Such a lovely word.  Most of you reading this will already have reacted in some way as soon as you saw it…

Touch can mean so many things:  the brush of a snowflake on your skin, the breath of a feather from your pillow against your face in the morning,  the warmth of a friend’s hand through your shirtsleeve.

Touch is healing.  Massage  heals physically and emotionally, it has been proven as a therapy for newborns and the elderly – and all of us inbetween.

Hugs heal.

Few of us doubt the value of touch.

What is the softest, most welcome touch you can think of?  That you can remember?  That you can imagine?

And now think of the touch you offer your horse……

Every time we are with our horses we are telling them something about ourselves.

A friend of mine used to find Gracie,  my chestnut TB mare, aloof and stand-offish.  He would come to me after spending time with her and say once again, with sadness, that she had walked away from him when all he wanted to do was let her know how wonderful he thought she was.

We talked about touch.

About the difference between “grabbing” and “touching”….

If you walk up to a horse, lift your hand and pat them without thinking – how do you think that feels to a horse?  I have seen people pat horses the same way they pat the fence when they are bored – with stiff hands, hands that are saying “I am going to pat you and that’s it”.

Even without the pat, how many times have you seen people reach out and touch their horse with a stiff hand, without mindfulness, and the horse moves away from the touch?

My friend and I discussed touch.

The difference between someone touching you to get your attention, to tell you something – and touching you to send a feeling of love and warmth.

The difference between someone touching you to ask you to do something, to move or talk – and touching you to say hello, I am here and I love you

The difference between someone touching you to say “Here I am!” and touching you to say “ahhhh, THERE you are…..”

He went back to the field.  He walked in among the horses and walked near Gracie.  He held out his hand, and thought of how lovely she was, how warm, soft and loving she was – and then slowly, gently he rested his hand on her skin.  As his hand crossed that last millimetre between them, Gracie started to stiffen, expecting what had happened before – but when his hand touched her, she melted into it.

They stood, touching, for several minutes.  He slowly rubbed his and back and forth and she was relaxed and happy.

When he came back out of the field, he was smiling. “Who knew something as simple as that would make such a HUGE difference?” he said.

I have written before about armouring and melting – about how if we expect a roughness in a touch, we brace against it, put our armour on to protect ourselves and stay safe.  And with armour, nothing can be graceful, or beautiful, or soft.

It’s hard to feel touch through armour.  And touching armour isn’t pleasant either – it’s cold, and hard – and hard for us to stay soft and inviting in our own hands.

Until the armour is gone, there can be no touch.  Nothing can be felt.  Or returned.

Touch can melt the armour……change the harsh cold metal for warm inviting skin…..

And once we have that warmth, that softness – now we have a language.

Now we have communication.

And if my touch is of the truest quality, my horse will want it.  Will seek it.  So in that last millimetre as my hand fills with love and warmth – my horse will move TOWARDS my hand, seeking that touch, as a friend will seek me out for conversation, my horse will seek me out for my touch, for our conversation.

So if I stand by my horse, and touch her, and send my honest love through my hand, my horse will want that touch so much, and enjoy that conversation so much, that she will want it to continue.  And she will put effort into continuing it.

And so when I move my hand slightly, she will follow, to maintain that touch.  And when she moves away I will follow, to maintain that touch – and so we begin to develop that harmony based on touch.

When we have touch, then we have lightness, softness – we have harmony.

If I build this language of touch with my hand, then I can continue it with anything – my legs, seat, reins….and the whole time my horse will be seeking out the touch because we are in harmony and conversation…

How much confidence does a conversation like this give you?

It gives me endless confidence:  with connection and harmony, anything is possible because we are working together, conversing together – and anything else is just window dressing.

So, share with me – how do you touch your horse?

Yours, in confidence,



PS a friend shared this link in her comment and I thought it was so interesting I would put it in here too for people to find:

There were some articles recently about scientist discovering skin receptors that specifically register stroking as a pleasurable sensation Thought it was interesting. They also believe they are present in all mammals, including humans :)


18 thoughts on “Touch……

  1. Lovely blog Cathy and it confirms what horses have shown me too. Some horses naturally enjoy touch but the more stand-offish need to know what’s in it for them. It’s so easy to touch for our own gratification, because they feel lovely under the hand, warm and furry and solid. We do it absent mindedly while talking to someone. Not surprising that some object. I have found that all horses (other then those in a lot of pain) respond positively to touch filled with good intent and fully mindful of the horse.
    I have worked with some horses who are completely rigid on first touch and whose skin feels so tight I can barely find movement but careful, gentle, thoughtful hands always entice them to let go and give in to it. I think touch can completely change a horse’s relationship to humans.
    Lovely blog. 😀

