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The “bubble” controversy..

1060 Views 21 Replies 18 Participants Last post by  LoriF
I don’t know if I put this in the right sub, mods please move it if it’s not!

Recently was talking to someone about the “bubble” for horses, they said how horses should at all times stay out of your “bubble”..and I was curious how many people go by this?

my gelding has itchies, he likes too rub on me gently until I find the spot to get his itchies. He loves his ears scratched, always something he’s loved since I bought him….this person said that’s unacceptable because he’s “breaking my bubble” and it shows that the horse has lack of respect for you..what.

I don’t know how true that is, I see a big difference from like actually pushing and shoving you to just asking for itchies.

I rode this one mare who actually pushed and shoved you with all her strength and it hurt, my gelding did this once when he was anxious and I corrected it but he hasn’t ever done this since.. other then that he’s really gentle and I don’t see him wanting itchies as a respect issue.
sometimes after a ride he’ll get all impatient from the itchies and being sweaty, so he’ll really scratch against me but I usually push him away and then get his itchies with a brush.

My opinion is you can still have respect and still love on them.. or no?

what do you all go by? Do y’all go by the bubble or let your horses rub on you?

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I liked what Mark Rashid had to say about this, which was basically as long as you were consistent and your horse(s) understood the rules, that it didn't matter.

I am one who lets them in, as long as they don't abuse that privilege. However, with Rowan I established a personal space bubble because he unfortunately would creep in, and then start nuzzling, and then make little nips. I never let the little nips proceed to big nips, so I don't know if that would have happened or not.

I've tried to relax the rules with him from time to time, but he always ends up starting that nuzzling / nipping progression, so then it's back to a two-foot personal space bubble.

Moonshine is allowed into my space bubble but only wants to do it when she's itchy. Then she will press the itchy part of her into me, but in a nice way, and I will scratch it. She doesn't overall enjoy human interaction that much, so being able to make her feel good is really nice.

Teddy is very gentle and can come into my personal space bubble whenever he wants.

Pony can too. He nuzzles but doesn't proceed to nipping, and I find that acceptable. However, he also wants to rub his head on me after I take off his bridle when he's sweaty, and that is NOT acceptable, so I push his face away with my knuckle when he does that. He's also not allowed to mug for treats, and my reaction to that varies depending on the severity of the infraction.
 

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My bubble flexes depending on the circumstances but I don't let my horse push or rub on me.

I believe horses are like two year old children and they are always testing their limits to examine their place in the herd. Being pushy is just plain dangerous and I flinch when people try to kiss horses on the nose. I believe if we created a poll, you'd find several people would report injuries like broken noses etc.

I am very careful when I express my love for my horse and he'll reach over very carefully for a kiss, or what my wife calls, moowah! I would encourage everyone to be careful. Horses are very powerful animals and they might not mean to hurt you but can do so quickly and easily.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I liked what Mark Rashid had to say about this, which was basically as long as you were consistent and your horse(s) understood the rules, that it didn't matter.

I am one who lets them in, as long as they don't abuse that privilege. However, with Rowan I established a personal space bubble because he unfortunately would creep in, and then start nuzzling, and then make little nips. I never let the little nips proceed to big nips, so I don't know if that would have happened or not.

I've tried to relax the rules with him from time to time, but he always ends up starting that nuzzling / nipping progression, so then it's back to a two-foot personal space bubble.

Moonshine is allowed into my space bubble but only wants to do it when she's itchy. Then she will press the itchy part of her into me, but in a nice way, and I will scratch it. She doesn't overall enjoy human interaction that much, so being able to make her feel good is really nice.

Teddy is very gentle and can come into my personal space bubble whenever he wants.

Pony can too. He nuzzles but doesn't proceed to nipping, and I find that acceptable. However, he also wants to rub his head on me after I take off his bridle when he's sweaty, and that is NOT acceptable, so I push his face away with my knuckle when he does that. He's also not allowed to mug for treats, and my reaction to that varies depending on the severity of the infraction.
I might look him up! Interesting! But I agree.. I’ll give him the privilege but if he abuses it then I’ll stick with the bubble thing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
My bubble flexes depending on the circumstances but I don't let my horse push or rub on me.

I believe horses are like two year old children and they are always testing their limits to examine their place in the herd. Being pushy is just plain dangerous and I flinch when people try to kiss horses on the nose. I believe if we created a poll, you'd find several people would report injuries like broken noses etc.

I am very careful when I express my love for my horse and he'll reach over very carefully for a kiss, or what my wife calls, moowah! I would encourage everyone to be careful. Horses are very powerful animals and they might not mean to hurt you but can do so quickly and easily.
Agreed!
 

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I'm happy to have my horses enter my "bubble" - all I care about is that if I request for them to leave that bubble, that they will.

They aren't allowed to just begin rubbing on me, but if I hold my hand up a certain way, Toofine immediately knows it's a green light to rub his face on it as much as he wants. He loves to rub his face on my hands, but knows he can't just begin without my permission.

