About 20 years ago, I had a brief spate where I made my "living" (such as it was) riding horses - so I have ridden quite a few different animals over the years, but four horse "hugs and kisses" stand out.
Ohia, my paint horse, likes to "hug" me by putting is big bulky head over my shoulder and attempting to rub my back. It's usually a response to me vigorously scratching that one spot on his neck and is like to bowl me over.
There was a mare named Sage who would wrap her long thoroughbred neck around me as I stood at her side and squeeze - I would have nick named her "Anaconda" except it was actually pleasant.
When I was a child there was an old horse named Bim Bam. Once, while I was scrubbing out his water tank, he started nibbling up my back (horse teeth are big) so I turned around to see what was up, and he licked my face. My whole face with his big, four inch wide horse tongue -very slobbery. As a 13 year old, I was fairly flattered, but now, in retrospect, I am sure he was just thirsty and wondering when the heck I was going to refill his tank with fresh water.
There were a few polo horses I cared for in there who liked to rub their faces on my pregnant belly when I was carrying my first - and even liked blowing their nose on me when that disgusting horse flu went through the barn, but that doesn't count. It was yesterday's spontaneous expression of trust that melts my heart the most.
I have mentioned the Crazy Horse Gib - that ghosty horse who lives in my pasture and who is scared of people. I just have to point at him for him to move away - useful while feeding two anxious horses in an enclosed space. He stays just out of reach of your hand at the best of times, and wheels off, running, at the worst. Well, yesterday, he stood at the gate when I came up. I don't look him in the eye right off; someone hit him enough on his right to push that eye in and dent his face, so eye contact is scary. So I stood with my arms over the gate looking past him at the other horse.
To my very great suprise, he didn't move away and he slowly put his nose out to by face and blew at me. And he kept his face there (which is not the most comfortable - remember that four inch slobbery tongue and big square teeth) while I blew back. He stood looking me in the eye and let me slowly put my hand out and rub his neck.
I felt honored by his trust.
He repeated the experiment the next day, although a little more hesitantly. Maybe we are turning a corner, but maybe it was just the vagaries of traumatic brain injury - because I swear this horse has the same memory problems as the two students I have had with TBI. Either way, I appreciate the moment of trust and closeness with that horse.