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5 Ways Horses Show Affection to Humans

5 Ways Horses Show Affection to Humans

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For centuries, horses and humans have shared close bonds. Horses have not only served as a form of transportation, but also as a close companion to humans.

Horses are not only social animals among each other, but they are also social with people. Showing affection allows horses to build strong bonds. There are many different ways horses show affection to both people and other horses.

Horses will often show affection to humans as they would to other horses. Horses show their affection through grooming, nuzzling, rubbing, resting their heads on you, and even licking.

Learning their body language will help you understand when they are showing affection.

Here are 5 common ways horses show affection to humans:

Lick You

If you’ve ever received a big, slobbery lick from your horse, they were likely showing you affection. Horses lick or lip you as a way to show you their love.

Horses may carefully grasp you with their lips and lick you if they like you. However, they may also be checking to see if you have any hidden treats.

Rub Their Head on You

Though it may just seem like your horse is using you as a scratching post, a horse will rub on you if they trust you. It is a sign they like you and feel comfortable around you.

If a horse rubs on you, it is often just because they are trying to scratch an itch. However, they will likely only rub their head on someone they trust.

Though it can be affectionate, many horse experts advise against letting your horse rub their head on you. It can be too much of an invasion of your personal space.

Since horses are so big, they may accidentally hurt you while they are rubbing you, especially if they have a bridle or halter on.

Girl hugging stroking her horse's head

Rest Their Heads on You

Horses often rest their heads on their owners as a way to show their affection. It is a way for your horse to give you a hug and show you their love for you.

Horses will often drape their heads on your chest or rest them on your shoulders. They will rest their heads on you if they feel like they can trust you. Horses will even rest their heads on other horses’ backs who they see as companions.

When a horse rests their head on you, it is often a sign they are relaxed. When a horse becomes relaxed around you, it means that they trust you.

Follow You to the Field

A horse will follow you if they see you as a leader. If a horse follows you, they believe in you to take care of them.

When your horse follows you, it can be a sign of affection, as your horse is wanting to be with you. Your horse will follow you around if they have bonded with you.

It is in their instincts to follow their herd leader around, so if your horse sees you as a leader, they will likely follow you.

Some horses do get too pushy while following their owners around. A horse may also follow you around in the hope that you may have treats with you. It is important that your horse still respects your space while following you.


Horses often nudge as a way to get your attention. They may be looking for you to pet them or just to say ‘hello’ to you.

Horses often nudge people they feel comfortable with. They want to show their appreciation for you and even get affection in return. They may be looking for you to give them some pets and scratches, or even some treats.

Gentle nudges are often just ways horses share affection. When horses get too pushy, it is an invasion of your personal respect and your horse needs to learn to respect your boundaries.


Thursday 10th of February 2022

My horse doesn’t like when I give any attention to my other horses he licks me and nibbles at my clothes and sometimes softly nudges me and if I squat down he will move where ever I go and stand over me. He likes to nibble my hair. Does this mean he likes me and is standing over me a protective gesture?


Thursday 9th of June 2022

@Jody, yep! My horse does similar things. She will hoof and nudge me over and over if I am paying attention to another horse that's not her. She definitley loves and trusts you!