As for Minnie, I watch more for her cues to enter her bubble, as she's sensitive and doesn't love physical touches all of the time. If she lowers her head to a certain point when I'm close, I'll hold my hands near her ears and let her finish the initial contact. She loves having her poll and all around her ears rubbed, but when she wants it!

I think it's our responsibility as handlers to foster an environment of respect between us and our horses - both directions!
 

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when working with a horse I don't know well I like to maintain my bubble and establish ground rules.
with my own horses I make it clear that they have to respect my space and am consistent with this until they are clear and understand it. As we live together and progress with our relationship things can change as I know and trust the horse and allow them to move closer to me and we can both relax with each other and if the horse moves over and nudges me I allow it as I know it won't go any further, often they are just trying to get my attention and I listen to them.
If you know your horse well you can really communicate with them.
 

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My niece's horse just LOVES to have his ears and forehead rubbed, if you happen to stop outside his stall for a minute, you will feel a light nudge on your shoulder, there he is asking for an ear rub. You just can't say no to him as he loves it so much but I guess we are making a habit but he does know when to stop when it is time to work or do something.
It is just that he is such a people person, will even stop to chat when turned out and heading for the pasture.
 

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For me, it depends on the circumstances, and on the horse. When I got Dylan, he would try to knock you over rubbing his head on you. I put a stop to that immediately. Sometimes now he will nudge me for treats, and I don't love that, but he usually gives up after one or two tries so I don't really do any corrections. There are times he really pushes on me if I'm getting an itchy spot, but since he's not a super affectionate horse, I allow that as long as he's not knocking me over.

Georgie is really affectionate and wants to be right next to you constantly. But he's not pushy about it, doesn't nip or get mouthy, and is generally very gentle. The only time I don't allow him in my space is when leading, because it feels like he will try to climb on top of me. Today I was grooming him at liberty and knelt down to mess with the brushes, and he put his nose right next to my face and started snuffling me all over. I probably wouldn't allow most horses to do that, but I thought I would let him and see what happened, and he was very good about it. He also likes to wrap his head and neck around you when you're grooming him, like a hug. Today he nickered at me when I was leading Dylan back to the field and I almost melted lol.

I know another gelding that is similar to Georgie in how much he loves people and wants to be next to them, but he is pushy and does nip, so I don't let him in the same way.
 

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I let ice be in my bubble when I ask him to back off he does. I don't allow him to rub on me or push me with his nose. Not allowed to get mouthy if he does I make him back out of my space.

There's times he's just in one of his moods so not allowed to come into my bubble. He knows what's expected because I'm consistent with him every single time I handle him.

Rubbing on me is never allowed even when taking off bridle. He knocked down my daughter when she was unbridling him, when he decided to rub on her. So no rubbing period! He tries to rub he gets smacked good an hard.

When grooming him I'll scratch his itches but it's my decision not his. Don't get obnoxious or I'll smack him a good one.
 

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While opinions vary as to exactly how much is too much with space bubbles, mouthiness, etc., I've noticed that everyone seems to be consistent - and I think that's the main thing. Varying your response to the same thing - sometimes letting them rub, sometimes not, for example - would be the worst way to go about it. As long as you're consistent, things should be fine.
However: your approach to this question should depend on the horse you're dealing with. A naturally pushy horse should be kept at a bit more of a distance than a submissive one, especially when you haven't know each other for long. When you have known the horse in question for some time and he has enough respect, then you can let him into your space more and be a bit more cuddly.
You can definitely have a respectful horse and still love them! My mare was a terror when I bought her - she is a very dominant horse who is very quick to take advantage of people - but now I love her and cuddle her a lot! Not exactly on topic, but related: it's interesting to note that her automatic response to anything she doesn't like, tends to be to bite (or used to, now it's more ear pinning and maybe threatening if she's really angry - which luckily isn't often now!). I've seen a lot of people say that hand feeding horses treat will make them bitey, however, I've always hand-fed her treats and her whole biting issue is all but gone now. Also, I know some people won't let their horses mouth them at all (which is fine, we all have different opinions), but the rule I like to stick to is no teeth. So long as they're only using their lips and not their teeth, I don't mind them mouthing. Sometimes when I'm scratching my mare she'll try to mutual groom, so if she uses her teeth I'll stop scratching her. But as long as she's just using her lips, that's fine by me.
Bottom line: do whatever works for your horse! If the rubbing is disrespect that could lead to other behavioural issues, probably stop it; if it could potentially be dangerous, probably stop it. It sounds to me like your horse is being quite gentle and not just using you as a scratching post, as some will, so it could be fine. You'd be the one to decide.
 

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My young gelding didn't have a concept of Bubble when I got him. He was spoiled and wanted to be in your pocket all the time. I don't move well or fast on my own feet, so I need some distance for my own safety.

I had to teach him gently and slowly because he got emotional about it. He's a young big boy, and I have a big bubble with him. But, he still always needs me to check in for his security, so I just give him a tiny fist bump on the nose before I back him out of my space. He's such a character.

My old mare is allowed closer in because of a good history and her age and temperament. When they are in a pasture together, they need to stay far away from me. I know too many people who were hurt in that situation.
 

