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Hi Cherry,

I am a very inexperienced horse person, but I want to get more involved with horses.  I had my first official training session the other day and everything went really well.  I just have a question about how the horse, a 22 yr old mare, behaved at the end of the ride.  I was leading her back to her regular stall, but had to stop walking for just a second to talk to someone.  She stopped and stood there relaxed for a few seconds, but then out of nowhere she nudged me on the side/arm.  It wasn’t rough enough to put me off balance, but it was sudden enough for me to get a little nervous.  I am wondering what this meant and when/how to react to it.  I keep reading different opinions – some saying it’s affection others saying it’s disrespect.  I doubt it was affection as this horse doesn’t know me.  All I did was tell her “hey, no girl” in a firm voice and she didn’t do it again.
She was so close to me that I couldn’t really see what the rest of her body was doing, legs, rear etc…  Any advice or interpretation?  I want to make sure I did the right thing, and if not what to do next time. Thank you!

Merri

Hi Merri,

The mare was probably testing the waters, checking to see if she could nudge into your space or push you a little bit, so in a way, it is
a form of disrespect…….like if someone interrupted you while you were talking and wanted you to get going…….you reacted perfectly.

If she, or another horse does this again, stand your ground – in other words, don’t move yourself, keep your feet planted and flick your elbow at the horse to tell it to stay in its own space, and you can use a short voice command like “No” or “Go on”. The important thing is to not move yourself or the horse “won”.

If you watch horses interact with each other, they tell other horses to stay out of their space in various ways. They might do it with a nudge or a bite, kick, lunge, strike, body slam….so this mare was using a mild form of pushiness, but pushiness nonetheless.

More articles:

Teach Your Horse Respect for Your Personal Space

Personal Space – Don’t Crowd Me

To read more about horse behavior, refer to How to Think Like a Horse.

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