Ear shy horse please help - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 23 Old 09-03-2012, 03:10 PM Thread Starter
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Ear shy horse please help

I have a new horse coming on Thursday he's lovely natured pleasent to be around wouldn't leave me alone when I went to view him! Only problem being hes ear shy! He was twitched by his ears as a 2 year old now he's 5! You can get a bridle on with no brow band but any other ideas on how to desensitise him?
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post #2 of 23 Old 09-03-2012, 08:54 PM
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It might take him a while to learn to trust you if he has had past poor experience with people. When trying to desensitize a horse it's all about consistency. Start slow and work your way up to the full ear, and don't rush it, that's the worst thing you could do. I always start at the very base of the ear and massage it a little bit and lightly make my way up. If your horse starts shying away the higher you go don't push it, and start rubbing, scratching or brushing elsewhere.
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post #3 of 23 Old 09-03-2012, 09:16 PM
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I agree with Justaskippenjess, don't rush things.

Your going to be a new person for your horse as well, so take things slow and make everything FUN and stress-free to build up his confidence in you. Find somewhere on his face that he likes to be scratched/rubbed and always find time to pet him there to help him relax. Once your horse starts to trust you, you can slowly start to work with his ears. Just do "baby steps". Good luck!
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post #4 of 23 Old 09-03-2012, 09:29 PM
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Make sure you don't see aural plaques also, they can be very painful and cause lots of problems
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post #5 of 23 Old 09-03-2012, 09:47 PM
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Use approach/retreat method. Inch up to his ear on one side along his neck and when he starts to get a little fussy, stay rubbing on that spot until he settles down, then go back down along his neck. Pat, scratches, rubs and a "Good Boy". Repeat on the other side. I would limit each "session" to a couple of attempts per side, but you'll have to go by feel for how many attempts and how many sessions per day will work.
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post #6 of 23 Old 09-03-2012, 10:07 PM
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post #7 of 23 Old 09-03-2012, 10:28 PM
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Unless you saw the horse get ear twiitched, then you are only surmising on his history. Many horses are sensitive to having their ears touched. Since a horse's eyesight isn't like ours he relies heavily on his good hearing and ability to pick up scents on the breezes. To him you are messing with his ability to escape predators. Something I have used with kickers and those that move when being mounted and various other things they think up, it to get the horse moving, if not in a round pen then on the lunge. It doesn't have to be fast, even the walk with numerous turnbacks to keep his feet moving. Draw the horse in and rub the top of his neck. Dont' touch the ears just yet. If he's at all evasive, send him back out to work. If may take an hour but it's his choice to allow you to touch his ears or work. Horses are mindful of how much energy they like to keep in reserve. When he's ok with the neck rub your thumb on the base of his ears. Most are touchy at the tips. Once a horse is ok with this cup your hand and apply a bit of pressure and run your hand from base to tip. This can relax a horse.
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post #8 of 23 Old 09-04-2012, 12:01 PM
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Good advice so far.

The only thing I can reiterate is to take it SLOW. So what if it takes months, or years to get over this problem. Just take it slow. The problem has probably been there for a long time so it will take a long time to recede.
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post #9 of 23 Old 09-04-2012, 12:39 PM
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ear sensitive

We used the Lyons method - before I ever heard of John Lyons - on our ID mare that was 10 when we got her and had previously been bridled by having the whole thing taken apart.
We just slowly increased the amount of time our hands lingered on her ears until she accepted it. With the bridle we let it down enough to be able to slip it over her ears with minimal contact and then tightened it up - this involved me standing on a mounting block to give me enough height to do that
5 years on she has a bridle on normally and has done for a long time now, she wears a fly mask with ear covers and enjoys having the insides of her ears scratched with a dandy brush - actually leans into it.
You cant rush these things and you have to stay patient. You maybe dont know for a fact that she was twitched (something we suspected with our girl) but you dont know that she wasn't so its probably better to assume that she associates having her ears touched with pain and fear than to risk chastising her for something she has a right to be concerned about and losing any hope of building trust with her
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post #10 of 23 Old 09-04-2012, 01:38 PM
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I have an ear shy horse. He generally raises his head during bridling and I have to step on tip toes.

We are working on many of the other techniques mentioned here, but I would stress to continue touching until the head dips at all. The more the better, but obviously a dipped head will demonstrate calm/relaxed on the horse, but also is a tool for training the horse to dip his head for bridling. the release of the ear is the horse's praise and learning so give him little wins, any dipping even an inch and reward by letting go of the ear.

Also, do only little steps of touching. Touch the forelock / base of the ears only until the head dips. When it dips nicely and quickly, move to more ear touching. Expect the head to go back up and work this level of stimulation until the head goes back down. The head should lower quicker and quicker as you increase the touch and pressure.

Check for ticks. They can compound the problem. If you find any sores or issues with the ears that could be painful, treat the problem and do not work on ear issues for a good 3 days following the treatment so you know that all pain is gone.

Good luck
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