Ear Phobia! And other scary things
**Sorry this is so long**
So, my new horse is a little spooky. Not horribly, but just enough to be annoying. =)
From age 3-8, he had been basically a pasture ornament with an elderly mare and didn't really experience much excitement. I bought him a few months ago and my barn has about 8 other boarders and 8 lesson horses. Needless to say, he's been seeing a lot of new things! Whenever there's something new, he'll shy from it until he's passed it like 10 times. He's had a couple "HOLY COW RUN AWAY!!!" events too.
Aaaanyways, my trainer recommended that I "give him the bag treatment" to get him used to strange noises/movements. Basically, she said to get bags (paper, plastic, grain bags, grocery bags, etc) and have him sniff them, walk over them, allow them to lay across his back, rub him with them while crinkling them, etc, etc.
So, I tried it. And he was great! After 5 minutes he would walk, trot, and canter over them. I had them draped over his back from withers to rump and he walked around while they fell off. BUT if they got anywhere near his ears or face or chin...FREAK OUT! He'd toss his head, do an amazing turn on the haunches, and run the other direction.
Tonight, I tried again with the same result. I then ditched the bag and just rubbed my hands all over his ears, face, and chin. He didn't really like it, but eventually he started getting snuggly and let me do whatever I wanted. But, the second I got that bag near his ears...RUN!!!
1) do you think I should continue with the bag thing?
2) do you have any other suggestions for building his confidence with new scary things? Or desensitizing him to scary things?
3) do you think that I could be doing any harm with the scary bags? He really trusts me and I don't want to lose that. He hasn't shown that he's afraid of me at all, just the bags. He always comes back to me looking for a pat or cookie.