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Do horses lick to express affection?

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  • Do horses lick to express affection?

    That's pretty much my question. Mondy licked my hands for what seemed 5 minutes the other day after we had a very nice ride and affectionate groom/hug/pat/hand graze session afterwards.
    What's wrong with you?? Your cheese done slid off its cracker?!?!

  • #2
    come what may

    Rest in peace great mare, 1987-2013


    • #3
      Not always salt.

      DH's TWH used to lick my TB - we'd find him with big wet swirly patches on his sides. Was he getting salt from hide?

      My WB will lick my hands far longer than needed to get a salty fix.

      Maybe for salt/taste as well as affection?
      *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
      Steppin' Out 1988-2004
      Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
      Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


      • #4
        my gelding begs for treats by licking me
        any affection is just a side effect of providing a treat
        There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.(Churchill)


        • #5
          Tasting you before they bite.


          • #6

            Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


            • #7
              I have to lean towards yes, at least with my horse.


              • #8
                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?
                "The captive bolt is not a proper tool for slaughter of equids they regain consciousness 30 seconds after being struck fully aware they are being vivisected." Dr Friedlander DVM & frmr Chief USDA Insp


                • #9
                  Sure, they might. I certainly wouldn't give an unqualified "no." Mares lick their foals, horses do mutual grooming and scratching, this would be a natural carryover into adulthood in some horses, although obviously they don't retain licking, per se, as strongly as dogs, at least toward humans. We do a great deal to discourage any mouthy behavior with horses towards humans, so we probably suppress most of that tendency in any case.

                  Horses also lick their lips, the same way dogs and humans do, when they are upset or concentrating and trying to calm themselves. Watch your horse closely and you'll see this a lot when you are challenging him with new work, etc.
                  Ring the bells that still can ring
                  Forget your perfect offering
                  There is a crack in everything
                  That's how the light gets in.


                  • #10
                    Sometimes it's affection, and sometimes they're just basting you.
                    Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans


                    • #11
                      I think it depends on the horse? Some just want the salt, some are mouthy but have been taught not to bite, some are tasting you, some seem to do it to show affection, but that could just be me pretending like my horse loves me

                      Hannah licks me no matter what, I think it's more of a comfort thing for her. She adores it when people play with her mouth/tongue-favorite game is she licks my hand, I grab her tongue, she pulls it away, then licks me again. She loves it. She's also the only horse I've met that actually tries to lick my face like a dog. She's very mouthy in general, but someone in her past obviously taught her that biting is not okay.
                      Fifi prefers me grabbing her lip, and she'll occasionally lick me after a long sweaty ride.
                      Finn used to lick all the time when he was younger, now it's only with certain people, unless it's right after treats. But even with those certain people, it's more like he's tasting them...
                      I like mares. They remind me of myself: stubborn know-it-alls who only acknowledge you if you have food.
                      Titania: 50% horse, 50% hippo
                      Unforgetable: torn between jumping and nap time, bad speller


                      • #12
                        I think my horse licks to show affection. She is so insistent on licking my hands when we start grooming that I have to pull my gloves off and let her lick before she'll let me get on with business, and it's hard sometimes getting her in cross ties because she's following my hands around trying to lick.

                        She mostly licks when I first get there and not later, after we've ridden, when theoretically my hands would be more salty.

                        Also, I had turned her out once, she was walking away, I called out to her that I loved her. She stopped, turned around, came back to where I was at the fence and licked my hand. That's when I thought, hmmm, maybe there's something more to this . . .


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Seal Harbor View Post
                          Tasting you before they bite.
                          Yep! My gelding has to, has to, lick my hand after getting treats, particularly peppermints. If do not have my full attention on him and let him lick too long, I sometimes feel the faint touch of his teeth on the palm of my hand. If he cannot lick a hand, he will lick the wood on his stall or even the cement on the floor.

                          I mostly believe it is for the salt or to tenderize before taking a chunk out of my hand! My gelding also expresses a lot of his feelings through his mouth, so maybe there is some affection there...but, probably not.


                          • #14
                            I agree with the self-comforting/relaxation theory. My gelding likes to lick my hand also, but when I walk away, he starts licking the corral panel that separates him from his donkey buddy. I don't think the panel's salty (haven't tried it). And my gelding is also mouthy in general but not a biter.
                            It's just grass and water till it hits the ground.


                            • #15
                              Well, mares lick their foals, and I rather doubt that it's for the salt.

                              My late TB licked me when I got to the barn on 9/11. This was extraordinary b/c as a rule he was NOT an affectionate horse. The horses all knew something was up, but mine sort of wrapped his neck around me and licked my arms. I think it was the only way he could think of to say "It's OK, calm down."
                              "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief


                              • #16
                                I think it does in certain cases. My last horse liked to give kisses and lick my face. He also liked to stick his tongue in your mouth if you weren't careful. (SO Gross!!!) He got really good at sneak attacking people with this when he knew they didn't know better and weren't paying attention.

                                My first horse (a mare) would lick me for hours. She was very partial to my feet (socked) when I was trying to put my boots on. And my butt when I was grooming her. But she would also stand for half an hour licking random objects for no apparent reason.

                                My current horse never licks. He gives kisses and hugs (and not just for food!) The other day, we were cuddling and he was pressing his lips to mine for kisses and just randomly licked my face. It was such a shock I just stood there, so he pulled me in for a hug. He really is something else...
                                Celtic Charisma (R.I.P) ~ http://flickr.com/photos/rockandracehorses/2387275281
                                Proud owner of "The Intoxicated Moose!"
                                "Hope is not an executable plan" ~ My Mom
                                I love my Dublin-ator


                                • #17
                                  My gelding will lick me when I'm grooming a particularly enjoyable itchy spot. I think he knows that he's not allowed to lay his teeth on me but wants to mutually groom. That could be seen as a sign of affection (at least, I like to see it that way )
                                  Fils Du Reverdy (Revy)- 1993 Selle Francais Gelding
                                  My equine soulmate
                                  Mischief Managed (Tully)- JC Priceless Jewel 2002 TB Gelding


                                  • #18
                                    I have one who is a licker, kisser and what ever else he can do to put his face in yours. The other two not so much.


                                    • #19
                                      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


                                      • #20

                                        To me, it is a taste test,nd a potential predecessor to biting. Yes, I am sure those have horses that lick and never have been bit. It's personal space, to me. But I'm a grinch and don't give hand treats and if they get them, only in the buckets.

                                        The Grinch.

                                        I am not making judgements, but to those letting horses lick your face/lips etc. Please be careful. My roommante in college literally got 1/2 her nose ripped off and reconstructive surgery for years by her horse who "would never bite me, it's affection".

                                        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*
                                        Come to the dark side, we have cookies