I don't know. I tell myself yes. My daughter's gelding is a big licker. It can't be salt because he will lick her over her clothing, shoulder, back, etc. I really don't know what else it could be; maybe some sort of grooming us? Isn't that a form of affection?
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Sure, they might. I certainly wouldn't give an unqualified "no." Mares lick their foals, horses do mutual grooming and scratching, this would be a natural carryover into adulthood in some horses, although obviously they don't retain licking, per se, as strongly as dogs, at least toward humans. We do a great deal to discourage any mouthy behavior with horses towards humans, so we probably suppress most of that tendency in any case.
Horses also lick their lips, the same way dogs and humans do, when they are upset or concentrating and trying to calm themselves. Watch your horse closely and you'll see this a lot when you are challenging him with new work, etc.
I think it depends on the horse? Some just want the salt, some are mouthy but have been taught not to bite, some are tasting you, some seem to do it to show affection, but that could just be me pretending like my horse loves me
Hannah licks me no matter what, I think it's more of a comfort thing for her. She adores it when people play with her mouth/tongue-favorite game is she licks my hand, I grab her tongue, she pulls it away, then licks me again. She loves it. She's also the only horse I've met that actually tries to lick my face like a dog. She's very mouthy in general, but someone in her past obviously taught her that biting is not okay.
Fifi prefers me grabbing her lip, and she'll occasionally lick me after a long sweaty ride.
Finn used to lick all the time when he was younger, now it's only with certain people, unless it's right after treats. But even with those certain people, it's more like he's tasting them...
I like mares. They remind me of myself: stubborn know it alls who only acknowledge you if you have food.
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I think my horse licks to show affection. She is so insistent on licking my hands when we start grooming that I have to pull my gloves off and let her lick before she'll let me get on with business, and it's hard sometimes getting her in cross ties because she's following my hands around trying to lick.
She mostly licks when I first get there and not later, after we've ridden, when theoretically my hands would be more salty.
Also, I had turned her out once, she was walking away, I called out to her that I loved her. She stopped, turned around, came back to where I was at the fence and licked my hand. That's when I thought, hmmm, maybe there's something more to this . . .
Yep! My gelding has to, has to, lick my hand after getting treats, particularly peppermints. If do not have my full attention on him and let him lick too long, I sometimes feel the faint touch of his teeth on the palm of my hand. If he cannot lick a hand, he will lick the wood on his stall or even the cement on the floor.
I mostly believe it is for the salt or to tenderize before taking a chunk out of my hand! My gelding also expresses a lot of his feelings through his mouth, so maybe there is some affection there...but, probably not.
I agree with the self-comforting/relaxation theory. My gelding likes to lick my hand also, but when I walk away, he starts licking the corral panel that separates him from his donkey buddy. I don't think the panel's salty (haven't tried it). And my gelding is also mouthy in general but not a biter.
It's just grass and water till it hits the ground.
Well, mares lick their foals, and I rather doubt that it's for the salt.
My late TB licked me when I got to the barn on 9/11. This was extraordinary b/c as a rule he was NOT an affectionate horse. The horses all knew something was up, but mine sort of wrapped his neck around me and licked my arms. I think it was the only way he could think of to say "It's OK, calm down."
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I think it does in certain cases. My last horse liked to give kisses and lick my face. He also liked to stick his tongue in your mouth if you weren't careful. (SO Gross!!!) He got really good at sneak attacking people with this when he knew they didn't know better and weren't paying attention.
My first horse (a mare) would lick me for hours. She was very partial to my feet (socked) when I was trying to put my boots on. And my butt when I was grooming her. But she would also stand for half an hour licking random objects for no apparent reason.
My current horse never licks. He gives kisses and hugs (and not just for food!) The other day, we were cuddling and he was pressing his lips to mine for kisses and just randomly licked my face. It was such a shock I just stood there, so he pulled me in for a hug. He really is something else...
My gelding will lick me when I'm grooming a particularly enjoyable itchy spot. I think he knows that he's not allowed to lay his teeth on me but wants to mutually groom. That could be seen as a sign of affection (at least, I like to see it that way )
To me, it is a taste test,nd a potential predecessor to biting. Yes, I am sure those have horses that lick and never have been bit. It's personal space, to me. But I'm a grinch and don't give hand treats and if they get them, only in the buckets.
I am not making judgements, but to those letting horses lick your face/lips etc. Please be careful. My roommante in college literally got 1/2 her nose ripped off and reconstructive surgery for years by her horse who "would never bite me, it's affection".
Unlike dogs, licking is not a characterized submissive behavior in horses. I don't think I have ever observed my horses licking each other in a field, perhaps others have. Who knows how/why it develops in some horses. Yes, it is prob very adorable but please be careful. It gave me chills reading some of your posts. *not in a snarky way*