Ears are a pretty frequent topic of discussion within horse training. There is this ideal that our horses will be ‘working’ (I’ll come back to that…nomenclature matters) with their ears forwards looking good focused on us and looking like they are having fun.
But I’m asking my horse to do challenging stuff, physically and emotionally. So where do I want his focus to be?
This takes me back to the videos I posted of the gymnast and the dancers who knew their art forms so well they could mix it up and entertain others. They are masters at their particular skills. But ask them to do something that they are not masters at and all of a sudden they need quiet, focus, they need to plan out how they will tackle each step etc. If they were a horse performing a movement they have mastered the skill for then they will be able to turn their ears to others, when they are learning a new skill they need to focus their ears internally.
When learning using the microshaping strategy and there is huge focus on small detail (to minimise unwanted emotional fallout from the extinction process) focus has to be internal with few distractions from the outside.
I like seeing the horses ears focused on what they are doing, to me, that indicates they are fully engaged in the learning. That’s just my preference.