Patting a horse is something you probably think you already know how to do. After all, it is natural instinct for most of us to greet a horse with a friendly touch or cuddle.
However, from the horse’s point of view, there can be a big difference between a hearty slap on the neck and a comforting scratch on the withers. As a pat is a form of communication to him, where and how we touch a horse is something we should be conscious of.
A very light touch is likely to elicit annoyance (tail swipe or skin shivering), because their skin is very sensitive to insects. A slap is probably on the other end of the pressure spectrum and may elicit a fear response, especially in nervous or shy horses. While you think you are slapping “Good boy”, the horse is probably startled and wondering what he did wrong.
Research shows that a horse’s heart rate decreases when receiving rubbing/scratching at the wither. Therefore, that is a great place to use when praising a horse. And you can reach it easily while riding, as it is in front of the saddle, right where your hands already are.
When I greet a new horse, I start a medium pressure long stroke on cbd products neck, going in the direction of the hair, and sometimes I will leave my hand on the horse for a few seconds to establish a connection and assess our relationship. The message that I am meaning to convey through touch is “Hello, I am not going to hurt you. Do you like to be touched?”. The horse will make it clear whether they want to engage or not.
One of the side-benefits of regular body work sessions is that horses that don’t enjoy being touched will learn to accept it. This is referred to as ‘reducing tactile defence’.
So next time you pat a horse, be aware of how you do it and the horse will enjoy the experience a whole lot more.