Does Your Horse Love You? Just Check for These Signs
Horses are social creatures that enjoy being around other horses and quite often, people, too. The people in their lives typically become part of their herd. And, like all animals, they have ways of telling you that they enjoy your company and see you as a friend.
If you’re not sure how your horse communicates, you may be missing some of these gestures of affection. Annika O’Kane is an accredited Equine Behavior Affiliation equine behaviorist based in Northern Ireland, with more than 40 years of experience in the equine industry. She shared her insight on how horses show their affection toward the people in their lives.
Here are 15 signs your horse loves you.
Relaxed Body Language When Around You
A horse that is enjoying your company and likes to be with you is going to be relaxed. Just like we are relaxed with our favorite humans around, so are they.
Knowing what relaxed equine body posture is, including head set, ears and tail set, can help you gauge your equine friend’s mood.
What the Expert Says About Relaxed Body Language
“Body language gives information about your horse's emotional state,” explains O’Kane.
“Look for signs of comfort, like poll level with withers, brow and nostrils smooth, and chin and tail loose. But, also, [look for signs] of discomfort, like head held high, nostrils long, ears back, chin tight, and the tail swishing or held clamped.”
Comes to You and Is Easy to Catch
Does your horse come running up to you from the pasture when they see you approach? How about when you have a halter and lead in your hand and not just food?
If so, then your horse definitely has a fondness for you and enjoys the time you spend together.
What the Expert Says About a Horse Coming to You
“There can be lots of reasons for why your horse may be difficult to catch — pain or fear, for example,” shares O’Kane.
“Therefore, willingly coming to you is a great sign for that they may enjoy spending time with you.”
Enters Your Space Politely
Does your horse barge into your space, maybe even knocking into you? Or are they more polite about entering your space, looking for attention but still respecting your space and not pushing you out of the way?
If the latter, then your horse sees you as someone they want to be near in a nice, non-threatening way.
What the Expert Says About Entering Your Space Politely
“An uninvited and impolite approach is not appreciated by humans or horses; it can feel threatening,” says O’Kane.
“On the other hand, a polite approach is. So, it is not about them moving close to you; they may just be looking for a scratch. It is more about how it is done. Look for a considerate approach.”
Engages With You
Is your horse interested in what you are doing? Do they seem alert and happy to be involved in everything you do — from grooming to riding?
A horse that enjoys their person will engage in whatever you are doing, whether that’s a grooming session or a ride.
What the Expert Says About Your Horse Engaging with You
“Many horses are mistaken for being happy when appearing 'bomb-proof,’” shares O’Kane.
“But a lack of behavior may be a result of excessive stress, causing the horse to 'shut down.' A horse, genuinely happy with your company, engages positively and proactively with you and the surrounding environment.”
Initiates Friendly Interactions
While brushing your horse, do they reach around and gently nudge you with their nose? Or maybe they follow you around the pasture and nudge you gently from behind.
These are signs your horse would like your attention and enjoys your company. Just be sure it’s a gentle nudge and not a rough nudge — that may be a sign your buddy isn't happy.
What the Expert Says About Friendly Interactions
“Sometimes, the same behavior can mean either like or dislike,” cautions O’Kane.
“A nudge done gently can mean, 'Please give me a scratch,' but done roughly, it may mean, 'I am in pain and feel uncomfortable with you so close to me.' A horse who gently initiates interaction most likely enjoys being with you.”
Comfortably Engages With You
Not only will a horse who loves their person engage with them, but they will also feel comfortable doing so.
A horse that is relaxed while working is a sign they are happy with your partnership and eager to continue it.
What the Expert Says About Being Comfortable Engaging With You
“Being a prey animal, horses are all about staying safe,” explains O’Kane.
“If your horse shows signs of being comfortable while interacting with you, it is a healthy sign that they trust and feel safe with you.”
Nickers at You
Does your horse let out a nicker whenever they see you? Whether in their stall or in the pasture with their buddies, as soon as they spot you, they let out a soft nicker as a greeting.
This type of greeting, as opposed to a loud whinny, is a sign that your horse loves you and is happy to see you.
What the Expert Says About Nickering at You
“It is often believed that whinnying is a sure sign of a positive greeting,” shares O’Kane.
