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  #31  
Old 07-12-2012, 05:23 PM
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I'd argue that they are scratching each other's backs. While there is a level of trust and comfort involved, I don't think of it as a sign of affection in and of itself. We even use that to mean doing something with a return expected; those photos are a visual representation of "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours". If you want to argue that is hugging in the sense we humans understand it, I can show you photos proving that dogs alpha roll each other and so we should do it to them too




I hug my horse like crazy, and he tolerates it with his good graces. I scratch his neck in front of his withers (he hates having his back scratched), and he points his lip and stretches his neck and has a lovely time. But I don't think a horse wrapping his neck around me means the same thing as my best friend hugging me. And even at his anorexic thinnest, Tristan outweighs me by 800 lbs or so; he doesn't get to move into my space and wrap himself around me, or scratch at me with his teeth.
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Old 07-12-2012, 05:31 PM
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I believe that this "grooming" is used for pair bonding and affection in animals. Lots and lots of animals do it in some form or another. I observed this kind of thing with my horses which I had since I was very young. It was so obvious to me that it was a show of affection along with scratching each other. They can scratch on a post or the corner of a barn wall. I absolutely believe it's used for pair bonding, even among same sex horses. My two mares were totally playful and affectionate with each other and some of that showed up in ways like those pictures, often accompanied by that soft, nicker they do.

Not getting the alpha roll significance here. lol. I don't think we need to alpha roll our dogs...no.



I kinda like this:

Quote:
http://www.wayofthehorse.org/Essays/...affection.html


How do Horses Show Affection?

Horses are extremely affectionate. If you get a chance to see them in the wild they are mutually grooming each other, scratching each other, leaning gently into each other, sharing breath with each other (a very intimate activity done by putting their noses together and sharing the air). These are all manifestations of affection. Mares and their foals are always nuzzling each other and the babies are always rubbing up against their moms. Sometimes they hang their heads over each otherís necks and gently hug with their necks. When a horse gently brings his head even slightly in your direction, it is affection and acknowledgement (unless you are holding a treat in your hand or pocket, then it is probably about the treat). The low, soft Ďnickeringí sounds they make at each other are other ways they show affection. However, love is the great carrot and the great treat. Real, unconditional love is the best form of affection and the greatest gift we can bring to our horses.

On the human end this is usually what occurs: We unconsciously reach into the animals face and want to pet and touch his muzzle (nose). If I reached into someoneís face and petted their nose, it would be rude, thoughtless and disrespectful. We do it to horses all the time. We think because he brings his head to us curiously checking us out that itís OK to pet his nose. Or if he is sniffing us to investigate and get to know us that they are all right with us touching their faces. They do not have arms and hands and do not touch each other in this manner and, additionally, what we are doing is uninvited. We are touching their faces for us not for them. Most of the time they try to move their heads away from the oncoming hand, but to no avail. They react to the intrusion by moving their heads sideways or up and down. But we do not notice this reaction. We want to pet that soft nose and what we want takes all our attention, not the horseís reaction to what we are doing. This is unfair and disrespectful to the horse.

When we reach into a horseís physical space, no matter what, we stop its affection coming back towards us. Horses focus on one thing at a time. They are consciously either giving or receiving input, but not both simultaneously. So if the horse is trying to show us affection (which they really want to do) and we take it as an opportunity to input (touch or pet) them, we immediately stop their attempts at being affectionate towards us. This creates lop sided relationships with humans and horses where the human is always inputting the horse with what they think is affection. The horse, meanwhile, never really gets a chance to show itís affection to the human. Stand and receive the horseís affection. Keep your hands and arms down. Let them nuzzle you and gently bring their heads to you. Be still and quiet with your mind and body if you want to join with them. Empathize with the feelings you get from the horse. They live empathetic lives and look for that in their companions. Certainly you can put your arms around your horse and hug him, scratch him or reassuringly stroke him. He will get that you mean to be affectionate. But wait and do it when invited by the horseís demeanor and body language.

When a herd leader wants to allow affection from another horse, she turns sideways and seemingly ignores that horse (goes about her business of grazing). She allows the other horse to approach her and show acknowledgement and affection. It may not involve actual physical contact. But, rather feelings of acknowledgement and acceptance shared and demonstrated through body gestures, postures and mutual awareness (empathy).

I encourage humans to be more like horses and perhaps understand that less is more with horses. By that I mean we could try not to be so forward with horses. We could try to make our desires requests rather than demands. We can chose to lead like Gandhi; lovingly, firmly and quietly. We could abandon leadership like Mussolini, with his loud, controlling, fear based dictatorship. I can now understand the kind of humans who only want to be with horses. There is no self-serving ego to deal with, nor trickery or dishonesty with the horse. There is not much drama either. The horse is impeccable and thatís a fact. They are honest, no matter what. They have personalities and disorders like we do but not the ego.

When your loved ones are affectionate with you know how it feels. Itís the same with horses. Loving touches are noticeable and stand out more than casual physical acknowledgement like hand shakes and pats on the back. Tune in to how you feel when your horse is showing you attention. Receive the attention/affection and just say ?Good Boy?. There is no need for anything else. You will both understand what has occurred. You will have been mutually affectionate as giving and receiving are actually the same thing.

If you are able to establish a great amount of mutual trust with your horse, this will lead to more affection and a stronger bond. Being a great parent/leader is a wonderful way to show affection for your horse. Being the great Mom or Dad for your horse means you are there for his feelings of safety and trust first and foremost. What kinder and more wonderful way to show affection than attention to anotherís sense of well being. What is more affectionate than kindness? What feels more wonderfully loving than kindness? In the face of the most fearful and potentially dangerous horse, kindness is the major component in its rehabilitation (just as with an abused human). Giving your best is affection also. When your horse gives you his all and the best heís got that is his affection coming straight to you.

