Nudge, Nudge. “You’re Welcome”

My horses are fed hay several times a day. Even though they are fed often, there can still be some competition for a few minutes before everyone settles down into their meal. India is the youngest member of the herd and he is the one that often gets pushed off one of the numerous small piles of hay that are put down. When I am doing the feeding and I see this herd action, I take great pleasure in helping India out. I call him to come over to me and show him where I have put a few extra piles, just for him, away from the herd. He knows that I will help him and when he hears his name, he zooms over to me.

The other day, I called him, he came over and saw the small piles just for him and began to eat with great relish. I stood near him quietly, smiling to myself. He lifted his head and gently nudged my arm with his nose, very softly. At the risk of anthropomorphizing, I believe that it was a gesture of affection, or at minimum a kind acknowledgement of my presence. I took this gesture and the situation to mean that he acknowledged that I did something for him, and he was… well, thanking me in a way that is probably more horse than human.

“You’re welcome, buddy.” I said (a human) in response.

Over the years, I have found that nudging is usually a gesture from horses that means “I need something.” Or simply, “Hey… pay attention to me!” I think I can add “I acknowledge you,” or “I acknowledge what you did” to that list.

Horses are communicating all the time, and it’s to their credit that they continue to try to get their idea across to us in the best way they know now. Nudge, nudge.

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