My horse nudges people VERY often and very roughly, how can I stop this?

“Hey Stacy!
I have had my gelding for about two years and he has had/has the same habit since I bought him. He nudges people VERY often and very roughly. I’ve only talked to a few people on this matter and they all said bop him on the nose. Not only am I not comfortable with doing this, it has never eliminated the nudging and every time I went to touch his face he would flip his head up. I really need your help and opinion! What should I do when he nudges people? Thank you!”-Liz

When I answer questions for people I often think back to a horse that was exhibiting the same behavior. Your question is one that many people experience. It is really a question of finding a balance between two extremes. Your horse is being pushy, literally, which is one extreme. The other extreme would be a horse that stayed so out of your space that you would have a hard time touching him. There is a balance in between there where you are both comfortable with each other but are also both respectful of each other at the same time.I want to be very comfortable with my horse and I want my horse very comfortable with me. Stacy Westfall

The problem likely exists in both you and your horse. For that reason I would recommend that you both learn a new habit for a few weeks. Your challenge is this: lead and handle your horse while keeping him at a distance.

When I am doing this exercise I carry a Stick & String which has a handle that is about four feet long. I use this as a training tool as well as a measuring stick. If you go and watch Episode 9 of Jac you can see how I am keeping him back away from me. One technique I am using is teaching the horse to back up when I tap on his cannon bones. You will also notice that because I am bumping the cannon bones I am not making the horse head shy. This is only one of the many things you and your horse need to learn and use for several weeks in a row.

If you take up the simple challenge of handling your horse from a distance you will see many things change. First, your horse will be confused by your change. You will be building a new language between the two of you. Lead him and keep him behind you or several feet to the side. When you stop, keep the bubble between the two of you several feet. Take the time to observe how your horse responds to this change. He will likely try to come into the empty space but you will back him away. Then watch. Does he paw? Does he look more interested than he has in awhile? How persistent is he about coming back into your space?

When you do need to be inside the ‘bubble’ with him, keep it simple and clean. Put the halter on, step back out of the bubble. Brush his head, step back away. The goal here is to establish another level of language. His habit of nudging comes after he is in your space. By keeping him out of your space for a few weeks you will be ‘reseting’ what he considers normal. Once he accepts the distance you can begin decreasing the distance. If he gets pushy, you can move him back out.

In the end I want to be very comfortable with my horse and I want my horse very comfortable with me. Whenever this is lacking I go back and try to figure out which extreme the horse is leaning toward and I then do exercises to move them the other way with the goal of finding the balance in the middle.


  1. debbie miyahara on December 3, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    This caught my eye because my horse does this – not to anyone else, and only when he greets me. I know it’s mostly because when I bring him in from the pasture & remove his fly mask, he’s just “rubbing the itchy face” the mask gives him. I can push him away and make him stop, but most times I let him, because when he’s done, he just rests his head on me for a minute. I think it’s sweet, but my daughter (more accomplished horse woman than I am) says it’s a bad habit, and I shouldn’t let him do it. I usually counter her sass with “yeah, and people said I shouldn’t pick up the baby every time she cries, either! But I did!” – end of argument! 🙂 But really, if it IS a bad habit, I don’t want to perpetuate it. Your thoughts?

  2. Laurie on December 3, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Not sure of your opinion on this, but something I have found very helpful – learned from a person that handles a lot of stallions – I insist (firmly but kindly and consistently) that my horses lower their heads to my shoulder level when walking them on the lead – I find it leads to more respect and they are less likely to get pushy or forge ahead while on the lead.

  3. Liz on December 2, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to answer my question that no one else did! I am excited to start working with my gelding on this! Thank you again!

  4. cm cernetisch on December 2, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    in the video, you mention the quick release halter hardware–could you show that closer? I have been unhappy fiddling with that knot when working the youngsters. thanks

  5. dweber2000 on December 1, 2014 at 10:29 pm

    I’m definitely going to try distancing and backing him via stick. I need to ask Santa for one.:)

  6. dweber2000 on December 1, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    Stacy my gelding is like this and wants to drag me as he forges ahead to our destination. Thank you in advance for a fix. And Merry Christmas with hugs! Deb

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