Podcast Episode 21: Ear Shy

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Have you ever known a horse who was “ear shy?”

If you have, you probably also heard the explanation, “That horse must have been ear’rd as a foal. Now he hates having his ears touched.”

And also, “He’s always been that way.”

In my experience, 95% of horses who are ear shy, actually have their atlas (poll) out of alignment. This can cause ear sensitivity.

To hear more about different causes and possibilities — and how to check for yourself, please have a listen to this Horse Mysteries Solved podcast.

To your success in finding the primary cause,
Renee Tucker, DVM

Links Mentioned:

Atlas Checkup Video

Summary by AI:

Dr. Renee Tucker addresses the issue of horses being ear shy, where they react negatively to having their ears touched. She explains that ear shyness is not a normal behavior for horses and is often linked to misalignment of the Atlas bone in the neck. Tucker emphasizes that about 95% of the time, ear shyness is caused by Atlas misalignment, which can result from trauma or being eared as a foal. She suggests checking the Atlas bone and possibly the occiput (skull) for misalignment as well. Additionally, Tucker mentions that vision issues could contribute to head shyness and advises consulting a veterinarian if necessary. Traumatic injuries to the ear cartilage or ligaments can also cause ear shyness but are treatable with modalities such as Tuckerbiokinetic therapy, red light therapy, or acupuncture. She concludes by emphasizing the importance of identifying and addressing the primary cause of ear shyness to resolve the issue effectively.


Renee (00:00)
You. Hello, friends. Dr. Renee Tucker here. Just a quick podcast today I want to talk about horses that are ear shy.

Renee (00:10)
Right? I don’t know if you’ve ever had a horse like that. It’s where you go to touch the horse’s ear or even close to it, and they try to kill you. Okay? Okay.

Renee (00:21)
That’s the extreme end. Some horses don’t try try to kill you, but give you the scowl face or they move their head or they kick stomp. They just do not want their ear touched, messed with, pulled on, nothing. Sometimes it’s both ears, but sometimes it’s only one. Now, I’ve had a lot of people over the years go to see the horse for whatever other reason, and they’ll just happen to say, oh, be careful, he’s ear shy.

Renee (00:49)
So just basically warning me to watch out because they’re sensitive around the ears. Hey. And that’s certainly helpful. And the thing is, though, that sometimes it’s just been like that for so long that people think that’s the horse’s normal, but ear shy or even head shy, it’s not normal. That’s not a learned behavior, and you can never get rid of it.

Renee (01:13)
And I realize that you may have tried quite a bit, but let me just tell you, most of the time, I’m telling you, 95% of the time, if a horse is ear shy, it’s because their Atlas is misaligned. So the Atlas is the first bone in the neck just behind the head that becomes misaligned through trauma. Or sometimes horses are eared as a foal, which just means that they were kind of held by the ear, unfortunately, to keep them still for some important procedure. I wish people didn’t do that, but sometimes it is just something you got to do at the time. And then holding full by the ear makes horse stand still because it hurts.

Renee (01:57)
So people feel there’s this memory and recollection of this potentially, which would make the horse ear shy. And 95% of the time, it’s the Alice is misaligned. And that could have happened when they were eared as a fool, or it could have happened any time after that. So the first thing you want to do if you have an ear shy or even head shy horse, is check the Atlas. So there’s a link to the Atlas video checkup that I have for you that you guys can do yourself.

Renee (02:29)
You can figure this out. Now, if your horse is so head shy that he won’t even let you do the Atlas checkup, that is a sign that the Atlas is already misaligned. So much so they don’t even want you near them. Okay? In people when the Atlas is misaligned, studies have shown that people get headaches, even migraines, just from a misaligned Atlas.

Renee (02:55)
So the horse can be very head painful, even above the pole painful anywhere at all. Okay? So ear shyness, 95% of the time, it’s the Atlas misalignment. Same with head shy. But with head shy, obviously we’re talking about a larger area, can be on one side of the face again or both sides.

Renee (03:20)
If you’ve checked the atlas, of course, you might consider that the occiput could be misaligned. The occiput is the skull part of the head, the back of the skull. And sometimes when the atlas is misaligned, the occiput, because it’s right next to it, will also be misaligned. But very commonly, people may correct the atlas, typically with chiropractic, and it may or may not get the occiput. So I have run into cases where people correct this occiput.

Renee (03:52)
I’m sorry. People correct the atlas over and over again, and they’re like, well, every time horse gets a bit head shy, just get the chiropractor out again, he fixes his atlas again. You know horses well, really, the atlas should not go out over and over again once, maybe twice. With the traditional chiropractic, it should stay there. And if it’s not staying there, you have another primary problem pulling it out of alignment, which could very well be the occiput.

Renee (04:21)
Okay, so you got your atlas, you got your occiput, and again with the head shy horse, you might want to consider vision issues. You may have already thought of that, but some horses, they’re head shy because they’re not seeing well, particularly if your horse was never head shy, and then they start becoming head shy. You might want to have your veterinarian check that out, because sometimes there can be issues that aren’t visible to our eye. To look at the horse’s eye, but the veterinarian has to dilate the eye and get a special tool and look inside the eye and see what’s going on. So head shy, ear shy is never normal, and it’s always about finding the cause of the problem.

Renee (05:04)
So last little tidbits for the ear shy is you could have some traumatic stuff that has happened for whatever reason. Trailer injury. Sometimes horses rear up and hit their heads on the top of the trailer. Ouch. That’s a big ouch.

Renee (05:20)
Right? You could have traumatic ear cartilage damage. There are ligaments in the ear that obviously their horse’s ear moves all over the place, and there’s ligaments that make it move around. Those could be damaged. Okay, those are completely fixable, certainly TBT.

Renee (05:39)
Tuckerbiokinetic can fix that perfectly. There are other ancillary alternative treatments I’m thinking of. Red light therapy could help. Acupuncture. Could help.

Renee (05:50)
If you can get the needles near the head, you could do needles on the meridians around it, but Acupuncture could help. For these traumatically damaged ear ligaments or ear cartilage, mostly TBT. That’s my favorite. Okay, let’s face it. But it is fixable.

Renee (06:09)
It’s always fixable, guys, just key is find the primary cause and fix that. All right, thanks for listening. See you next time. Bye.

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