Junah, our six year old, 17 hand rescued Thoroughbred, was ignored in a field for most of his life and, as a result, can be quite reactive and behaves very much like you'd expect from a two year old! He learns to deal with things but you always have to be on the alert and very reassuring when introducing him to something new.
Also, from his brief experience at the racetrack, he seems to have learned to fear that he will be ear twitched, so handling his ears is not his idea of a good time. Given that he is 17 hands and we are not, we have had to teach him a "head down" command but sometimes he forgets that when he is frightened. However, when he is scared, he responds well to being distracted from his fear and asked to do something different, so the "head down" command is often effective in re-engaging his focus.
Today is a warm, sunny day and the flies are out in force. Poor Junah was enjoying a morning snack of grazing on the lawn, but his face and eyes were covered, so we decided the time was right to start teaching him about fly masks. We weren't sure how far we were going to get with this lesson, but hoped we could at least rub the mask on his face and start introducing him to the scary noise of velcro pulling apart near his head. So, that's how we started out. He got the mask rubbed over his face and we spent some time attaching and detaching the velcro so that he could get used to the sound. He wasn't thrilled but we have learned that carrots conquer a great deal of uncertainty where he is concerned, so Chelsea worked with the mask and I stuffed little bits of carrot into his ever-willing lips.
All was going well so we decided to carefully ease the mask over one ear. You can always tell when Junah is nervous because he starts to hold his breath. When he relaxed, we slipped the mask back off. We repeated this process several times, with plenty of carrots and kind words, until he seemed ready to move on. Finally, we carefully eased the mask over his "bad ear" and he did just fine! We attached the velcro and let him go.
He made a few half-hearted attempts to shake off the annoying thing on his face, including kneeling and scrubbing his face on the ground once, and then resigned himself to this new development and proceeded to start inhaling his breakfast hay. Another successful step toward being a well-mannered horse who can find a great home!