Heading home on trail..ears not on me. An Issue? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 03-02-2013, 11:29 AM Thread Starter
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Heading home on trail..ears not on me. An Issue?

So my guy, who is somewhat a chicken sh$t on the trail, does trot forward and move forward (finally) when we are out alone on the trail. On the way home, his ears are pricked forward no matter what. I can leg yield and ask him to move off my leg and his ears are still pricked forward, they are never flicked back toward me. He walks very forward but does not jig. He will halt, half halt and slow down if I ask (but not slow for long). Asking him to turn away circle will get him pissy if we are far out from home. Closer to home I can ask him to turn the other direction away from home, and even facing home, he will back if I ask him.

My question is the ears not on me the way toward the barn. Should I try and correct this?
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post #2 of 10 Old 03-02-2013, 12:00 PM
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I would not worry about the ears not being on you.

When I take my mare out, she'll only RARELY put her ears "on me". Most of the time they're forward. It just means she's paying attention to the trail and is focusing on her "job".

If we're riding with other horses, she'll have her ears on me more often.
I've found that her ears move the most when we're out alone. They'll usually stay pricked in front if we're leading a group of horses and when we're in the midst of a group of horses, ears ears are super relaxed and not really focusing on one thing.
My theory (through riding many different horses lead + farther back in line, seeing this again and again) is that when the horse is alone on the trail, they're looking out for any "danger" that might appear anywhere around them. When they have horses behind them, they're focusing on possible dangers in front and letting the horses behind them watch for side to side danger. If they're within a group of horses, the duty of danger-watch generally falls to the horses in front and back with minimal "input" from horses on the sides of the herd, so the middle horses are going to be the most "focused" on their riders.

Anyway, I would not worry about the ears. It's just his nature, as a horse, to be on the look out for danger. I would actually be more concerned, if it were me, when he doesn't have his ears out in front (when I see that, in my experience, the horse is likely to be "napping" and and possibly about to have a spook when he/she "tunes back in").

I think you have a bigger problem with him getting pissy when you ask him to turn around. I would focus on that.
Of course, my mare is not a huge fan of turning on the trail either. She's a firm believer that getting us wherever we're going on the trail is her "job" and she takes her job VERY seriously. However, she will do anything I ask her to do even if she's fussy about it. That's a rule I have with her - she MUST do what I tell her do do and she has the option of expressing her opinion through pinned ears or a head toss but she MUST do what I tell her to do without bucking/rearing/anything more violent than an ear pin/head toss.
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Last edited by Wallaby; 03-02-2013 at 12:03 PM.
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post #3 of 10 Old 03-02-2013, 02:05 PM
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"I think you have a bigger problem with him getting pissy when you ask him to turn around. I would focus on that. "

I couldn't agree more. The ears a of little issue the attitude is where you need to spend time. When your horse gets like that I would make her work in that place until she is ready to yeld to you and relaxes. When she relaxes contenue your ride.
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post #4 of 10 Old 03-02-2013, 08:12 PM
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I have the same horse. Chicken sh*t on the way out brave marching steed going home. I like when he pricks his ears and starts marching along without a care of what's around him. To me that says he's finally calming down and building some confidence. I do occasionally turn him around to test the waters. He doesn't get pissy, but he definitely gets instantly more sticky. I have to work him back and forth the get him unstuck. If you horse is getting pissy about turning around, I would definitely start turning him around in spots and going back the way you came even if it is just for a few steps. Don't go so far as to take his confidence away, but do go far enough that you got your point across.
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post #5 of 10 Old 03-03-2013, 12:19 AM
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Ideally, ONE ear should be listening to you, and the other ear listening to his surroundings. Right now, his focus is the safety and security of the barn, hence the speedy walking and ears pointed home. Like everybody else has said, the real problem is the attitude when you turn him away from the barn. He needs an attitude adjustment. To try to remedy this, rather than use the half halt to slow him, ask him to halt completely, still facing the barn. Make him hold this with no "antsyness" for a couple of seconds, and reward by moving forward. Try this several times on your way back. When you're consistently successful, then try turning him completely away from the barn. Just turn him away, not walk away. Again, as a reward for the good behavior, turn him back toward the barn. Have patience, this isn't a quick fix.
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post #6 of 10 Old 03-03-2013, 12:23 AM
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So long as the horse is obedient and soft to any cues I give them, I really couldn't care less where their ears are pointing. Generally, a horse that is focused on you will have at least one ear pointed back, but both ears forward doesn't mean that they are misbehaving.

Like Wallaby said, it's the actual misbehaving that you need to focus and work on.
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post #7 of 10 Old 03-03-2013, 02:10 AM
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Horse is not a chicken when heading out...horse is barn sour and is looking for excuse to not go.

Hence the acting spooky, and being reactive.

And I don't want a horse's ears on me, I want them relaxed and looking around and enjoying the day.

Horses make me a better person.
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post #8 of 10 Old 03-03-2013, 03:13 AM
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horses like this i like to walk them home for maybe 40 metres then turn away from home and canter or gallop for 20 metres, and keep repeating that untill i'm home, and when we are walking towards home i insist they walk the same speed or slower than they would if we were walking away from home, then when i am home i either canter or gallop past home for maybe 50 metres, or turn around and canter or gallop them maybe 50 metres back the way i just came. then i either hop off and tie them there for a while, or just lead them home really slowly, and insist that the horse stay behind me while im leading them home.

to start off with they'll naturally be rushy on the way home and balky on the way away, so i find if you get into the habit of reversing that by going faster on the way away from home and slower on the way towards home, the horse will find the "happy medium" that is halfway between what it naturally wants to do and what it's in the habit of doing. i.e. they're no more naturally "drawn" home than they are willing to respond to you telling them to go away from home.
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post #9 of 10 Old 03-03-2013, 08:29 AM
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His thoughts are definitely on going home. But he does need to learn that you set the pace, not him.
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post #10 of 10 Old 03-03-2013, 12:03 PM
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As long as he's obedient, I would not worry about his ears. I'd work on his pissy attitude certainly but his ears would not bother me.
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