Wednesday, June 9, 2010


The wind was blowing absurdly hard this afternoon, so I skipped riding to hang out with Dixie. She's in heat, and she's very sweet this time. She was mutally grooming with another mare when I got there! I don't think I've ever seen her groom another horse. She's way too bitchy and standoffish to consent to something that affectionate.

I fed Dixie and Billy an assortment of treats: cherries (Dixie approves, Billy disapproves), cheerios (both disapprove), pecans (both approve) and carrots (Dixie approves, Billy doesn't care). When I ran out, I hung out with the other humans for a while, then wandered over and hung out with Dixie. She snuffled carefully at my hand, then licked it for a while. I scratched around her ears a bit, which is something she'll sometimes tolerate. Then she twisted her head around so that I was scratching an eye. And she made the happy wiggly-lip face! I think I've owned her for two and a half years, and that is the first time she's made the happy grooming face for me. I don't know if it's just hormones or if she's decided it feels good to be scratched, but I'll take it.

Dixie really does have a lovely soft mouth. Her lips are very gentle when she takes treats, and she likes to lick my hands. She's still Dixie, though - she'd lick for a while, then she'd "bite" as my fingers with her lips, so I'd "bite" back with my fingers. I watched her carefully while she was doing this, and she was giving me a very calculating appraising gaze, like she wanted to make sure the line was where she thought it was.

I'm sure licking is on some list of Things You Shouldn't Let Your Horse Do, but I don't care. I know when her body language is telling me she's going to bite me. I've really emphasized to her that it's ok if she interacts with me, or with other things when I'm around. She was so wary when I got her - just waiting for me to do something that she didn't like, or whack her for no reason that she could understand. We both know the difference between a nuzzle and a head-toss, or a lick and a bite. I'm happy that she's relaxed enough to lick me or play with the lead rope.


  1. There's a distinct difference between licking and biting, and yes, I'm sure it's Against The Rules to allow either, but if a horse wants to lick me it's okay. The rules are really more like guidelines anyhow.

  2. That's lovely. I enjoyed this post very much.

  3. Noble will groom my shoulder when I scratch his withers.

    On licking - it depends on the horse and the circumstances - our pony Norman loved to lick but if you weren't careful, the next thing you'd know, he'd taken a chunk out of your palm!

  4. I've never had a licking horse. how you describe her is really sweet. Farley was really standoffish when I first got her and always acted like I was going to smack her for no reason. So yeah, I totally understand about the whole "my horse is happy to have me touch her!" It took at least a year before Farley's first reaction to something new I was doing was "what are you doing?" instead of "OMG!"

  5. Both my girls lick regularly and treat feeding from the hand is definitely on the list of things the dressage madam would frown upon...

    A relationship with your horse is mutual understanding and I, for one, definitely think the right thing to do is encourage interaction that is not detrimental to you or your horse. Both my horses started out trying to take chunks out of the palm of my hand and to get them to where they are now my only punishment was to remove myself from harms way and onto whatever it was I hoped to accomplish that day. I've only had them 6 months and they do not bite anymore.
    Thank you for a lovely story!

  6. Aww... that's wonderful! :) Some of my favorite times with my mare is when we're sharing an intimate moment like that. And to her have her show appreciation for your affection must have warmed your heart!

    I'll admit I let both of my horses lick. Neither one has bitten me and I'd be surprised if they did.


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