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Do horses lick to express affection?

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  • #21
    Yes, sometimes they will lick to show affection.


    • #22
      Mine grooms me- get the good big curry into that sweet spot by his withers, and I very literally cannot get him out of my hair. I've always figured the licking is, situationally, either an extension of that or just his usual thing of putting everything in his mouth.
      Last edited by Renn/aissance; Nov. 1, 2012, 04:54 PM.
      "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

      Amy's Stuff - Rustic chic and country linens and decor
      Support my mom! She's gotta finance her retirement horse somehow.


      • #23
        My mare used to lick my hand when she was younger, but had stopped doing it for several years.

        I got sick in September and could not go visit/ride her. When I saw her three weeks later, she started licking my hand again. I would like to believe that she was happy to see me. Licking my hand kept up, until I got well enough to put her back into work. Now, she has stopped doing it. Go figure?
        When in Doubt, let your horse do the Thinking!


        • #24
          Originally posted by HungarianHippo View Post
          Curious-- for the licker-owners out there, where would you say your horse ranks in the herd? Wondering if it's a trait of more submissive horse personalities, or not correlated to that at all
          Originally posted by Pennywell Bay View Post
          No. ...

          Unlike dogs, licking is not a characterized submissive behavior in horses. I don't think I have ever observed my horses licking each other in a field, perhaps others have. Who knows how/why it develops in some horses. Yes, it is prob very adorable but please be careful. It gave me chills reading some of your posts. *not in a snarky way*
          Mine is definitely NOT submissive. I would not ever let his face near mine. Treats are only given at the conclusion of our day together. If he misbehaves, there are no treats, not even in his bucket. He knows if he is close to crossing a boundary and I remind him everytime because he will push it. I am also very aware of where he is whenever I am around him.

          He is just a horse that is very busy with his mouth. You know if he is happy, cranky, bored, in pain, anxious, insecure, playful, calm, tired, etc. by his mouth. This is a horse that is always testing his boundaries and I would not consider him an affectionate horse. He is so self-absorbed that he wouldn't know or care if his caretaker was having a bad day. He'd probably see it as an opening to make it worse or complain that his care was subpar!


          • #25
            Originally posted by Pennywell Bay View Post
            I don't think I have ever observed my horses licking each other in a field, perhaps others have.
            Yes, it is a behaviour seen in courtship.

            Yes, it is prob very adorable but please be careful. It gave me chills reading some of your posts. *not in a snarky way*
            I won't tell you about me getting my earlobe nibbled by a horse then. (Not courtship!)


            • #26
              Originally posted by ptownevt View Post
              I don't know. I tell myself yes. My daughter's gelding is a big licker. It can't be salt because he will lick her over her clothing, shoulder, back, etc. I really don't know what else it could be; maybe some sort of grooming us? Isn't that a form of affection?
              This would be my Paint gelding. But he licks everybody. And always has. He has a puppy dog personality, but is the alpha in his herd group, and always has been. He doesn't seem to have a spot he likes to have scratched, so I have concluded that his sweet spot is his tongue.
              Providence sometimes takes care of idiots. Agnes Morley Cleaveland in No Life for a Lady.


              • Original Poster

                Re: courtship behavior - I have seen my gelding (who is sure he's a stud) mistakenly turned out with a mare in season - he ever so gently and delicately licked her hindquarters. I was sure it was courtship!

                I now am concluding that it is, in his case, a gesture of affection. He loffs me.
                What's wrong with you?? Your cheese done slid off its cracker?!?!


                • #28
                  I get the hand licks after feeding treats, and the face licks after riding if he's in a particularly nosy mood, snuffling my hair and jacket already. He's a very gregarious horse and a big shmoozer for treats without being obnoxious (only cranes his neck and follows you around the aisle wall. Never stomps or makes bitchy faces. Just keeeeeps on being optimistic!
                  I have to say, while I cringe at my dogs licking my face- because I've seen the things they eat! the horse licks are kinda cute!


                  • #29
                    My licky mare is an alpha.
                    Oh, and as far as I can tell, she only does it with me. And she also greets me with a nicker most of the time.


                    • #30
                      Originally posted by hollyhorse2000 View Post
                      My licky mare is an alpha.
                      Oh, and as far as I can tell, she only does it with me. And she also greets me with a nicker most of the time.
                      Same with my mare!
                      Proudly blogging for The Chronicle of the Horse!


                      • #31
                        My gelding is middle of the pack. Not super dominant but not submissive either. He's usually 2nd or 3rd in command in the herd. He is very submissive to humans. He also has super perfect ground manners.
                        Fils Du Reverdy (Revy)- 1993 Selle Francais Gelding
                        My equine soulmate
                        Mischief Managed (Tully)- JC Priceless Jewel 2002 TB Gelding


                        • #32
                          Horses engage in allogrooming (grooming to create and maintain social bonds) with one another, so I can see that as a reason they could do it with humans. It's not exactly affection as humans perceive it, but it is a positive social interaction. Even after looking at some of the research, I still like to believe my mare loves me. :-)


                          • #33
                            If horses lick to express affection, then my boy really loves the gate and the fence rail. But he loves me too, from the way he calls out when he sees me, and he also licks my hands when he can.
                            Mon Ogon (Mo) and Those Wer the Days (Derby)


                            • #34
                              My mare does not lick not ever exept one time this summer, really funny. It was horse show day at the Barn and I rode early in the day as I was scribe for the judge. I was only able to go back in the barn well in the afternoon to unbraid her, as there was a lot of activity around and she used to be a broodmare she is fine with people in her stall. I walk in with shorts, she was stupefied at finding humans have skin down there. She smelled and touched with her nose and then started licking.
                              Since that day... I do not know if it is the show... where she was particularly attentive to me ... or if it is the leg licking thing but she is much more...??? cuddly?? or in a way close to me.


                              • #35
                                I have two big lickers. One loves to lick me when having his feet done but also licks at other times. The other will lick whenever you let him. One is 2nd in command the other is last on the pole so idk if its a submission type thing
                                Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole


                                • #36
                                  My late tb mare would lick when she was happy. She'd lick over your clothes, too, so the salt theory wouldn't have worked in her case. She had two foals... one licks one doesn't. I know my horses well and I couldn't speak to those belonging to others.
                                  http://leakycreek.wordpress.com/ Rainbows & Mourning Doves Blog
                                  John P. Smith II 1973-2009 Love Always
                                  Father, Husband, Friend, Firefighter- Cancer Sucks- Cure Melanoma


                                  • #37
                                    Yes. Knowledge gained by watching my 26yo mare and her 16yo son over the years.
                                    That does not, however, preclude other reasons.
                                    ... _. ._ .._. .._


                                    • #38
                                      My older guy is a big licker. He will like clothes if he can't get to skin. There is no theme except that he does it all the time! Mainly my mom and I .

                                      I kind of miss it, my new guy doesn't give 'kisses'.


                                      • #39
                                        Originally posted by SmartAlex View Post
                                        Sometimes it's affection, and sometimes they're just basting you.
                                        You kill me!!! With my horse I think it's both at the same time...


                                        • #40
                                          Originally posted by bambam View Post
                                          ... any affection is just a side effect of providing a treat
                                          Now that I am pretty much the sole provider of companionship/interaction with my gelding, I notice he will "start to groom me" in return of me grooming him.
                                          I say "start to," as he knows he is not allowed to reciprocate in that manner - so, what he does is rest his chin/lips on my back or shoulder, and give one very gentle pressing of his lips against me (a firm nuzzle?) as a way to express his comradeship.
                                          I find it adorable!