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Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

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Head Shy Horse

Dear Franklin,

I have a four year old Welsh D mare who hates having her ears touched. This causes problems when I am tacking up. Do you have any suggestions as to what I could do?


Hi Kerrie,

Rule out anything organic in the mare's ears first. A vet is the only way to do this. Once that is done please practice getting the mare to lower her head. I have answered quite a few questions on this exact topic that are easily accessed in my archives in the help center section of the website. Once she does that you may begin to slowly, patiently and gently message her face her neck below her ears and slowly work up to her ears a little at a time and backing off if you hit her sensitive zone until she lets you come up more. It's a little like trying to touch a sensitive area on a human. You go slow and thoughtfully and hopefully get to where you want in a reasonable length of time. Good luck and keep me posted.

Sincerely, Franklin

Please, how can I get her to lower her head because I have tried everything to get her to lower her head. She is OK sometimes to have her ears touched but as soon as I go near her with a bridle her head shoots back up.

Hi Kerrie,

Did you really look through my website? I have a very easy search feature to find answers to specific questions such as yours. I will give you an abbreviated version and again ask you to please look at other responses to the same question on the website. [Webmaster note: Try an archive search for "sensitive ears"]

Put a rope halter on the horse with a lead rope attached. You may also just put a piece of bailing twine or rope over the horse's pole so it hangs down to the horse's chest on both sides. Stand on the horse's left side (near side) about at the center of the neck, facing the same direction as the horse. Hold both sides of the twine or the lead rope in your right hand at a level about 6 inches below the horses chin. Gently put the weight of your arm (do not pull) on the rope and bend your body forward and down at the same time. Just be patient and come down a couple of inches with your body all the while keeping only the weight of your arm on the twine or rope. As soon as you feel the horse's head lower even slightly make certain all weight comes off the twine or rope immediately. The removal of the weight from the twine is her reward for lowering her head. Give her a "good girl" verbally. To go lower repeat the process until the horse has its head where you want it. A horse with a head held low is relaxed.

Carry the bridle on your left arm while you do the process. Perhaps not the first couple of times, but thereafter. This will get the horse used to you approaching with the bridle in hand. Do not attempt to put the bridle on the horse until you have done all I have said in the previous email as well as this one. Once the horse is really OK with having its head low, you should begin to gently move your hand up the face to the jowls, around the eyes and, eventually, the ears. Only after you can handle the horse's ears easily should you attempt to put on the bridle. Be very patient. The process I have described could take daily sessions for a week or more. It could be less also. It really depends on your skill level and ability to be patient and extremely thoughtful in how you proceed. Good Luck and let me know how it goes.

Sincerely, Franklin

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