The Top 10 Things People Do That Confuse Horses

They way humans interact with horses is vastly different from the way horses interact with one another. Some of the way horses behave toward each other, such as rubbing on one another or scratching each other with their teeth, aren’t tolerated by most humans. There are also things humans do to horses that are outside of their social norms when living in the wild. As a flight animal, horses don’t defend themselves out of malice, but out of fear.

Here are 10 things humans do that can confuse horses:

  • Handling their feet. Though it’s important to routinely clean and trim a horse’s feet, these activities often render the horse immobile, which can be stressful for the flight animals.
  • Patting. While many people pat a horse as a show of kindness, horses in the wild scratch or nibble each other to bond.
  • Grooming touchy areas. Horses in the wild don’t groom the ticklish areas on each other; horses that are groomed in these areas by human handlers may show their discomfort by swishing their tail, moving over or trying to bite the person doing the grooming.
  • Pulling manes and trimming whiskers. Many people pull horse’s manes and trim their facial and ear hair, which is not always well received by the horse.
  • Dousing them with flyspray, coat conditioners and other chemical compounds. The act of using a spray bottle can be startling to horses and the smell of the product can irritate sensitive noses. Chemicals in the spray can burn or irritate sensitive skin.
  • Shipping them in horse trailers. Horses are born trying to avoid dark, tight spaces like those of a horse trailer.
  • Feeding from a bucket or offering treats by hand. Food aggression can be seen in domestic horses when they are fed from buckets; this is not a common practice in the wild. Additionally, offering treats to the horse by hand can make him pushy and aggressive toward his handler.
  • Branding. Fire branding and freeze branding  a horse causes third-degree burns that leave a permanent mark on his skin to identify him throughout his life.
  • Stabling. Horses in the wild are social animals; housing them in stalls inside barns is counter to their very nature as it prevents them from interacting with other horses. This separation can lead to stereotypies like cribbing or weaving, or aggression.

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