Horses mutually grooming each other…do you let your horse groom you?

When horses are turned out together it is often possible to find two horses mutually grooming each other. This usually involves two horses standing in a way It's so much friendlier with two. Winnie the Poohthat they can both scratch each others withers at the same time. One horse generally starts the scratching and the other horse seems almost unable to resist the urge to return the favor. Is this where the expression, “I’ll scratch your back while you scratch mine” came from?

Horses often start by scratching each others withers but will move up and down each others body, not only rubbing with their strong upper lip but also using their teeth to both scratch and to gently nip.

It is always interesting to watch two horses scratching like this to observe how they interact. Many horses seem to both agree on the amount of pressure, while others will increase the pressure and nipping until offending the other horse who generally leaves. Popcorn is always happy to scratch others but won’t allow for the biting to escalate. Jac wanted to scratch others but generally tended to add some ‘testing of the boundaries (he is a stallion) and frequently offended his scratching partner. Newt is in between…he will scratch (or lick) other horses but can get a bit pushy during the session also.

I have taught Newt that scratching humans is off limits…but I do think it is funny when he scratches other things…like the saddle pad, as shown in the video below. I also added a shorter video from a different angle showing how Newt progresses from rubbing the saddle to biting the saddle…the saddle doesn’t correct him or leave like another horse would, lol.

Often when a young horse is being groomed by a human the horse will also turn and try to groom the human back. I have seen some people who allow this, some who hold out their hand for the horse to scratch and others who teach the horse to enjoy the grooming without returning the favor to the human. Which do you encourage?



  1. Becks on April 13, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    My 12 year old gelding, Major’s new wrinkle is that when I groom him especially in the morning before turning him out, he stops eating his hay & grain and just stands and enjoys being groomed. He used to continue eating while i groomed him in his stall. His attention is completely on me and getting groomed. He leans into me, nuzzles me, rests his head on my head and back. And sometimes he does try to nibble me, but he is very gentle. I just whisper to him “be easy, no teeth”, and responds accordingly. We have a wonderful friendship.:-)

  2. […] wrote a blog titled, “Horses mutually grooming each other…do you let your horse groom you?” that received many comments. Some people allow their horses to scratch but don’t allow […]

  3. Morgan Kauffman on September 10, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    Yes, until the teeth come out. 🙂

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Rebecca on September 10, 2014 at 7:21 am

    I’ve figured mine out recently…. he expects me to scratch at the intensity he is scratching me! He has been teaching me this, when I rub hard, he rubs hard, when I slow down, he slows down, when I tickle, he tickles……. It took me a while to “get it”, but when I had an inkling that was what it was, I started experimenting, and he matches all the transitions with me.. LOL!
    When I get to the area/firmness he is begging for, he stops rubbing me and sticks his nose out with his lip wobbling all over.
    My horse is a great trainer 😉

  5. firnhyde on September 10, 2014 at 2:24 am

    I allow lips but never teeth. My gelding caught on pretty quick and now I get a shoulder-lipping during most groomings! Otherwise he chews his lead or the saddle or the grooming kit or the fence…

  6. Terrie on September 9, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    I don’t allow them to nuzzle me like that but my old gelding would rub my back at my request, I would tell him my shoulders hurt and he would take the flat side of his head and rub it up and down on my back. But he only did it when I asked. I do miss him. He was almost 30 when he died… 🙂

  7. darlaflack1 on September 9, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    One of my TB fillies would give me the best back scratch as I scratched her wither. She never used too much pressure. Loved it.

  8. Laurie Spry on September 9, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    My mare lifts each hind leg so I can really get in there where it itches! I keep an elbow ‘up’ and never allow her to scratch or nuzzle me back though she’s dying to.

  9. Brenda Casteel on September 9, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    It depends on the horse. NEVER a stallion. But my 20 year old Scooter yes I groom her and she returns by noiseing at me. She returns my affection and I know we are on the same page.

  10. Jackie on September 9, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    Now that I own my horse and not lease him 🙂 yeah!!! Last winter I had rawhide gloves on, I was rubbing Fynn with my gloves by his withers and suddenly he was rubbing my shoulder … oh boy .. one hand it was neat! Other hand when does the mutual biting start????? So I moved away to prevent the mutual grooming but did not scold him either.

  11. Cindy on September 9, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    My gelding doesn’t groom anything while he is being groomed, but when we hit a feel good spot he will “chew air” for as long as we work that feel good spot! Better than chewing on us!

  12. granny on September 9, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    I expect mine to keep their lips off me. (Raised ponies for a few years and found the babies and boys to be excessively mouthy) My mare though is permitted to wiggle her nose in the palm of my hand if she must but we have a special thing going. LOL

  13. Tracy Johnson on September 9, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    I have never seen that before , How cool. When i groom my Whizz he just stands there and enjoys the grooming. I do let him sniff the saddle and his bridle so that he knows that he is the only one who has use of it. lol. He is a funny old fella. But i love him to pieces. Bless him.

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