but I think it’s time I try to train her out of it.
Any ideas on how to help with this behavior? Or do you even think it’s a big problem? Let me know your thoughts, and if you got any advice I’m all ears ;)
 

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I do not tyipically let a horse rub on me when swapping bridle to halter, my mare knows 'wait' and will resume rubbing once the halter is buckled but I do not mind it otherwise. Now mine are not overly pushy about it either so maybe that plays a part. However, I would definitely let people know and be within reach of children so you can keep anyone from being knocked over if you do not personally want to stop it.
 

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1 TB mare & 1 Arab x Stock Horse, both alpha mares (what fun :) ). Dolly's sweet & Aya's sour.
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I don't let my horses rub on me, as it can be dangerous and because of the type of horses they are, it's a bit disrespectful. I usually just push them away if they try.
 

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This rubbing may be considered an act of aggression or "testing" limits to establish herd dominance. I wouldn't allow it at all. I don't allow my horse to pull on the lead rope for the same reason.
 

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It’s a big problem when the horse thinks it can rub its head on other people and especially where children are involved - that is a huge NO.

I don’t tolerate pushy head rubbing. One of my horses is 28 and still thinks he should be able to knock me over rubbing his head — even though he knows he going to get smacked for being so pushy.

The other horse will ask to have his forehead rubbed by lowering his head. I put my hand to his forehead and he gently rubs his head up and down a few times then quits. He is always polite with his ask, never gets pushy, so I never refuse him.

Your mare has to learn some manners — knocking children over with her head rubbing in my barn would get her 30 seconds of “I’m going to kill you“ discipline.
 

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This sounds like a boundary issue. Have you ever established any personal space boundaries with her? This behavior sounds like it’s a habit for her now, and one you may want to curb.

Without seeing the behavior in person, it’s almost impossible to give sounds advice. But, it would probably help if you went back to the basics. Do some very basic groundwork in teaching her personal space. She will learn where the “bubble” is and I’d think that would help curb that behavior. She should only invade that personal space bubble when you invite her to. I really think you just need to set boundaries and teach her to respect personal space. That doesn't mean you can't invite her into it.
 

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As a rule, my horses are not tolerated to just rub their head against me.
I will scratch/rub their itchy spots but they can not "invade" my space using me for a scratching post.
A bit to dangerous to me to invite..

For the size they are, the strength they are it is to easy to be knocked off balance and to the ground or hurt with their "push" to scratch....far better we, as in we humans put forth the exertion and control the situation than lose control of the situation and regret it.

Yes, many people will be opposed to and defend themself against being rubbed on...this is a large animal with teeth that can bite and no one including you know if the intent suddenly changes...
To a "child" it can be very frightening to have this large body part suddenly pushing you around..
Do I see your horse innocently doing this and being reprimanded harshly for doing this....YES!

Is it a good idea to address this, retrain the animal to not do this and instead you learn to carry or grab a stiff brush or curry and you scratch the itchy spots....far safer for everyone.
Sure sounds safer to me to retrain the animal not to do this "rubbing" for humans interacting and the horse not being reprimanded for a bad habit you taught and allow.. ;) ... :cautious:
🐴....
 

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29yr Arabian mare, 14.5hh
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
This rubbing may be considered an act of aggression or "testing" limits to establish herd dominance. I wouldn't allow it at all. I don't allow my horse to pull on the lead rope for the same reason.
While that is a possibility, she’s done this in her past home too and only ever really rubs her head when she itchy or anxious. I try to correct it when she anxious or excited, but it makes sense if she just needs to relieve an itch :)
 

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1 TB mare & 1 Arab x Stock Horse, both alpha mares (what fun :) ). Dolly's sweet & Aya's sour.
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While that is a possibility, she’s done this in her past home too and only ever really rubs her head when she itchy or anxious. I try to correct it when she anxious or excited, but it makes sense if she just needs to relieve an itch :)
One way to think about it is this: the boss horse rubs on the submissive one, and the submissive one is not allowed to rub on the leader, even to relieve an itch. So if a horse rubs on you, it means it doesn't see you as the leader - or is testing your leadership.
 

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I usually ignore it, as mine do it for flies or an eye itch. They do it to each other, too, usually rum on their rears. If it goes on too long or I'm busy with something & being pushed makes work harder, I'll yell at them to F off & wave them away.
I had one that liked to put her nose in your crotch & just stand there. My older guy puts his head on my shoulder sometimes to say hello and get face rubs & kisses.
My younger gelding asks for neck rubs by turning his head and neck away, which looks aggressive/negative, but it's just his weird way of asking. Baby mini shoves her butt at people and aggressively rubs on your legs or back if your crouching for scritches.
I'll shoo them all away if strangers are there and they seem uncomfortable or are the type to not be okay with such behavior.
 

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I have one out of five who does. Just the one though, as he's the only one who is polite about it. He's also 'thin-skinned' and gets extremely itchy when he sweats. Wall scratchers aren't enough and he gets bumps/scrapes from pressing too hard and hitting the wall. It's easier to let him rub on a person after a ride than treat injuries.

That said, he has to ask nicely before he's allowed and absolutely has to respect a refusal. To be honest, if he was ever regularly around children or beginners I might reconsider allowing it. Not something I have to worry about with him though.
 

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I would say the best thing to do is go back to groundwork. If it's scary and intimidating for some people, it has to be corrected, even if the horse means well. It's a lot like a person who is too forward with physical touch (that friend that wants to hug EVERYONE); it's not welcomed by everyone! I find that backing a horse up when they get into my space works well, but you have to be consistent and calm about it (also catch it before it escalates). We want to have boundaries for safety, so every time a horse gets into your space without being invited, try backing them up and then let them think about it for a minute. They get really bewildered at first, but eventually the message will get through. Lunging can help with any sort of pushy behavior too!
 

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29yr Arabian mare, 14.5hh
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
One way to think about it is this: the boss horse rubs on the submissive one, and the submissive one is not allowed to rub on the leader, even to relieve an itch. So if a horse rubs on you, it means it doesn't see you as the leader - or is testing your leadership.
She is a little pushy- but I honestly don’t think she’s testing leadership in the slightest. Her last owner said she did this all her life (and she owned her for 15 years) and will listen wonderfully and respects boundaries great. I am not personally upset by this behavior but I don’t want it to overwhelm visitors or young kids
 
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