Archives MAIN PAGE

Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

Professional support for you and your horse!

Horses and other animals being themselves


I have searched your site trying to find info about something that continues to happen on our farm by multiple animals including the horses and donkeys. Yesterday, while out feeding yummies, a horse began nuzzling me, or "bumping" me in the butt behind me as I was walking out of the pen. What the .....? I thought this was affection but others tell me I should have told the animals no. BTW, a 1200lb Jersey cow has also done this...I had a donkey do this two weeks ago after what appeared to be smelling my foot (or putting his head down for an extended period?Sumbission? ) What is that all about?

You can see that I am BEYOND green in my experience with horses and donkeys, so any info you can offer is appreciated.


Hi Trish,

Merry Christmas to you on this lovely Christmas Day. I hope it is a wonderful celebration for you and your family.

The behavior you are experiencing from your critters is them treating you like one of their own. You are part of their 'herds.' Note that every time a horse or donkey or bovine comes into your personal space without you consciously allowing it (inviting it), they are asserting their leadership over you. A bump, nip, nuzzle or any physical touch that is uninvited by you, is you acquiescing to the leadership of the animal. This is not so good as over time their invasion of your personal space will only get worse, bigger and more often. It is important to set specific spacial boundaries with your animals. If not, you will end up on the bottom rung of the pecking order ladder. They will tend to walk all over you, nip more and not pay attention to you. By giving treats a lot without setting boundaries at the same time, you greatly increase this disregard for you in general. Food given in this way is coercion (bribery) and does not serve any purpose except to create unruly animals who only want the treat and couldn't care less about trusting or respecting you.

I give treats a lot but here is how I do it. I call the herd over or they just start coming my way (1 horse or 100 horses, it does not matter). They know I have goodies. When the first horses get about 10 yards from me I take some definate steps (3-4) right at them, raise my arms and definatively and clearly say HO! This stops them in their tracks. If any keep moving towards me I may make two more aggressive steps right at them, raise my arms again and say HO! I may ask several or all to back up a step or two by raising my arms and making big gestures right at their faces that say through body language to back up. What I get from this process is all horses standing facing me, not messing around with each other, being polite to each other and showing me great interest, respect and attention. I then proceed to give each animal one cookie, one at a time. If any take a step where I don't want them to go or make a sour face at the animal near them, I raise a hand or swing a leadrope at them and say Quit! This immediately stops whatever they are doing and they just put their attention back on me and wait. I may give another cookie to each one again using the same leadership building process. I may then begin to walk around and invite the herd to follow me. They always do so. If anybody messes with anybody else, I look them right in the eye and say QUIT! This stops it immediately. I then stop the herd from following me and have them line up in front of me again. I may then give each one a scratch on the withers (like their Momma did) and say good-by. They all stand and watch me walk away or attempt to follow me. I generally have them stand and watch me walk away as I do not want to be crowded by a herd of animals.

Please understand that herding, pray animals get their feelings of safety, confidence they are safe from the leader(s) of the herd. If no leader is present they fend for themselves (walking over anyone around who lets them), because this is how they can feel some control over their own sense of safety. Safety is a feeling only. It does not exist in the outside world. Also, safety translates to peace, trust and respect with horses. When we are able to help a pray animal like a horse feel safe with us, we bring it a sense of peace, they will trust us and respect us as they would their leaders in the wild who lead the herd to feelings of safety and the trust that they are safe. So perhaps you can now see just how important it is for you to become a good leader for these animals as you would for your own children.

I have written extensively on these topics of leadership, trust and respect with horses. There is a lot within the website. I am quite surprised that you did not really see all the iniformation there on these topics that is so easily available. Also, I would respectfully suggest you begin to educate yourself about these animals by viewing some training DVD's. Watching the techniques and process of gaining the trust and respect of horses is inspiring and uplifting when the process is done by a competent, gentle trainer. Watching the techniques is also a quick way of learning themas well. There are a ton of DVD's and videos out there. Many can be easily found in the backs of any horse magazine. I have several within the shopping corral of my website that would prove invaluable to you. You have money invested in your animals and will continue to spend money on them in maintenance and other costs. Why not spend a little money for a world of extremely valuable information about the nature of horses and the techniques for mutually successful communication with them? I am always amazed that folks will spend so much more money on tack, equestrian clothing, equipment they never learn to use properly, hiring trainers and son on, and never learn anything about their horses themselves. Or they only want free information that is limited in scope and application and may be erroneous to boot. I find this so unfair to the animal and to the humans themselves. Education about your animals is so very important and is so easy to get. It will save you thousand of dollars and may save you or someone you love injury as well. It will help your animals co-exist with the humans around them more appropriately and better as well. Consider some easily gotten education, please. It will really open your eyes and expand your relationships will all your animals. You would be surprised that being able to set appropriate boundries with horses may help with other relationships in your life too. Practicing being at your best for your horses will enrich your life in so many ways.

So, I shall get on with my Christmas Day. I hope you have gotten some lovely gifts and given some as well. My gift for you is this email and the knowledge contained within. I hope you put it to good use.

Merry Christmas, Franklin

Look for: