The best way to get over ear shyness is to give the horse some control over the process. I start off by placing my hand on the horse’s neck as far up as I can go without the shyness being activated and then begin the touch and move away process earlier. Once my hand is behind the horse’s ear (and if it is a tall horse I use a feather duster) I wait until the horse moves his ear back towards my hand and then reward him by taking my hand away. In time the horse starts to touch my hand with his ear and I continue to reward him by taking my hand away. In time I wait until he has pressed my hand more firmly. From here I am usually able to touch his ear and move away if he keeps still and so on. My aim is to be able to touch the whole of his ear and if possible gently, very gently, massage it.
If you rub inside a horse’s ear always rub outwards so that any debris falls out of the ear and not down it. Imagine how you feel when you have bits of liquid poured into your own ear – no wonder they try to avoid it.
It is important that a horse is never grabbed or twitched by the ear and that any fly lotions that are applied to the ear are applied very gently and preferably at body temperature. I have found that by asking a horse to “lick” the lotion off my hand with his ear I can still get a good result and the lotion will eventually seep into the ear. It’s rude to stick gunge in your horse’s ear and they often form the view that you have forfeited the right to touch them!