Just because horses are big, strong animals don’t mean they like to be manhandled by humans. In fact, most horses don’t particularly enjoy being petted, groomed, or fed by people, even though these acts may seem harmless to us (and the horse may put up with them for fear of more aggressive handling).
Petting your horse on the neck might just be one of the most relaxing things you can do together.
It’s easy to assume that because horses are so large, they’re more interested in being led around by a bridle or halter than in having you scratch them behind the ears, but just like dogs and cats and other animals, horses enjoy affection and touch.
Do horses like to be petted?
There is no simple answer to this question, but it has been our experience that most horses enjoy being petted with the exception of a few who do not prefer any human contact at all. The more you understand how animals interact and act around humans, the better you will know if your horse wants or needs a bit of TLC from time to time.
Most importantly, if your horse displays signs of stress when they are being handled in any way, such as tense muscles or head shaking, it is best to stop what you are doing and allow them some space before continuing. If their behavior does not change for several minutes, we recommend seeking advice from a professional trainer or veterinarian.
Why You Shouldn’t Pet Horses
Petting a horse isn’t as simple as it seems. For one, most of the time when you’re petting a horse, they’re just trying to make sense of what you’re doing and figure out how they can get away from you again so they can eat or have some peace and quiet. Even if the horse does enjoy being petted, this doesn’t mean that it is okay for them to always be touched.
Horses are prey animals by nature, which means that their bodies are designed in such a way that if they feel threatened (which could happen if someone was touching them constantly), their instinct is to run away instead of fight back. If you’ve ever seen a horse startle at something, that’s because they think there’s danger nearby. When this happens repeatedly due to people constantly touching them, it becomes traumatizing and they may stop trusting humans altogether.
The Truth About Petting Horses
Horses are prey animals and, as such, are uncomfortable with unfamiliar human contact until they get used to it.
Wild horses don’t let their guard down very easily, so while they may not mind being stroked a little at a time and on the chest, the best way to get one used to your touch is by starting slow and working your way up gradually over the course of a few weeks.
By then, you might just find them inviting you over for some head rubs! If you want to see if your horse likes what you’re doing, watch out for signs that he or she’s enjoying it: closing his or her eyes, leaning into your hand when scratched behind the ears, and turning in towards the person touching him or her.
Some horses also give subtle clues that they’d like to have their backs rubbed; typically, these equines will turn around and stick their heads through the fence or hold their neck still. If all else fails, talk to your vet about how much touching is appropriate for your horse’s temperament.
How to Pet a Horse Correctly?
To properly pat a horse, look at where the animal’s withers are and rub gently in that area. If you don’t know how high the withers are on the horse, it should feel as if you’re rubbing their back behind their saddle.
Continue patting up and down the spine, following the natural curvature of the backbone all the way up until you reach the neck area again. Make sure to use both hands so one hand doesn’t do all the work! Horses will often lean into your hand when they really enjoy being petted.
How do I know if my horse likes being a pet? Horses who love being touched will have relaxed facial expressions and soft eyes, according to Schutzman-Curtis. Horses are prey animals, she said. They only make eye contact with humans because they are interested in what we’re doing.
The rest of the time, they scan their surroundings for potential danger which is why some horses seem scared or nervous even though they’re actually happy about being patted.
Schutzman-Curtis told us that there’s no need to be afraid of touching a horse just remember not to overdo it by poking or yanking at its skin.
Tips on Getting Your Horse Used to Be Petted
Here are some tips for getting your horse used to be petted
1) Start by gently touching the horse on its neck, or in a spot it likes when scratched, with your hand open and very close to the horse’s skin.
2) Talk softly and offer treats so your horse associates human touch with something positive.
3) Only increase the duration of petting gradually and as your horse becomes more comfortable with this interaction. -If at any point the horse pulls away from you, stops eating, kicks at you or has another negative body language, stop and try again later.
4) If you have successfully begun to pet your horse for one minute without any bad reactions (other than being eaten alive), try petting for two minutes before stopping again if everything is still going well. -Pet your horse daily and encourage children to do the same.
5) It will take time for a horse to become accustomed to being touched all over its body, but don’t give up!
The Message Horses Send When They Don’t Want To Be Petted
If your horse is giving you very specific signals that they do not want to be petted, it is important to stop before causing them more stress.
Horses will usually show signs such as turning their head, closing their eyes, shaking their head, and avoiding eye contact when they are uncomfortable with being touched or approached.
If your horse is giving off these signals then you should let them approach you themselves when they feel comfortable enough and give them space until then.
Even if they may seem a little nervous at first don’t worry because in time they will come around and begin to trust you again. It can take some time for horses to get used to someone new but with patience, kindness, and care from the human’s side, it can happen!
What Horses Think About Humans Petting Them
Many humans think that their horse would love to be petted on the head, scratched behind the ears, or hugged with a gentle squeeze. But is it really true? Horses are high-strung animals and sometimes unpredictable with their reactions, so you never know how they’ll react to being touched.
Some horses don’t mind some petting, but others may not enjoy it. If your horse does seem to like being touched in a certain spot, then feel free to give them attention there! You should always be careful though because if your horse doesn’t enjoy being touched by you in a particular place, they might get annoyed by it.
It’s best to pay attention to your horse’s reaction before proceeding with touching any other part of its body. If they’re stiff or uncomfortable, it’s probably not a good idea to touch them. They could hurt themselves trying to get away from you if they want nothing more than for you to stop touching them.
It depends on the horse, our research says Some horses like contact and some don’t. If your horse is one of the ones that like it, they might make contact with you more if you’re touching them.
When you touch a horse, they can feel whether or not you mean well. Horses are often handled when they have health problems and need vet attention, so maybe your horse is telling you something!
If you’ve been working with a trainer who has been handling your horse but now you find that the horse won’t allow you to approach them without throwing their head up, biting at you, or kicking out, then it’s time for professional help as our experience A competent veterinarian will conduct an examination and will tell you what needs to happen next.
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