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[My horse] is coming along very well. I have ridden him about twenty times now and he continues to improve. As far as riding him goes, once you get the initial edge off - anybody could ride him. The only real thing I have a problem with is putting his bridle on. He doesn't mind the bits or anything, he just hates the bridle going over his ears. When I try to work it up there he will paw me or try to bite. He is scared, but it's different... It's like he's just goes crazy when I do that. He blows air through his nose, and his eyes get so white. My dad is afraid he is going to hurt me. I tried to make them stop - but the other day they twitched him to put it on. He gets so mad, is like all the fear is gone when they go to twitch him, and as soon as they release him he has this crazy look about him. I managed to calm him down after and ride him around, but that day he bucked way more than usual. I'm not really sure what to do about it, I try to work around his head with it, but he only seems to be getting worse. Do you have any idea what I can do?

-- A. J.


A twitch can be helpful for a few things -- like doing a painful medical procedure -- but I wouldn't recommend it for routine activities like putting on a bridle. (Unless, of course, you want him to turn into a terrified, neurotic horse.) A twitch affects some nerves that run straight to the brain, and the irritation is so severe that the horse's brain simply can't handle thoughts about anything else.

Rubbing Fanny's ears Many horses have a problem with things that touch their ears, because it's an especially sensitive part of their anatomy. Imagine how annoyed you'd get if someone kept tickling your ears with a feather. Now, multiply that annoyance about ten times and you'll have an idea of how a horse feels.

The solution is in desensitizing the ears and helping the horse to associate rubbing or moving his ears with something good or fun. When I first got Willy, he had a real problem with having the headstall slipped over his ears or having his ears clipped. I got him used to it by giving his ears a quick rub whenever I was patting him or when I gave him a treat. Eventually, I could do just about anything with his ears. Fanny never had that problem because I got her used to having her ears handled before she was even a yearling.

You also might want to loosen up the headstall a few notches before you put it on and tighten it up after it's in place.

I hope this helps a bit. (No pun intended!)

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