    • Thanks Elaine — yes I find that variation too. Interestingly, I think some horses find the way we touch, despite our intent, to be at least intrusive and in some ways abusive, which leads to them switching off — and then we have all sorts of issues with communication and riding further down the road. Most of the “stubborn, slow lazy” horses I work with turn out to be like this and end up super sensitive and light……
      Touch is vital — I am now also of course extending this to the very concept of when our BUBBLES touch…as even that can be too much pressure for some horses


      • Yes bubbles touching – great concept. Some horses (and humans) have huge bubbles and others are paper thin.
        I agree that lazy/slow horses need to be re-sensitised. They have often shut down as a result of lack of respect for space among other things and almost need convincing it is ok to be responsive and to feel. Not every one wants a responsive horse.
        I do find it helps to ask if it is ok to touch before doing so – many visibly relax when they know they have a choice.

        • true — I like it when my mare and I have this sort of interaction:

          “you’re going to touch me? hmm whatcha going to do if I walk away?…..
          nothing — oh, you mean I have a CHOICE?
          ok then – -as long as I know I CAN walk away, I don’t have to….”


  2. Thank you. This is timely for me. I have had a lot on my mind lately and have been going through the motions of caring for my horse. She has been standoffish, but that is going to change starting today.

    • PEggy – we all have times where we just have to get things done. I have had a horrible 5 weeks of flu — what I found was if I just stood with my horses and let them feel how I really was, they seemed to understand and be more relaxed and less stand offish about things — and when I started feeling better I just took a book down and sat in the field and read, not asking anything of them but being there for them to scratch them when they came over — that helped too

      Let me know how it goes


  3. Lovely post. I love it when my horse comes to me and sometimes directs me to where he wants touching/scratching! The yard cat even comes running up to me now, asking for me to touch her and I am not a cat person! It is the intention behind the touch that is soo important – given freely with no agenda and with love.

  4. I thought about touch today as I have a new, nervous horse that unfortunately I have had a lot of stuff to ‘do to’ – wound treatment, rain scald and delousing being the latest. I changed a few things today – extra food, some desensitisation work but also thought about my touch, as today there was nothing I ‘had’ to do to him so I took the time to stroke him, just for the sake of it. For the first time in the 6 weeks Ive had him, at the end of the day, he came to me, snuffled me and presented areas for scratching. A really lovely moment and a chance to communicate between the pair of us by focussing on the feel and physical touch between us 🙂

    There were some articles recently about scientist discovering skin receptors that specifically register stroking as a pleasurable sensation Thought it was interesting. They also believe they are present in all mammals, including humans 🙂

    • thanks for the link Anna — I will actually edit the post and put it in there I think as it is so interesting

      and yes, that having to do things for them can get in the way — we have worming today so that will be interesting


  5. Great post. And so true – we need to “touch with intention” and think of it as conversation. Interesting observation: I have a new friend with a mare that she described at “stand-off-ish” and not even liking grooming. I showed her some gentle massage and gentle stretching techniques to do daily, especially before grooming. After a few days, her mare began greeting her the gate, seeming to look forward to my friend’s touch. Now, 3 weeks later, she can be groomed without getting tense and moving away from the brush or curry, all because my friend had becoming intentional and thoughtful about how she touched her horse!

    • This is a GREAT story — thanks for sharing and definitely proves the point

      if you want to write a guest post for this blog based on your experiences with touch that would be really useful for people….


  6. I find this blog very appropriate for me and my touch with my horses. My left brain Thoroughbred gelding likes when I rub him hard on the neck and withers but loves a light stroking on his face. My TWH mare is very standoffish. I have to approach her and wait for her to acknowledge me before I touch her and then she is best if I touch her neck or withers. It is only then that she will offer her face or nose for a stroke. If I just go to touch her face she turns away from me telling me that I am out of line. However, the other day I was sitting out in the yard in a plastic lawn chair letting her eat grass at the end of her 22 ft line and I closed my eyes to meditate a bit. I sat there and drifted off into my own world. The cat was on my lap resting quietly too. After a bit I felt the cat jump up and I opened my eyes. I was eyeball to eyeball with my mare! She nuzzled the cat off my lap and then just stood there next to me for the longest time. I was so pleased she wanted to just be near me. I felt that we couldn’t be any closer in that moment even if we were touching. It was enough just to be there with her.

    • I find with many mares that touch includes the touch of our “bubbles” and physical touch is sometimes too much. With many horses now I end up just “being” with them and they seek that out. And I only touch when invited.
      makes a huge difference…..

      Thanks for sharing this — I think it is another dimension of touch that is fascinating to think about


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