Head shy.. not sure what to do. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 01-27-2010, 01:03 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Vancouver, BC
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Head shy.. not sure what to do.

My 7 y/o gelding is very head shy. I wasn't given any records of his trainers so I have no clue who trained him (apparently there is a guy who is a very brutal trainer and twists their ears) before we purchased him.

He STRONGLY dislikes even my very very gentle small face brush. It is really soft and gentle but even this he hates. When he got clipped a few days ago the clipper successfully shaved his entire body (except for the legs) without any guff, but when she put the shearers up a few 3 - 5 inches away from his head he started to twist his head and freak, shying away from the clippers. Even when he was tranquilized if she tried to shave the back of his ears he would twist and turn his head away from the shearers, but if she shaved the top and front he was pretty much okay. So for the past few days I have been working on touching around his ears and praising him when he was good but nothing really seems to be working.
Any help would be amazing!!
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post #2 of 14 Old 01-27-2010, 01:14 AM
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Nevada City
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Time and patience. Lots of grooming. Start where he is comfortable on his neck, and slowly work your way up. Watch to see when he starts to get uncomfortable, and that is you line. Work up to that line and back down, several times each time you get him out, stopping when he finally relaxes, keeping in mind that you don't want to push him to panic. If he starts getting very worried, move back down to where he is comfortable, and start over again. Over time start working your way closer to his head, small sections at a time, until he's relaxing. Lots of praise, and backing off as soon as he relaxes, and eventually you'll be able to start brushing his face, and touching his ears. Once you get to the ears same thing. A little bit at a time, starting with just touching the base, or the back, or where ever it is that he is comfortable, and working from there. If you do treats, then reward him with a treat when he finally relaxes, otherwise when he relaxes, praise, and back off and work somewhere else. Good luck. I'm in the samish boat with my mare. Not entirely certain what has been done with her, but she really doesn't like my hands being put between her ears. She freaks if I try to slide the halter off over her head, so I am still unbuckling it, and just spending time touching her where she's comfortable, and stretching her comfort zone. It takes time to undo something traumatic, and to reprogram the brain to accepting what you are doing isn't going to hurt. Don't expect miracles in a couple of days.
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post #3 of 14 Old 01-27-2010, 01:14 AM
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Location: Higgins, TX. YeeHaw!!
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This is something that will take a VERY long time for him to get over and he may never be truely comfortable with his ears being handled. I would start rubbing him on the neck on an area that he is comfortable with, or even likes (a "green" area). Very slowly start to work your way closer to his head, rubbing and scratching lightly as you go. The instant he begins to act uncomfortable, go back to the "green" area until he relaxes. Keep doing this and eventually, you will begin to move closer to his ears in small incriments. Just make sure that you never go past where he is comfortable and eventually, you should be able to handle his ears without too much fuss. As for doing the clippers, after you can comfortably handle his ears with your hands, start the process all over again with the clippers. There is no easy fix for this problem and it will take weeks or maybe months for him to be comfortable but just don't give up.

Haha, DB, we posted at the same time.

Always remember that feeling of looking at a big, open country over the ears of a good horse, seeing a new trail unwind ahead of you, and that ever-spectacular view from the top of the ridge!!! Follow my training blog: http://robertsontraining.blogspot.com/
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post #4 of 14 Old 01-27-2010, 03:29 AM
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The advice doesn't get any better than what is posted above me. I just wanted to say how very sad it makes me when I think what some animals (and not just horses) are put through by some people. It always leave me shaking my head thinking " what the F--- is wrong with some people? After reading a post like Nova's I can never help imagining what was done to that horse and it makes me so sad and angry. I then want to hunt down a trainer who twists ears and tortures horses and very kindly euthanise him because obviously someone with so little empathy and compassion for another animal must be in a terrible place themselves and needs to be put down.
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post #5 of 14 Old 01-27-2010, 09:46 AM
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Location: Bristol, CT
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In head-shyness, does it always go back to be rooted in a negative experience in that area? I wonder if some horses are just really sensitive about having their face touched. I have a mare that will let me stroke her ears, she puts her head down low and its almost like a massage for her. She doesn't have areas that she gets offended by me touching, in the beginning she was just slightly unsure, then totally ok with it as I gentled her. Her sister, on the other hand is ultra-sensitive to any kind of touch anywhere. They were both pasture puffs and never had anyone else but me and my trainer work with them. I have a routine where I massage Frida's forelock and poll until her head is completely relaxed, then I clean her ears, eyes and nose with a warm damp cloth. I give her a treat if her head stays down. I then brush her face and massage her muzzle and lips. She pulls those funny oooh that feels good faces. I go so slow when I groom her, lol. I think that helps them realize its supposed to be time for them to let stress go instead of rushing so I can put all her tack on. I'll let you know how she does with the clippers. She has whiskers as long as my cat. :)
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post #6 of 14 Old 01-27-2010, 10:00 AM
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Your horse was not necessarily abused. It could be that he had a bad case of bugs in his ears or they might not have been handled much. People are way too fast to scream abuse when they don't know why thier horse is doing something. I had a horse that never had a problem with his ears and then he got a bunch of bugs in them and they got sore. For quite a while after I got rid of the bugs he HATED anything to touch his ears.

