If you’re new to horses, understanding how to approach and interact with a horse is one of the first and most important things that you should learn. In this article, we explain some of the concepts surrounding approaching, interacting with and successfully petting horses. Read on to learn more on how to pet a horse.
What You'll Learn Today
- 1 How To Pet A Horse – Few Useful Tips
- 1.1 1. Proceed With Calm And Caution
- 1.2 2. Determine What The Horse May Be Telling You
- 1.3 3. Be Careful Not To Seem Aggressive Or Threatening
- 1.4 4. Use Your Voice In A Comforting Way
- 1.5 5. Move Your Hands Carefully And With Purpose
- 1.6 6. Respect The Horse’s Space
- 1.7 7. Allow The Horse To Get Used To You
- 1.8 8. Don’t Rush!
- 1.9 How To Approach A Horse
- 2 Frequently Asked Questions
How To Pet A Horse – Few Useful Tips
1. Proceed With Calm And Caution
Remember that every horse is an individual with different experiences and preferences and should be treated as such.
This is why it’s important not to just rush up to horse and start petting. Aside from the possibility of startling the horse, you run the real risk of being injured if you rush around and take a horse by surprise.
Horses are not like dogs, they do not automatically welcome pets and hugs and kisses. When you see a horse for the first time, begin by simply observing it.
Watch how it interacts with other horses or with people. A horse’s body language and expressions can tell you a great deal.
2. Determine What The Horse May Be Telling You
For example, if a horse tosses his head, pins his ears and/or moves away, it’s pretty obvious that he does not like whatever is happening.
On the other hand, if he lowers his head, reaches forward with his nose, makes eye contact and/or moves forward, these are signs that the horse feels confident and comfortable and is interested in what’s going on.
Once you got an idea of how the horse is feeling about circumstances in general, you can make your approach. It’s best to approach a horse at an angle towards the left side of his head and his left shoulder.
3. Be Careful Not To Seem Aggressive Or Threatening
Approaching head on can be seen as confrontational and may be met with a bite. Approaching from the back can be seen as a sneak attack and may be met with a kick.
When you approach calmly at an angle towards the horse’s left side with your arms and hands down, you’re more likely to be seen as nonthreatening.
4. Use Your Voice In A Comforting Way
Speak quietly and calmly to the horse as you approach.
- Don’t talk in high-pitched baby talk.
- Don’t engage in an animated conversation with someone else.
- Don’t talk on your cell phone.
Give the horse your full attention and speak in a gathered and self-controlled manner.
5. Move Your Hands Carefully And With Purpose
If the horse does not shy from you or seem startled in any way, you can calmly raise your hand no higher than your own shoulder level to stroke the middle of his neck, in the front of his left shoulder.
Don’t pat, scratch, tickle or touch lightly. Use firm, confident strokes in the direction in which the horse’s hair grows. If he turns to look at you, you should politely turn your whole body to look at him.
If he sniffs you, you can calmly reach your hand up to stroke the side of his face along the jaw. Don’t try to stroke or pet the front of his face as horses don’t generally tend to like this.
6. Respect The Horse’s Space
If he moves away from you and doesn’t seem to want to be touched, respect that. Don’t be pushy. Just stand by calmly and wait for him to approach you.
It may even help to turn away and gaze off at something in the distance as this will pique his curiosity.
7. Allow The Horse To Get Used To You
If you’re getting to know a horse who is not used to being handled or who is a rescue, you may spend a lot of time just being in his presence before you are ever able to touch or pet him.
If this is the case, do quiet tasks around the barn or paddock or bring a book (not an electronic device) sit quietly and wait for the horse to approach you.
8. Don’t Rush!
When you are able to touch him, just take your time talking with the horse and stroking his neck, shoulders and withers, firmly and calmly.
As you get to know him better and feel more confident handling him, you can stroke his back, hips and sides. Don’t try this too soon, though.
Remember that you are a stranger and the horse may not trust you to touch him. A startled or anxious horse is far more likely to shy, kick or even bite, so take your time and keep your wits about you.
If you are calm, the horse will be calm and all will go well.
How To Approach A Horse
Frequently Asked Questions
Can petting improve communication between a horse and its rider?
Yes, petting and stroking a horse can help you and your horse understand each other better. Massaging a horse’s body can also be really useful because it helps you notice small changes in the horse’s body and body language. This kind of massage can help the horse relax its deeper muscles and let go of tension. You’ll also learn when your horse feels better because of the way it reacts. Just remember, you need to be patient and gentle.
How is equine body work different from just petting a horse?
Horses talk to us mostly through their body movements, from big to small, but we might not understand everything they’re saying. By using different levels of touch and massage, you can help your horse relax and release tension. This lets the horse tell you where it feels tense and when it feels better. It may help your horse release tension that it can’t let go of by itself. This can help your horse’s nervous system, which controls how it feels pain and heals, work better.
Is equine body work like “join-up” training?
It is a different activity, but because it is based in the same concepts of connection, it can have similar results. Working with your horse rather than working on your horse creates connection and supports your horse in releasing tension in essential core muscles. Good equine massage and body work can also help release tension in the muscles that facilitate smooth movement and top performance.
Why is equine body work a strong way to build trust?
When horses perceive that you’re listening to them, they start trusting you more. This makes your bond with your horse even stronger. When you help a horse release tension in its body, it feels better. It doesn’t matter if you’re riding for fun or doing specific activities with your horse. What’s important is that you and your horse work together to improve your relationship.
How does equine body work help with behavior problems?
Horses that act aggressively or seem restless or nervous often change their behavior when they feel better physically. Sometimes, their discomfort is in muscles along their spine and in their posture. When these physical issues are fixed, a horse’s behavior can change a lot. This is even more likely if a horse has been in pain for quite some time.