Horse Yawning,Licking and Nudging
Zero licking me
What does it mean when my horse yawns, licks and pushes me over?
My Boyfriend and I just moved into my grandmothers farmhouse, no one has lived there for years. She has a 10yr old quarter horse (Zero) that has been maintained by caregivers. Zero has been taken very good care of and has plenty and living space. I'm not a horse person, or so I thought... I have fallen in love with Zero and I have overtaken his care giving. I feed him daily and spend about an hour a day with him. I'm not in charge of is hoof cleaning/trimming etc. Since I know nothing about horses I'm very interested in learning how to interact and understand him better. I have been spending time with him everyday for about 2 months now. Zero sometimes yawns a lot. From what I have read that can mean he is stressed out. He is never tied up or made to be next to me. He is very loving and loves attention but he will just come up to me and yawn like 10 times in a row..? What can this mean. I have tried sitting on the ground so as not to make him feel intimidated or scared and he still comes to me and yawns. He will also push me with his head. He is not very forceful but he still pushes me with his head. He will walk behind me and push is head into my back or if I'm facing him he will push up on my chest. If I squat down on the ground he will gently nudge me over. He will also lick my face the back of my neck and my hair. He sometimes puts his lips to mine almost like he's trying to kiss me. I'm very interested to know if you think I am bothering him and should give him space or if you think maybe he is happy to have a loving friendship with a person. Everyday he runs across the creek and up the hill to me... Maybe he just wants his oats or maybe he loves me too :)?? Any advice you can give me would be great!!
Zero is so lucky to have you in his life!
Horses are herd animals therefore they should never live out their lives without a friend (preferably of their own species) but when that is not possible a friendship from you is the next best thing!
I really can’t stress this part enough about what a herd animal needs for the feeling of safety and emotional security. In the wild an individual herd or prey animal would know that being separated from the group means they have become volatile to a predator and will likely become someone’s dinner, so they would need to be constantly on high alert for danger. We can’t take this instinctual nature out of them, in other words WE know we have domesticated them, but they don’t know that!
Zero has learned quite well to cope with being alone and he is thrilled you can provide some emotional friendship. His yawning under these circumstances would be the release of endorphins that provides a calming effect on the body’s system. Sort of like a relaxing relief that he feels to his system when he sees you coming to offer company. (He is relieved to have your company) Is he stressed? Maybe just a wee bit from being alone for long lengths of time. But not to worry now that you can offer him the emotional balance that only friendship can bring.
His licking and nudging is all part of wanting to interact with you as he would with another horse. He wants to play and groom with you! He’s a bit bored and we must remember horses are very social animals, another reason why they should not be alone. So dear, you are not annoying him one bit, you are the enjoyment!
Now it’s okay for you to show him that too much licking or nudging (if you feel unsafe) has acceptable limits. We don’t want this turning into a biting or you falling over game if he doesn’t know his own strength. Just tell him “No” if you feel it’s too much.
I would highly recommend you ask your farrier or the other caregivers to show you how to pick up and clean his feet so you could continue your bonding friendship. Plus you and Zero would have tons of fun playing some clicker games. See our Clicker Training Guide
to get you started.
Thanks for being a horses friend!