There's nothing like the Rockies in the springtime... Nothing like the freedom in the air... And there ain't nothing better than draggin calves to the fire and there's nothing like the smell of burning hair. -Brenn Hill
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post #7 of 14 Old 01-27-2010, 10:49 AM
Green Broke
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With a head shy horse I find the easiest cure to just act if he is not headshy at all. Brush his face and touch his ears like you would on any other horse, if he freaks out just stay calm and persistent using pressure and release until he lets you touch his face. Do not avoid touching him because he is headshy. Wave your arms around and move them however you normally would that way he learns in time that you are not going to hurt him.

Tom is pretty head shy, actually just pretty flinchy all over, I have no idea why. I am not one to casually throw out the word abuse to excuse any horse behavior, but he honestly acts like he has had the tar beat out of him, could be could not, who knows right? But anyway, any time you move to touch him(mostly on his rump and face) he flinches away and squints his eyes like he is going to be hit or tucks his tail and curls his rump down...

Anyhoo, when I tack and groom him I do not baby him, I do not avoid his face and ears. If I go to brush some mud of of his cheek he flinches but I keep on brushing until he chills out, then I stop and reward him. Same with his ears, by not acting like it will kill him to touch his head and ears he is learning that I will not hurt him. He still flinches, but after a few seconds of persistence he drops his head and licks his lips and pushes his head into my chest.

Same with touching his rump, every time I walk behind him, I make sure to give him a firm but gentle pat on the rump and of course he still flinches, but not nearly as bad as he did when I first got him, and only during the first few minutes I am working him. You have to earn trust, but you don't have to *****foot around to get it.

Ω Horses are a projection of peoples dreams Ω
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post #8 of 14 Old 01-27-2010, 01:04 PM
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computer malfunction, see below.

Accredited Josh Lyons trainer, and Certified in John Lyons training techniques. http://Jodi-Wilson.com, http://traininghorsesblog.com

Last edited by ReiningTrainer; 01-27-2010 at 01:11 PM. Reason: computer glitch
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post #9 of 14 Old 01-27-2010, 01:10 PM
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I start working with a head/ear shy horse by first teaching it to lower it's head to the downward pressure of the halter, lead, rein.

Then start at a place on the face that the horse will allow us to touch. You will then take your hand up and over the horses' ear, front to back, fast enough that your hand is gone before the horse moves his head. The horse will most likely raise his head, so ask him to lower his head then praise him and ask him to move his feet a little. You can take a break at any place, but you will receive the best results if you stop on improvement.

As soon as the horse will allow you to pass your hand quickly over his ears, without a reaction, bring your hand back over his ears from behind in the same move. When the horse is comfortable with both the forward and back pass of your hand, you will start slowing down your hand. Do not get too slow too fast. You will know if it is too slow if the horse moves his ear out from under your hand. Just speed it up a little if that happens. Work at slowing your hand down until the horse is comfortable with your hand resting on its ear.

Now that you are able to run your hand up to his ear and leave it, you can start working on touching the inside of his ear in the same manner. Cup your hand around the ear and rub up and off the ear. Do not grab the ear; keep little to no pressure on the ear itself. Gradually add pressure to your hand until your hand is completely around the ear firm, yet gentle. When the horse is relaxed with you holding and stroking the outside of the ear, you can start touching the inside of the tip of the ear with your thumb as your hand passes up and off the ear. On each new stroke add a little more pressure and allow your thumb to touch lower into the ear. Again, if the horse pulls away before your hand is off the ear, you are asking too much too fast. When the horse raises his head or pulls away, ask him to lower his head again.

You should now begin to fuss with his ears with both hands. When the horse pulls away, bring his head back to you and lower it. Work at this until the horse will accept your hands on and in his ears. Be gentle but firm. You do not want to scare him later when you handle his ears in a normal fashion, so start treating them in a normal fashion now. You can introduce objects to the ear in the same manner as you did your hands. Do not assume your horse will be ok with a rag, repellant roll on, etc. just because he is doing well with your hand. In addition, do not assume your horse has completely learned the lesson in one day; go over the lesson for the next week or so. It should take less time to get to where you left off and you should always work for improvements.

Clippers are a new beast, but work in the same manner of approach retreat. Some horses can't stand the noise of some clippers and they actually make horse ear plugs. I had a mare that was fine with my larger, louder clippers, but when I brought a pair of cordless 'beard clippers' to her bridle path she went flying backward catching my foot in her lead and knocked me to the ground. Never assume anything when working with a horse.

Accredited Josh Lyons trainer, and Certified in John Lyons training techniques. http://Jodi-Wilson.com, http://traininghorsesblog.com
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post #10 of 14 Old 01-27-2010, 06:36 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Vancouver, BC
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Thanks for all the advice, guys! I will definitely try this when I ride him tomorrow. The woman said that "a horse doesn't get this head shy for just no reason, something must have happened to him to make him like this".

Hes not halter shy, just when i try to hug his head or touch his ears or the front of his face he kinda throws his head in the air and pushes me away.
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