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Hey!
So i like this post as i get many mixed messages about this and sometimes negative feedback with the way i "cuddle" my foal.
Now ive worked with horses and bolshy horses at that for years and i wanted to start my own foal to train from scratch and she was completely untouched when i got her at 6 months old.
At now 10 months old i make sure she has the respect for me and to give me space if i need it/ask for it but never out of fear.
She knows as soon as feeding time comes i step in with her food bucket she stands back until i put it down and then she can come eat - again not out of fear but persistent training.
She also knows when i enter the field to step back away from the gate and not to push or barge through gates or stable doors.
If i take her in the arena she knows "back up", and will move her hips or shoulder away from me at a small touch so if i need to she will give me space.
She has been known at the start to try it on with a nip and i would instantly loudly say NO and make her back up away from me sharply 3 or 4 steps - never done it again for the last few months.
HOWEVER we have our stratches, she can come over to me for a pet and cuddle in the stable or field and i openly welcome a loving horse, i would never ever want her to fear me or be scared to approach me.
I think as long as the respect and the training is there it works.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Hey!
So i like this post as i get many mixed messages about this and sometimes negative feedback with the way i "cuddle" my foal.
Now ive worked with horses and bolshy horses at that for years and i wanted to start my own foal to train from scratch and she was completely untouched when i got her at 6 months old.
At now 10 months old i make sure she has the respect for me and to give me space if i need it/ask for it but never out of fear.
She knows as soon as feeding time comes i step in with her food bucket she stands back until i put it down and then she can come eat - again not out of fear but persistent training.
She also knows when i enter the field to step back away from the gate and not to push or barge through gates or stable doors.
If i take her in the arena she knows "back up", and will move her hips or shoulder away from me at a small touch so if i need to she will give me space.
She has been known at the start to try it on with a nip and i would instantly loudly say NO and make her back up away from me sharply 3 or 4 steps - never done it again for the last few months.
HOWEVER we have our stratches, she can come over to me for a pet and cuddle in the stable or field and i openly welcome a loving horse, i would never ever want her to fear me or be scared to approach me.
I think as long as the respect and the training is there it works.
(Welcome to the forum :) ) Sounds like you’re on a path for a very well behaved and trained future horse!
 

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I think it totally depends on the horse. I am always very clear with my horses on what the boundaries are and where my personal space bubble is, especially when we are in "work mode". However, I will invite them into my bubble if I want to love on them. If I invite them in, they are welcome to be there. If they move in and they haven't been invited, they get a gentle push and they know that means "not now". You know your horse best. If he has great ground manners, performs well for you, isn’t pushy, and respects your “no” (when you push him away, does he take the hint?), I think you are fine.

It's crazy to me that there are people who never love up on their horses. Granted, there are some people who think they can “love” their horse into obedience, which is detrimental, but I don’t think that’s what you are doing. I love to love on my horses and they enjoy the praise. It has never caused problems for me.
 

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I liked what Mark Rashid had to say about this, which was basically as long as you were consistent and your horse(s) understood the rules, that it didn't matter.
I liked that too when I read it in one of his books (love him!). I have always raised and trained my horses to be respectful in my presence, but they are allowed "in my bubble" pretty much all of the time. I've watched my dominant gelding mutually scratching with the lower-ranked gelding and them sleeping side by side. Now, at feed time, things are different and the lower-ranked gelding knows that.

Now, if it's a horse I don't know well or one that I know can be aggressive (and I've definitely known some...wouldn't own one though!)...I assert myself and insist on the horse staying out of "the bubble." Some horses just don't earn the right to be invited in.

For the record, I have an itchy horse too. He presents himself for scratching all the time. Just walks up and stands with his withers about even with me and his head up like, "Okay...get on it, lady! Scratch me!" And I do. And when I try to walk away he walks in front of me and stops. "More please." He's never rude or dangerous...just tenacious.
 

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Interesting how horses' personalities and their desire to enter into your bubble vary so much. My (RIP) TB gelding was always so gentle he could enter my bubble anytime, he did it with so much grace and respect.

My QH gelding Boo "knows" about personal space and often "forgets" and has to be reminded. When he encounters other horses and people he always wants to go up and meet them. Even if a mare's ears are back, haha. With people at my barn he goes right up to them and I always have to remind him. Its like working with a toddler sometimes.
 

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I have a personal space 'bubble' when I'm walking and leading. Otherwise, I'm all over them. None of them is real pushy or disrespectful but they all like to be close and I enjoy them being close. I've always been told that stallions were pushy and had to be kept in their place. Skippy is without doubt the easiest horse I've ever handled. He's respectful, he's never pushy, he's a scamp and he's mischievous, and he hasn't got a mean bone in his body. I love it when he sneaks up on me and puts his chin on my shoulder and gives me a snuggle. If I had a horse that was constantly shoving me all over the place, I'd probably be stricter about keeping them at arm's length, but I don't have that problem. As long as they do what they're supposed to do when they're supposed to do it, when I ask them to do it, then we're good. I think they need space to be themselves and I enjoy their individual personalities. If you're too regimented with them, I don't think you ever get to see that.
 
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