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Horse getting offended and too much licking?

Hello Franklin,

I have two quick questions. Can horses become offended by or try to take advantage of people who practice gentle forms of training like what you do? My QH seems to be testing me constantly now that I've settled down and don't fight him all the time. Also, he seems to go berserk for licking, like it is a drug. I've tried flicking his nose to keep him away, but he's very persistent to licking my hands and then trying to gently bite the palm. If I let him lick my hand he starts yawning afterwards and his eyes get all tired looking?

As always, thanks for your help. :) Michelle

Hi Michelle,

Never attribute human characteristics/psychology to horses. They do not think as we do at all. Horses do not become offended. They can become confused and therefore fearful. When a horses is fearful this leads to all sorts of unwanted behavior. When it appears a horse is taking advantage of a human, what is happening is that the horse has begun to fend for itself as there is no great leader with it. This ‘fending for itself’ behavior may look like the horse disrespecting you or your boundaries, taking advantage and exhibiting behavior where it is making its own decisions about when and where to move. Additionally, horses might go after something or someone they perceive as vulnerable. This is equine behavior designed to set hierarchy. Never take anything personally a horse does. All behavior you do not want is a symptom of fear. Fear can be caused by anything from any pain, confusion, frustration, being alone, strange sights or sounds, on and on. Horses mainly communicate through their bodies. They are very precise and specific with how they do this. In your interaction with your horse, if you are not using your body correctly (this includes; eyes, posture, speed of movement, precise positioning in relations to the horse’s, appropriate use of arms, hands and feet, a clear intent and more) this causes confusion and then frustration (fear). He is testing your leadership as what you are doing is probably a bit confusing to him, not quite precise enough. Thus, he is always asking, WHAT? It is normal for a horse to test its leader often to see it that leader is still up for the task. This is a survival behavior for the horse and should be expected. A good leader should be able to respond quickly and decisively to such ‘tests’ and never make a big deal of them. A lack of an appropriate response prompts more testing.

If you have fed this horse from your hand, this could be part of why it wants to lick your hand. A human needs to set boundaries around food with horses, always. Unless you can do this, do not feed the horse from your hand. Put the treat in is feed bucket or tub. Another possibility is that the horse is not getting enough minerals. Your hand will taste salty probably and it could be craving the mineral sodium. This is easily corrected by giving a daily ration of proper minerals. The action of licking and chewing, especially with the horse’s head in a low position, releases endorphins in the animals brain causing it to look sleepy and very relaxed. It is the same for us when we eat.

Happy Holidays and Sincere Regards, Franklin

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