“Even if it can be, it can also mean, 'Here comes food.' Nickering on the other hand indicates a friendly invitation to interact. And if your horse is seeking you out in this way, you are one lucky caregiver.”
Listens to You
Are people amazed at how attentive your horse seems to be, even at a busy show or in a loud parade?
Horses listen to those they trust and love. If your horse gives you their ear more often than not, they probably love you.
What the Expert Says About Listening to You
“It is natural for horses to show interest in their surroundings,” explains O’Kane.
“So, if you don't have their full attention all the time, don't worry. It may just be a sign of them needing a break. What you are looking for is that they show interest and listen to you most of the time when you communicate clearly and calmly.
Resting Their Head on You
Resting their head on you is a sign your horse loves you and even considers you one of their herd. They may do it while you are grooming them, saddling or just spending time together loose in the pasture.
It’s like a type of horse hug.
What the Expert Says About Resting Their Head on You
“Feral horses have a high rate of friendly interactions, including giving little touches and resting their heads on each other’s necks and backs, for example,” shares O’Kane.
“So, if your horse is resting their head on your shoulder, it may be a positive sign of them enjoying your company.”
Mutually Grooms You
Some people are not a fan of mutual grooming, as they worry about biting. However, for your horse, mutual grooming is a high honor.
Horses do not mutually groom with another horse unless their bond is strong, so if you scratch your horse and they carefully reach over and groom you back with their muzzle, take it as the high compliment it is.
What the Expert Says About Mutually Grooming
“Responding to your scratches is a big one to look out for!” shares O’Kane.
“Experiment with different spots and pressures, and you may find that special spot that makes them want to scratch you back. If they do, this is bonding at its best.”
Synchronizes With You
Have you ever seen a horse and human walking together, matching stride for stride? It’s pretty cool to see.
And while it can be taught, horses that naturally do this with their person are giving them a huge compliment. It’s a sign your horse sees you as a safe part of their herd and someone they want to be around.
What the Expert Says About Synchronizing With You
“Synchronizing means moving together in harmony,” explains O’Kane.
“It is a big part of horses' flight and collision avoidance behavior, and they spend lots of time practicing this with their friends. If your horse walks at a consistent distance beside you or walks in step with you, you may have struck gold.”
Spending Time Close to You
Does your horse stay near even when they don’t have to? Choosing to spend time near you when they are loose in the field, stall or arena means they see you as part of their herd and love you.
It’s a huge compliment to you and a sign your bond is strong.
What the Expert Says About Spending Time Close to You
“Horses spend 24/7 alongside their band members,” explains O’Kane.
“They do everything together with their friends. So, it is a positive sign if your horse is grazing and resting, or even sleeping, in your vicinity when you are nearby.”
Do you find it hard to do your chores because your horse is always right behind you? A horse that follows their human means you are highly regarded and also trusted.
They trust you wouldn’t lead them anywhere dangerous, and they enjoy being with you.
What the Expert Says About Your Horse Following You
“Feral horses marching to a new resource are often observed walking in a line, especially following those that make sensible decisions,” shares O’Kane.
“If your horse follows you while showing signs of comfort, they may see you as very sensible and trustworthy.”
When you ask your horse something, do they “say yes” willingly? If so, then it’s a sign your horse loves and trusts you.
Horses do not do things they fear are unsafe or may harm them, so willingly doing as you ask is a great sign that you are held in high esteem.
What the Expert Says About Willingly Cooperating
“As herd animals, horses depend on cooperation,” explains O’Kane.
“Those who make sensible decisions are followed. So, look for signs of willing, not forced, cooperation. This can only happen if you allow your horse the option to say no at times, and doing so is also a positive sign of them feeling safe with you.”
Shows Trust in You
A lot of these signs amount to one thing: trust. If your horse trusts you, then they probably love you.
As prey animals, their trust is their most precious thing. Put their trust in the wrong animal, place, path, etc., and it could mean their demise. A horse that trusts you to take care of them and keep them safe is showing you the best love they have to give.
What the Expert Says About Showing Trust in You
“A horse-human relationship all boils down to both feeling safe together,” shares O’Kane.
“Ultimately, trust is what builds a strong social bond, which promotes ‘love.’”
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