TRUE TRAINING 55 - Love Nips between Horses
Aww, sometimes these horses are so darn cute. True’s been separated from his injured pasture mate for a couple of days. With the new arrangement, they are within sight and whinnying distance of each other, maybe 200 yards apart, but not in the same pasture. After the first two days of separation, True was doing well. He watched Buddy closely but wasn’t frantic to get to him. I try to keep horses from becoming buddy-sour by separating them at small intervals and distances during daily work. If necessary, I move horses to stalls or pastures apart from each other so they will develop greater security via trust in me and friendships with different horses.
As I approached the pasture, True headed for me more quickly than usual and let me know right away that we needed to get over to Buddy. Off we went. True knew better than to hurry, but his eyes were on Buddy every step of the way. Upon greeting, the two horses rubbed their faces together for about two minutes – a long time for horse talk. Back and forth they went, rubbing all parts of each face on the other, under the chin, over the eyes, both ears, the poll. At times, they paused, pressing their faces together without movement. A full two-way face massage!
Once this over-the-gate greeting was done, I placed True in a run adjacent to Buddy’s. Buddy leaned on the steel pole fence to press his body as close to True as possible. At first, True pressed his body back. But soon, True stood back and used the edges of his teeth to scratch Buddy’s skin in every location he could reach. He even dropped his head down low to work on Buddy’s legs. For his part, Buddy extended his neck and moved his lips in reciprocal joy at the scratching of his itches. I stood back, fascinated as the teamwork poured out between these two boys.
After a while, Buddy began to reciprocate, grooming True’s back and topline with his teeth. Soon the love nips began. This appeared to be Big Fun: “I nip you, You nip me.” No pain was involved. These were very delicate little nips on the face and neck that did not break skin, and the horses flipped their faces away after each nip as if to say, “There! Top that!” The two alternated almost perfectly—first a nip from Buddy, then a nip from True, and so on back and forth. Eventually, they moved the love nips to their legs, reaching through the fence for a quick snip, then rapidly pulling away.
The entire scene went on for about ten minutes. In successive days, the face massages, body scratching, and love nips disappeared although the two horses still lean toward each other every time they are near. We can learn so much about horses when we simply watch them behave in their natural ways. Neither Buddy nor True needed the capacity for speech or knowledge of the English language to show me what they were communicating. It was obvious for anyone to see; I just happened to be the only person watching.