- Pets and Animals
First introduction to Horses | Petting and giving Treats
Face to face with a Horse, now what?
A horse is a huge animal. It's heavier, taller, bigger, stronger and wilder than you are. However, they are very gentle creatures and will rarely try to hurt you on purpose. Note that I said rarely. Keep reading and I'll tell you how to avoid making a horse upset with you, while safely being able to pet him.
The connection between a horse and rider is amazing
A horse mirrors you
The most important thing around horses is staying calm. Horses can tell when you are nervous. When you are nervous, mad, or upset, a horse will become insecure. He will wonder what is wrong and start to worry. Insecure horses are harder to pet, and more likely to bite and kick.
Before approaching a horse, take a deep breath and relax yourself. If you are relaxed, the horse will be too.
What are your favourite horse treats?
The body language of Horses
Horses are herd animals. This means they are very social and used to having a big "family". In families there are often conflicts, and horses have their strict rules how to resolve these issues. They use the same tactics on us humans. The only problem is that we don't always notice what they are telling us.
One of their herd rules is personal space. Horses have a strong sense of personal space around them that they wish you to respect. Whenever you walk into a horse's personal space it will give you signs that it is uncomfortable. One of the most obvious and recognizable signs are pinned ears. They will point their ears backwards and flatten them. The horse is giving you his last warning before he is going to take action. If you are not accustomed to being around horses, I suggest you step out of his personal space.
Some of the ways a horse tries to talk to you
- He moves away from you, or moves closer to you
- Head placement (high or low)
- Position of ears
- Paws at the ground (bad manners!)
- Wacks you with his tail
- Shifts weight while petting them (they want you to scratch THAT spot)
- Licking you
How to speak Horse
Body Language Horse
He doesn't mind you in his personal space
Pet the horse, but don't let him push you
You are too close
Take a few steps back
He is relaxed
Pet the horse
He is tense and alert
Get his attention. (Talking, waving, snapping fingers, etc)
He is paying attention to something
If his attention is on you, pet him. Otherwise, get his attention
Ears pinned back
Gives a warning to everyone around him to leave him alone
Step away from the horse
He is relaxed
You are doing something right, continue
Pawing at the ground
Begging for treats or showing dominance
Ignore it, be careful of your own feet
Usually to chase flies away, sometimes to show their annoyance with you
Move out of range towards his head
A baby gets to meet a horse for the first time
Apple nuggets for the good horse
I personally use these horse treats all the time. All horses love them, you get a lot of them and they are cheap.
Give treats one at a time.
If the horse gets rude, stop giving treats.When he behaves, you can start again.
Safety comes first, walk away if they get mouthy or if other horses come to compete for the treats.
Giving a horse treats
If you want to give a horse treats, first ask the owner/caretaker of the horse if this is okay. Apples, carrots and horse candies are the most popular with horses.
Giving a treat is done by laying the treat on the palm of your hand. Keep your fingers together and stretch your hand. Offer the treat to the horse's mouth with your arm away from you. Once the horse tries to eat the treat, softly push it up into their mouth. If you don't do this, they will slobber the treat on the floor and you'll have to try again!
Petting a horse safely
Petting a horse is different from petting a cat or dog. Calm and slow movements are the best. If you move suddenly, you can scare the horse.
The safest place to pet a horse is the neck. Stand one step left or right from the head. Use the flat of your hand, and stroke alongside the neck in the direction the hairs go.
Some horses don't like their face to be touched, so get of to a better start and begin with petting their neck. The spot behind their ears is often itchy, so a soft scratching is often appreciated. Be mindful of the horse's body language, he will tell you if he doesn't like it.
Follow these rules to prevent biting, kicking and other pains.
- Never stand or walk behind a horse
- When feeding treats, do not put your finger in his mouth
- When standing close to a horse, always keep at least half of your attention on him
- Never wear flip flops around horses, wear closed shoes
- Be mindful where your feet are, keep them away from the hooves
- If a horse charges or attacks you, throw your arms up as if you are throwing a sack of grain in the air and yell aggressively
The last piece of advice
Don't forget to enjoy yourself with these magnificent creatures. They will always be animals and you should always be wary, but if you keep that in mind you will get so much in return. Pay attention to them, love them and they will reward you. Trust me, it will be worth it.
© 2014 Chrissi Reeves