Where Do Horses Like To Be Pet?

Last Updated on December 7, 2021

All horse riders and lovers would like to think that their horses love to be petted as much as we love to pet them! But how do find this out for sure? If you want to know how to tell where horses like to be pet, keep reading to find out more.

To understand if your horse likes to be pet, you need to learn about horse body language and what they are trying to tell us. Horses have very subtle methods of communication and it is not always easy to figure out what they want to say! But, if we can learn to read their language, we can better understand how they like to be pet.

Why Is Horse Petting Important?

Petting a horse is a vital way to create a strong bond and trusting relationship with the animal. Most horses enjoy being petted and will get great enjoyment out of this time spent with their favorite human.

Remember that horse petting should always be on their terms – we cannot force a horse to be pet if he does not enjoy it. Listen to what he is trying to tell you and stick to what he enjoys, and he will soon be following you around the barn asking to be pet!

petting a horse

How To Pet A Horse Safely

To pet a horse safely we must learn to understand what he is trying to communicate to us. He will tell us what he likes and what he dislikes, we just need to figure out what he is saying! This is not an easy task, as the expressions of a horse can be very complex.

Let’s find out how to understand basic horse body language:

  • Ears

A relaxed horse will have slightly droopy ears. They will swivel around gently to follow your movements or other sounds.

Watch for a horse that puts its ears flat back – he is feeling threatened or uncomfortable. So, if you are petting a horse and he puts his ears back, he is trying to tell you that he doesn’t like it! We should respect his attempt to communicate with us and stop petting him.

  • Eyes

A calm and happy horse will have what is called ‘soft eyes’. This means that the muscles around the eyes are relaxed, with no sign of tension.

If a horse is unhappy about a situation, the facial muscles tighten and the eyes will seem wider. You could also see the whites of the horse’s eyes. This is another warning signal that he is not happy about what is occurring.

  • Muzzle

The muzzle is the best way to tell how where a horse likes to be pet! A relaxed horse has loose lips, that might twitch occasionally. However, if he is enjoying being petted, his top lip will become elongated and move around.

Watch your horse as you pet different areas – is there a particular spot where his top lip starts to wiggle? Try scratching this a bit harder and see how he reacts! This is a fun way to find out your horse’s itchy spots and favorite petting areas.

He may even start to use his muzzle to groom you, in the same way as he does with his equine best friend. If your horse wants to indulge in mutual grooming with you this is a sign that he trusts you and feels relaxed in your company. However, take care not to let it get too boisterous!

  • Tail

When relaxed, a horse will stand with its tail held loosely. The tail may swish lightly from side to side.

However, a threatened horse will swish its tail in a much more aggressive manner. If a horse is feeling nervous and threatened, it will clamp its tail down tightly.

  • Body Movements

A horse will use his body to tell us where he likes to be pet. For example, if he does not like having his face rubbed, he will move his head away from you. On the other hand, he will lean into a petting action that he likes, to encourage you to do it harder!

Some horses will also move a part of their body towards you if they want you to give it a pet. Some horses love to have their rump rubbed, and will turn their hindquarters towards you to encourage you to do this!

Different Ways Of Petting A Horse

You can pet a horse in one of two ways – by using a massage technique, or by gentle scratching.

To massage a horse, use your hand to rub the skin of the horse. Run the hand in the same direction as the hair lies, and use long, rhythmical strokes. They will particularly enjoy this action over large muscle masses, such as the shoulders and rump.

Gentle scratching is a lovely treat for a horse in the areas they cannot reach easily! Horses use their muzzles to groom themselves and each other, and we can replicate this movement with our fingertips.

Here are some of the best places to try petting your horse:

  • Withers

The withers are the body parts of the spine, just in front of where the saddle sits. Horses will often groom each other’s withers for long periods. Your equine friend will love you forever if you give his withers a good scratch!

  • Chest

The chest is another area that is difficult for the horse to reach. Try giving the armpit area a gentle tickle and see how your horse reacts. Most horses will lean into a good tickling spot, so if he does not move away he is most likely enjoying it.

  • Head

Some horses are very sensitive about having their heads touched, so approach this area with caution. A scratch under the jaw is often appreciated, as is a gentle rub around the ears. Remember that if he moves away he is telling you that he doesn’t like it!


So, as we have learned, horses are great at trying to tell us where they like to be pet! It can take some time to earn your horse’s trust but listening to his body language can speed up this process. Most horses will enjoy having their neck scratched or muzzle rubbed.

We’d love to hear about your experiences – do you know how to tell if where your horse likes to be pet? Or is your pony a grumpy old man who doesn’t seem to enjoy being petted at all? Add a comment below this post and we’ll get back to you!