As in any human-to-human relationship, communication and understanding one another are the keys; any communication breakdown can cause discord, even when showing affection. As Cherry Hill says in her handbook “How to Think Like a Horse,” “The better you understand horses, the less often conflict will arise.”.
Horses love the ability to go to you and give you affection. Any instance where your horse comes to you or gives you attention, some warmth is there. Because horses don’t often spend time on anything they don’t have an interest in.
They can even hug you to show affection, as we can see in this video. But along those same lines, some horses can only process one thing at a time. These horses are consciously either giving or receiving input, but not both simultaneously. They are either giving you attention or receiving yours. In fact, when we reach into a horse’s physical space, no matter what, we stop its affection from coming back towards us. However, some horses love to share the affection back right when you show it to them. They are rare, that’s why when you see this happening between you and your horse, be grateful.
One example of horses coming to give you affection is by gently leaning on you. You can see them doing this with other horses as well, both in the wild and in domestic care. Sharing body contact is one of the main ways horses share affection. Since horses don’t have hands to hold or arms to give hugs, a gentle lean and even a neck hug is a way of expressing their love.
Of course, there are many ways horses can show affection. And your horse may have their own unique way of showing you love. Always offer bits of affection to your horse, but never in excess.