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Horses Who Pin Their Ears

Many horse owners are concerned about their horses pinning their ears at various times and often ask me what to do about it.

My answers vary from do nothing at all to you better address that right now before you are attacked.

For many years we had a Morgan stallion who pinned his ears when approached in his stall and we were not the least bit concerned about it. He was the nicest, most pleasant stallion I'd ever been around in over a half century of horses. I used to tell people he was the most dangerous stallion in the world because you forgot he was one. He was extremely mannerly, patient and easy going. He never exhibited the slightest sign of displeasure.

He just pinned his ears when approached in his stall. It was just his thing.

Some years ago at a clinic I had a horse who would pin his ears, open his mouth and snake his head at you when you looked in his direction. Going in the stall with him was like walking a tight rope, one misstep and he would have you.

His owner reported being thrown over the stall wall a few days after she bought him. She adapted by having his halter at the ready when she went into his stall. When he'd snake at her she'd slip the halter on his head and then he was manageable. After being grabbed and tossed she never did anything in his stall unless she had him tied.

He also pinned his ears when approached anywhere near his stall.

Both of these cases are at opposite ends of the scale.

In the Morgan stallion's case pinning his ears back WAS THE ONLY THING HE DID. There were no signs of aggression, he was very curious and friendly even with pinned ears. The clinic horse was doing MUCH more than pinning his ears, he was CLEARLY threatening. He saw me coming toward him from a considerable distance away and pinned his ears flat back and began snaking his head in my direction.

A horse who pins its ears back and clearly threatens or displays impatience is a ticking bomb. It is but a matter of time before the threat is carried through. It may be moments away, it may be years away, but it is coming. The trigger may be pretty much anything that upsets the pattern or slows it down. It is the nature of horses to use aggression to enforce their will if they feel it is necessary.

A horse who makes aggressive threats obviously feels it is superior to the threatened party. It is a clear, "You know, you're p-----g me off, and if you aren't careful, I'll straighten you up!"

When 1000+ pounds of horse attempts to straighten you up, it can be mighty unpleasant. Oddly enough, it seems it is usually the bigger horses who exhibit this behavior.

I recommend addressing the aggressive pinning. I really don't see there is any other alternative. Sure, you can live with it and work around it, but since the attitude often carries over into other areas and you may forget and place yourself in harm's way, resolving the behavior is the only wise solution.

We have now turned this from ear pinning into horses who threaten.

Horses who threaten and have the threat rebuffed to the point they stop threatening ***USUALLY*** do not threaten again. I say USUALLY because, hey, they are horses, not robots. And horses do not as a rule threaten beings who they consider to be higher on the pecking order than they are.

One places himself higher in the pecking order than a horse by presenting it with herd dynamic leadership actions and making the horse comply with those actions. This is done by presenting the horse with a series of commands that you KNOW you make the horse comply with. To minimize the risk of injury one should give the horse a series of commands that can be enforce without being psychically connected to it.

The commands one can give a horse AND make the horse obey without being connected to it include:

These simple commands can be strung together in a series to immediately set the horse up in a pattern of obedience. As the horse goes through the sequence and is unable to defeat it, it then begins acting exactly like it would if presented with the sequence by an actual horse.

Horses are genetically predisposed to respond to these actions in a set manner. If it cannot defeat them, it is by nature a follower and the being giving the orders is by nature and definition a leader.

When a horse is operating under a follower status, it does not threaten the leader. It respects the leader's space and honors the leader's wishes as long as it can psychically do so.

The procedure I use to create the follower status has come to be known as the "Bonder." Videos and other information on this site is freely available and can be located on my index page.

The horse needs to be successfully put through the Bonder before addressing this behavior.

At a clinic in Indiana I went into a horse's stall to address this problem not fully realizing that *I* had not made sure he had successfully completed the procedure. I simply refused to let him eat as long as his ears were back and he was threatening. He would make for the bucket and I would thump him with a knuckle on the bridge of his nose and tell him, "No!" After the third time he slammed into me and got me on the side leaving a large bite mark and a stabbing when I breathed rib. If he hadn't slammed me against the stall wall he would have knocked me completely off my feet.

After a noisy little discussion in the stall I where I gave him the feed bucket until it disintegrated *THEN* I took him and put him through the Bonder. It was at that point he treated me with respect.

It is best to work on this problem in a round pen or other enclosure where you can keep the horse far enough away from you that he can't grab you when his attitude is disrespectful yet close enough so that you can direct his movements.

The horse needs to be put through the Bonder and when the horse is compliant and respectful you offer grain. As soon as it exhibits any undesirable behavior you send it back out for a few moments of touch-up and then try again.

Very often these horses are like school yard bullies. Once they are put to the real test and their tactics don't work they usually become rather chummy as in "What say, Friend? You and I make a real team don't we?"

Exercise great caution when addressing this problem. If you don't address it, still exercise great caution.

You will find readily and freely available videos and information about many of the subjects discussed here at the Index Page.

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