I guess I could sum this up by merely saying; if it feels like affection and you are not holding a carrot, it probably is. Donít try to figure the horse out too much. I think it is better to experience and empathize with how he feels. That is the real key.
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  #33  
Old 07-12-2012, 05:51 PM
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For whatever it's worth, the Arabs and NSHs who did it with me were mostly horses I had raised since birth. In many cases I was the first human they even laid eyes on, and I hand trained them to halters, being led, grooming, bathing, and whatnot. Another was a yearling when I met her and a few months later was given a shot by a vet and the injection site became infected...it was a long long 9 months of daily scrubbing and rinsing and hand-walking. They were always horses with whom I had a particularly close relationship (or else I wouldn't have allowed it) and was not all the horse moving in to me and invading my space. More that they would ease in then stop and we would both gently lean...it was a mutual thing that either could have ended at any moment. Just very relaxed, usually at the end of a long peaceful grooming session after a day in the field. It could very well have been a learned thing, though it was not consciously taught or directly rewarded.

Take it for what you will. I have been threatened by horses before and have had horses try to bully me with varying degrees of directness, especially when we'd get a new broodmare in who was finding her place. This was not that *shrug*
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Old 07-12-2012, 07:51 PM
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Oh, I don't think it is bullying or anything of the sort; I just personally don't like horses to move into my space, whatever their intentions. We had an incident in the region when I was a teenager, where a man dies after his horse thrust his face into the man's chest. How many of us (my hand is up) have allowed our horses to rub their sweaty foreheads on us after a ride? The horse did just that, but hit a certain spot hard enough, and the man had some sort of heart condition. The thrust did something to interrupt the rhythm. I know very, very few horses who have ever intentionally hurt someone; just with that size and power, I like them to keep an eye on my personal space. Like I said, I cuddle Tristan all the time - but I'm the one who gets to make the move.

I guess I'm just not making my point very clear, so I'll leave well enough alone. Be good to your ponies, be safe, and enjoy them
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Old 07-12-2012, 07:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BostonBanker View Post
Oh, I don't think it is bullying or anything of the sort; I just personally don't like horses to move into my space, whatever their intentions. We had an incident in the region when I was a teenager, where a man dies after his horse thrust his face into the man's chest. How many of us (my hand is up) have allowed our horses to rub their sweaty foreheads on us after a ride? The horse did just that, but hit a certain spot hard enough, and the man had some sort of heart condition. The thrust did something to interrupt the rhythm. I know very, very few horses who have ever intentionally hurt someone; just with that size and power, I like them to keep an eye on my personal space. Like I said, I cuddle Tristan all the time - but I'm the one who gets to make the move.

I guess I'm just not making my point very clear, so I'll leave well enough alone. Be good to your ponies, be safe, and enjoy them
No that makes more sense. And I agree with maintaining personal space with an animal that much larger/stronger. Like I said in our case it was extremely low key and very much an "asking" sort of thing...not just being pushed or rubbed on. Still if they had happened to spook at something at that moment it certainly could have been bad...that but goes for various aspects of grooming and such too.

No ponies anymore so sadly I cannot abide by that last line. Maybe one day, but not anytime soon.
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  #36  
Old 07-13-2012, 09:03 AM
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Oh...I don't argue that horses can't hurt you. (I know from personal experience. lol) They don't always mean to. In fact, most horses are not out to get you. And yes, you should not allow them to do some of the things they do. And you should adhere to good horsemanship and safety.

One of my Arabian mares (the last horses I had....fairly recently) was bottle raised from 2 weeks of age, was extremely gentle and careful of me. We had an amazing bond. She loved people. She was so different from any horses I had ever been around or owned. There's something about Arabian horses. But the other one was extremely flighty and you had to be extra cautious around her, as she spooked very easily at things and wasn't as trusting as Brisa. But she was kind and gentle to work around...to groom etc...wouldn't hurt you on purpose for the world.

I always remembered what my Dad told me when I was just a kid with my first horse: "Never trust a horse. They're not like dogs." Yessireebob... you can get hurt even if they don't get in "your space." I mean, they can get in your space in a dangerous way in a heartbeat.
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  #37  
Old 07-13-2012, 09:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BostonBanker View Post
Oh, I don't think it is bullying or anything of the sort; I just personally don't like horses to move into my space, whatever their intentions. We had an incident in the region when I was a teenager, where a man dies after his horse thrust his face into the man's chest. How many of us (my hand is up) have allowed our horses to rub their sweaty foreheads on us after a ride? The horse did just that, but hit a certain spot hard enough, and the man had some sort of heart condition. The thrust did something to interrupt the rhythm. I know very, very few horses who have ever intentionally hurt someone; just with that size and power, I like them to keep an eye on my personal space. Like I said, I cuddle Tristan all the time - but I'm the one who gets to make the move.

I guess I'm just not making my point very clear, so I'll leave well enough alone. Be good to your ponies, be safe, and enjoy them
No, this makes sense to me. I used to let my gelding rub his sweaty head on my butt after a ride, but ONLY because all I had to say was "That's enough" and he'd stop. He was also extreme food-oriented but I worked with him for a LONG time so that he would stand back politely in his stall while I mixed his feed for him, etc, because I felt that was important for safety's sake. Same goes for waiting on a verbal cue before entering your stall, or allowing me to go first (and again, giving me that space bubble)... I saw a girl get her arm skinned when the horse just plowed right in and trapped her arm between himself and the doorframe. Yikes.

It comes downs to the sheer size of the animal involved. I don't think anybody's saying you can or should never allow a horse in your space, just that, well... it calls for due caution and mutual understanding from both horse and owner.
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