Horses have various ways of showing affection to humans and each other. They usually use verbal communication to communicate, which is why it’s important to understand how to read and respond to a horse’s body language.
Any move they make with their noses, ears, hind legs, head forelegs, and the tail has meaning. They mostly use their noses to communicate because they have highly sensitive nostrils and a sense of smell.
All horse owners normally strongly desire to understand what it means when their horses blow their nostrils, nudge, shove, or snort.
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When You Horse Nudges You It Can Mean Different Things
Horse nudges have several meanings depending on the horse’s mood and health. Some horses have gentle and cute nudges, while others have disrespectful nudges. When a horse gives you a gentle nudge, it’s trying to communicate to you; it might be trying to tell you to scratch its ear, showing affection, or simply trying to get your attention.
Rough and disrespectful nudges occur when your horse pushes you from its way or uses you as its scratching post. Sometimes, a horse can give rough nudges when they have an itch; usually, they violently push their head. Whichever nudge your horse portrays, it’s crucial that you try to understand and take the appropriate action, for example, punishing it when he disrespectfully nudges you.
If you don’t take any action, the horse will develop a bad habit like treading to your toes when standing next to him.
Generally, horse nudges people to communicate their needs, bond with their owners, or get attention. For instance, they can be ‘mugging’ you for a nice treat, asking you to get out of their space, asking for mutual grooming, seeking solace, want food, or due to emotional distress.
Mares usually nudge their noses to flares as an indication of reassurance.
Not everyone responds to horse nudges in the same way. Some people find it amazing, while others hate it. Some individuals even tolerate disrespectful nudges, which is wrong because some of them constitute bad habits.
How Does A Horse Show Affection To His Owners
Besides nudging, here are several horses’ muzzle behaviors, how you can comprehend and respond to them, plus other important horse body language.
1. A Slacking Mouth Or Drooping Lips
When horses droop their lips, it means they’re sleeping or relaxing; they can even be standing. When you find a horse in this position, you should approach him vigilantly. You can call his/her name to avoid surprising him.
The lips usually go back to normal after the horse wakes up. If the slacking continues after your horse is fully up, it can indicate that it is injured or has a neurological issue. For this case, it’s best to have your veterinarian check-up on the horse.
2. Flared Nostrils
When a horse has a flared nostril, it’s when drawing in more air as they exercise, are nervous, surprised. Horse owners shouldn’t ignore this muzzle movement since it can indicate that your horse has a severe issue. If the flaring continues, take the horse to a veterinarian for further check-up and treatment.
3. Gaping Mouth That Shows The Horse’s Teeth
A horse can portray this sign due to several reasons. If you ride your horse and it gapes its mouth, it can indicate that it’s in pain. You should recheck the bridle and bit and ensure it’s fitting and later take it to a dentist to ensure that its teeth aren’t the ones hurting him.
Sometimes, you might see your horse standing with a stretched neck and gaping mouth while feeding. This sign can be an indication that it’s choking (having an obstruction on the esophagus. In such a situation, immediate action is necessary. You should quickly remove food it has not yet eat and call for a horse medic.
Flehmen is the animal’s behavior where they communicate by transferring air with scents and pheromones to the VNO ( an organ in between the palate and mouth of an animal that helps collect chemical ‘messages.’
When horses smell unusual scents, they raise their heads, curl the upper lip, then breathe in deeply and again blow the air out. This is how male horses determine females that are want to breed and are in heat.
Nonetheless, all horses can flehmen when they smell anything unusual as it helps them get more information about the smell.
5. A Tight Pinched Or Puckered Nose Or Mouth
This sign is usually understated, which is why most horse owners usually miss it. A tight muzzle or mouth on a horse can show that the horse is scared, worried, or stressed. When your horse shows this sign, you can relax him by removing him from his location or doing anything that can help him relax.
If you don’t do anything, the horse can run away or bite you.
6. Clacking Teeth
Once in a while, your foal will clack his/her teeth. As much as comical as it seems, this behavior is essential to horses. It’s how they communicate to other horses that they are younger and they shouldn’t hurt them.
Most horses that behave in this way are usually weanlings, but they stop when they reach 2-3 years old.
Why Horses Blow Their Nostrils Forcefully
If a horse blows his nose when excited, trots, or paces, he might snort to test for other horses’ scents or other unusual scents in the air. They mostly show this behavior during windy days.
Another instance when horses blow their noses forcefully is after exercising or running. When horses breathe heavily helps them to cool down, relax, and ease tension after working out.
Is It OK For You To Tolerate A Horse Nudging With His Nose?
The interaction of horses with humans doesn’t have a big difference with humans interact with each other. If you develop a good relationship with your equine and it behaves nicely, nudging you shouldn’t be a big deal. But it’s still crucial to be cautious to avoid him biting or hurting you.
Badly behaved horses can use this behavior to disrespect or invade your space. If you spoil your horse too much, it can nudge you to get treats. However, if you don’t stop him quickly, he can bite or nip you.
Therefore, you should discourage any form of relentless nudging, nipping, and bumping. In some cases, it’s best to use a professional horse trainer to help tame a horse’s behavior and respect for boundaries.
Conclusion: Horse nudges can be a bad or good experience depending on the horse’s behavior and relationship with the owner. Therefore, it would be best to understand your horse and be able to comprehend the meaning of his nudges to be able to respond appropriately.