My mare's left ear? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 06-24-2008, 05:22 PM Thread Starter
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My mare's left ear?

My mare has this problem with her left ear. If you try to touch her left ear, she flinches and tries to back away. This makes for a tough problem putting the bridle on.

I don't know anything about her past, but when she was delivered, her owner cried because she didn't want to let go of her. I think that she was hit in the ear, and remembered, otherwise she wouldn't do this.

If I am really careful and slow with her, I can stroke her left ear, but eventually she flinches. Her other ear is just fine.

What do you guys think? :roll:

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post #2 of 12 Old 06-24-2008, 05:25 PM
Green Broke
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I'd say, just keep messing with her ear and let her get used to it.... there might be a medical problem as well, have you had the vet look at it?
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post #3 of 12 Old 06-24-2008, 06:59 PM
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my horse had a similar problem with letting people touch her mouth. To overcome this, I got a pocket full of carrot pieces and everytime my mare let me touch her mouth, I rewarded her with piece of carrot. I did this for a few days and now she's much happier about having her nose touched. Try this with your mare's ear - reward her for letting you touch it.

When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes. ~William Shakespeare
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post #4 of 12 Old 06-24-2008, 07:34 PM
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Your mare was probably twitched on her ear when she was younger.. a lot of horses never get over it, but they will get better.
Continue with the stroking of the ear, but stop before she has a chance of flinching and thinking something suss. so in her head, nothing scary happened with your hand on her ear.
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post #5 of 12 Old 06-24-2008, 09:10 PM
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My old horse was ear twitched as a baby. He never really got over it completely, but he became trusting enough to let me fiddle with his ears for short periods, long enough to brush, clean and apply a rag dampened with fly spray on them. He wouldn't let me mess with them for any amount of time, about five, ten maybe twenty seconds at a time before he'd throw his head.
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post #6 of 12 Old 06-24-2008, 09:37 PM
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The others have posted very helpful posts, so I will just add that it's a good idea to reinforce a good behavior (letting you touch the ear) with an immediate reward; and in this case, I think clicker training might be a good idea actually... the idea just popped into my head.
Clicker training is when you teach the horse (through "bridging" - associating the click with a treat at first, then slowly wean the horse so the click is reward enough, then reinforce the treat aspect every once in a while) that the click = the horse did a task correctly. This would allow you to reward her quickly instead of taking the time to fish out a treat after the moment has passed.
In addition, it could be that your horse has or had ear mites; they make the ear terribly painful to touch, so if she has them, that might explain it.. or if she had them in the past, treatment isn't very pleasant either... just might be another reason as to why. Might (haha no pun intended...) want to consider getting a vet to check that possibility out as well.
Best of luck!

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post #7 of 12 Old 06-24-2008, 09:53 PM
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I ride a very sweet horse with excellent ground manners who you could do anything with. Several months ago he got a tick bite in one of his ears that was very painful and even after it healed he did NOT want anyone touching it! It took quite a bit of slow desensitizing to get him to the point where I could touch his ears again! I know some people who do ear twitches with no negative issues. So who knows!
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post #8 of 12 Old 06-24-2008, 09:57 PM
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I say just gradually keep touching it day by day...if she doesn't flinch, reward her. :) Keep it up so she gets used to you touching it.

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post #9 of 12 Old 06-24-2008, 10:56 PM Thread Starter
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Wow. Thanks for all the helpful advice.

--No, the vet hasn't checked it out.
--I don't think that she has ever had ear mites, not sure though.
--The clicking idea, what do you use to click?
--The ear twitching...what exactly is it? I have heard of twitching...but never seen it done.

Thanks again!

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post #10 of 12 Old 06-24-2008, 11:56 PM
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Ear mites can live fairly deep in the ear canal, or nearer to the surface, but regardless it's painful, and treatment isn't very nice either. If that is the issue, it needs to be resolved - I would get the vet out to see if that is the problem.
As for the clicker training, you should be able to stop by a local pet store and buy one, it's just a handheld device that clicks, a lot of them look like this:
And here is a very informative website on what clicker training is:
In addition, you can buy clicker training books.
The basic idea behind it is:
1) establish a "bridge" - that is, click and reward, so click your clicker and immediately give a treat, and repeat this over a few times.
2) use a target (can be the end of a whip or something similar) and ask the horse to "target" and when he touches the end of the whip, click and reward. This will just help establish that doing something good means the horse hears a click and gets a treat
3) touch the area around your horse's ear (as close as she will let you get) and click and reward.
Eventually she will establish that the click is a reward on its own, it means she did something right, so you can decrease the click to treat ratio, and just give a treat every 3 or 5 or 7 times you reward with the click. Don't set an interval, rather give treats (after a click) at random points, i.e. you reward with a click for 4 times, then click and treat, then you reward with a click for 9 times, the click and treat, then 3 clicks then treat, etc etc, don't set an interval.
The only reason I suggest this is because with something so sensitive you want to be able to reward the horse as soon as you touch the ear, not 30 seconds afterwards.
Hope this helped! Let me know if I can clear it up further.

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