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.
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.