I recently had a chance to try out some pony ears. They came with a new bridle I recently purchased, and they were of the type that covered my own ear (as opposed to clipping on to the browband of the bridle). Aesthetically, the ears were fine, but I was most surprised by how well they functioned.
The ears were fairly effective at muffling sounds that were not originating directly in front of me. As soon as the ears were attached to the bridle, I knew I loved them. I have worn earplugs before in play to "help" me concentrate, but having directional sound was a new experience. Ear plugs are certainly more effective for global sound reduction, but paradoxically the pony ears seemed to be more restrive and controlling: they controlled where my attention was focused.
Adding some blinders to the bridle, really focused my attention forward. It was quite disconcerting to wear both the blinders and ears. I think what was most disconcerting about this setup, over say a blindfold and earplugs, is that I had the illusion that my senses were not restricted: I could still see, and I could still hear. However, I could never sense my trainer behind me, and quite a few times I started when she touched me unexpectedly.
With my trainer standing behind me and driving me forward, I was much more attuned to rein cues. I was thankful she too has bio-horse riding experience and knew to keep some contact on the reins. This was one of those times where I felt that I got a little glimpse into how it must really feel to be a horse with a rider.
I truly would have been lost had she just picked up the reins only when she wanted to tell me to stop or turn. The constant light contact on the reins was a comforting reminder that she was there behind me, guiding me.
I'm usually quite an attentive ponyboy (responsive to rein and crop cues), but I'm not necessarily panicked if I do not have communication with my trainer (i.e. via the reins and bit). However, the blinder and ear combination had me feeling every nuance of the movement of the bit in my mouth and feeling uncertain on the rare occasions that I could not feel contact on the reins.
We were quite happy with the ears, but just to mess around, near the end of the session, T (my trainer) put a pair of equine ear plugs in my pony ears. Surprisingly they were a good fit and worked well. She was quite pleased with herself in using the equine ear plugs on me - another touch of realism I guess.
Anyway, this was one of our better sessions, but it got me thinking that it would be cool to have pony ears that could be swiveled (but still provide directional sound) so the trainer could direct the pony's attention toward what ever she wishes. I'm not sure if these currently exist, or if they such a concept would even work...but it would be cool.