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How to Approach & Pet a Horse Safely

Horses are friendly creatures and enjoy receiving attention. Though horses like affection, it is important to know how to approach a horse so you don’t spook them.

It is important to know how to approach a horse for your own safety. Once you know how to approach and pet a horse, you will be able to create a solid bond with them.

How to Greet a Horse

When going to greet a horse, it is important you let them know you are there so you don’t scare them. Greeting a horse by saying “hello” or their name in a friendly tone will let them know where you are.

Over time, your horse will recognize your voice and will be excited when they hear you. Some horses will even show their excitement with a nicker or whinny in return.

How to Approach a Horse

After letting a horse know you are there by verbally greeting them, you should slowly walk up to them when approaching them for the first time.

Always approach a horse from the front, at a slight angle. Horses can't see directly in front of them, therefore from angle, they can see you coming. Ideally, you should approach them from the left side since that is the side you lead and mount horses on.

You want to try to make eye contact so you know the horse sees you. Once you reach the horse, it is a good idea to stretch out your hand for them to smell. After letting the horse smell you, you can carefully reach out to pet them on the neck.

Understand Horse Body Language When Approaching

If the horse you are approaching has its head lowered and ears forward when you approach it, it is relaxed.

If a horse’s ears are swiveling, the whites of their eyes are showing and their nostrils are flared, you need to approach them with caution.

When approaching a nervous horse, walk up to them slowly and calmly. Talk to them quietly and do not make any quick actions.

If the horse is still nervous when you approach it, you might need to give them some time and space to let them calm down before approaching them again.

When you are approaching a horse you are familiar with, you can be more assertive. Stand tall, with your shoulders back so they know you are the boss. Just be sure you are not coming off as threatening.

Girl and horse looking at each other

How to Approach a Horse in its Stable

When approaching a horse in its stall, be sure to let them know you are there first. Once you have opened the stall door, wait to approach the horse until it sees you.

You don’t want to approach a horse from the behind because it may startle them, causing them to kick. Allow the horse to come to the front of the stall where they can see you before approaching them.

How to Pet a Horse

When petting a horse, you always want to make sure the horse is aware you are there before you pet them. Do not sneak up behind them and try to pet them on their backs or butts without them knowing.

Horses like to be stroked, rubbed and scratched. Scratching often feels good to them on the neck and withers especially.

Where do Horses Like to be Petted?

Ideally, when approaching a horse for the first time, you will want to pet them on their neck. Horses are more sensitive on their heads and they do not always like to get pet there.

The neck, withers and shoulders are the best places to pet a horse. Horses enjoy being stroked and scratched in these areas.

Horses also liked to be petted on the chest and back, just be sure to start from the front and walk to the back, so the horse knows you are there.

Some horses do like being petted on their face, ears, and muzzle, whereas other horses don’t. It all depends on the individual horse.

How to Pet a Horse’s Face

If you pet a horse on the face, it’s best to pet their muzzle. Most horses do not like to be petted near their eyes.

Some horses love a good ear scratch as well and some like to be rubbed on their forehead. Whenever you pet a horse’s face, be sure to be gentle since it is more sensitive than most other parts of their body.

Where Not to Pet a Horse

Most horses do not like to be pet on their underbelly, legs or near their tail. Depending on the horse, they may not like to be petted on their face.

If you are petting a horse you are not familiar with, be sure to ask their owner first. The horse may have certain spots they don’t like to be pet or may just not like to be pet at all.

Signs a Horse Doesn't Want to be Approached or Petted

Although horses are friendly animals, they are not always welcoming to humans. Just like humans, some horses can have a temper or may not want anything touch them or be be in their personal space.

For your safety and the well-being of a horse, it's important to to aware for the signs a horses doesn't want you near them.

One sign to be aware of is a horses ears. If a horse has their ears pinned back to their neck, this is a major warning sign a horse is angry, so you should back away to safety.

Other signs are body tension in the horse, or if a horse is swishing it's tail. If a horse is relaxed, this will show in their posture and body tension. Also, a horse swishing it's tail is one of the ways a horse shows it's unhappy.

If you're unsure whether to approach a horse or if a horse is angry, always be cautious and don't approach a horse. Seek advice from an equine expert and approach or stroke a horse in a safe environment.

NEVER approach horses you don't know in an open field and or ones with foals. Mares can be very protective of foals, so always take extra caution and don't upset them.

Do Horses Like Kisses?

It really depends on the individual horse if they liked to get kissed. Some horses love to get a kiss on their nose from their owner, but other horses will not enjoy kisses.

If your horse loves affection and enjoys getting pets on their face, they will probably like kisses. For horses who prefer to be pet only on their neck and shoulders, chances are they would not like a kiss on the nose.