Why Does a Horse Rub its Head on You (6 Most Usual Reasons)

Horses socialize very well and enjoy other’s presence. They form a good bond with humans/owners as time passes. They usually display fondness in different ways towards you.

This is recognizable with their movements, gestures, expression, and posture. They display expressive body language.

Trainers understand their body language and this sets them apart from other humans in perceiving them. However, if you are responding and noticing their subtle cues from their horse, you will be able to comprehend what they want to convey.

It is important to understand that it is not magic. By spending time with them and understanding their unique forms of communication, you can gradually improve your skills in reading your horse. This will help in handling your horse more efficiently. One such cue is your horse rubbing its head on you.

Top Reason Why Horses Rubs Their Head On You

The primary reasons for head rub could be:

  • It could be because of an itch and this is the most common reason.
  • Rub his head post work when the clammy and hot.
  • Avoiding flies hovering its face.
  • As a sign of trust/affection
  • To test each other/display dominance
  • To show disagreement.

Hot and Sweaty

Your horse could rub its head on you after tedious work such as a race, then it could be because it could be sweaty and hot. If using your fingers on the forehead in the browband region is soothing it, then this reason could be true. 

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Itchiness is a primary and legit reason for a head rub by a horse onto you. This could be it wants to relieve its itch or signaling you of the itch. However, you cannot assist an itchy horse. Rubbing can help temporarily but it is best to train it to wait until it gets a damp towel rub. Use a rub-rag to eliminate its sweat for brief soothe. But letting it wait to get nice scratchy stiff bristles to brush is best. The other method of relieving the itch is by nailing a brush or a rough rag onto a padlock or a lamp post. Train it to rub against this post whenever your horse likes to. This way it is not onto you to rub its head and has its resources.

To Avoid Flies

It does not itch at times that your horse wants to rub its head onto you. At times it may want to bury its head on you to get rid of hovering flies on its head. It could be either due to sweat in its hair and skin or could be due to paddy or grass around.

Horses test each other

Horses test herd dynamics and jostle most of the time. He is defending your response to display dominance. A horse takes it as an acceptance if you allow this and considers its position as a herd leader. His superiority is accepted. If you are in a disagreement, it is essential to firmly push away when it is rubbing its head on you. If there is persistence then use its reins to turn its head off your space. Do not let it misinterpret as your affection and so firmness with no theatrics is essential.

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Affection and Trust

Whenever your horse rubs its head on you, another sign could be that it trusts you. They could be feeling quite comfortable around you and like rubbing or resting their head on you. It is not a stern rub and light resting type of rub, then it could be displaying its affection and bond with you. This is a method of hugging their best pal. However, if it is a pushy rub or constant rub, then do not misinterpret, the sign could be something else. 

Trying to accommodate it to anything new

When a horse is touching you with its head with its muzzle, then it could try to bite or nip you or trying to check you out. Out of his curiosity, he could be more than touching and rub his head. This indicates little need for reassurance from you. It could be that it is nervous as well.

Distinguishing the difference will be able to give you the right response. This can happen even when you are trying something new with your horse trying to accommodate it. It can rub its head for displaying pushiness or when being corrected.

Horses can get itchy and our body gives them a nice surface to rub against them to get their itchiness off. When riding for long periods, they can get sweaty.

Though several other reasons have been mentioned for a horse to rub its head onto you, the prominent one is itchiness. However, some contemplate the rubbing to dominance or respect, it comes as a very minor case. When they are comfortable around you and feel that you understand them, they get close to you.

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This is one aspect, but different horses show different behavior is a fact. Some horses do barge and shove on you. While some don’t. Understanding them is of priority to know why they are rubbing on you.

How To Control a Horse Rubbing You

  • These animals are strong and you can get hurt with a bridle getting rubbed on you. 
  • You can get hairy and dirty. If you enjoy and have no health problems, it might not be an issue.
  • You do not like it, then saying no firmly is a must.
  • For pushy and aggressive horses, back them a step without any hitting or whipping. By hitting, there is a high chance you may end up aggravating them more.
  • You can lose your balance and get knocked over as they are heavier than us. This can put you and your horse in danger.

What can you do?

  • Set boundaries without hesitation and give them alternatives instead to rub their face or brush their face after riding. 
  • Wash the sweat away or scratch the itch. Use a damp cloth to clean its face particularly around bridle regions. 
  • Never attempt to hit the horse on the face.
  • It is also better to train the horse not to rub its head against anyone as other people might not be able to comprehend its need and end up hurting them due to fear or to control them.
  • Step away.

Conclusion: A horse rubs its head on you due to itchiness, to avoid flies, or to display its trust. However, being cautious and taking the necessary steps to prevent the itch or sweatiness, you can make this easy on you and your horse. 

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