google "ear twitch" and you'll find your answer to that "quirk". Beyond the Track is good, but very basic. Maybe contact somebody with CANTER and they might be able to help you understand things a little better.
I have heard excellent things about that book, though I have not read it myself.
He may have been ear twitched at track (very likely), which would explain why he is weird about his ears. Not sure why he would only react when approcahed from behind but perhaps he feels "safer" and more able to gauge the situation when approached slowly from the front.
I have an OTTB that is also quirky about his ears. I can clip his muzzle and bridle path with no problem, but thou shalt not approach my ears with that buzzy thing under any circumstances! When I got him, I could not even touch his ears - after a year or so, I can stroke them; fold them in half, etc. without his turning into a giraffe. Will I ever be able to clip them without a huge fight - don't know and it's not that important.
As the title suggests, this is an excellent "guide" to understanding and retraining an OTTB. Unfortunately it doesn't talk about ears specifically, but it does talk about a whole lot of other things particular to the raced thoroughbred and transitioning from a person who knows a lot about the process (an exercise rider)
One of my mares is the same way (she is OTTB) and it took me quite a while to be able to handle her ears, and we still are only able to trim her bridlepath with scissors. Some horses are twitched at the gate, and in some medical procedures their ears are held. It is possible to get them over it, it just takes a lot of time and trust. My mare couldn't be clipped, ears touched in any way, dewormed with paste, or her back feet handled. It took a lot of time and a scar or two, but I just had to really gain her trust.
A good breeding farm handles the babies from day one, but a lot of more backyard, unestablished, lazier farms dont even handle them until they are two years old. With the less knowledgeable trainers the only bits they will wear on the track will be plain racing dee's, or ring bits.
Also, with the less knowledgable, morning training won't be consistent, won't have enough warmup, and some riders might not ride very well, may move against them instead of with them.
You see my dislike for this sort? Haha sorry, I've worked for this sort, it was pathetic!
I hope I said something that does help though!
"The best pace is a suicide pace, and today looks like a good day to die!"
*laffin* I have a not-OTTB who is fussy with her ears. In fact, the two OTTBs I rode/owned were far better with their ears being handled (and washed, trimmed, scratched) than any of the other horses I've known.
Benny was initially fine with his ears until our trainer dinged him with the clippers. After that he had to be drugged half unconcious to do them (and once we didn't show we never clipped them again.)
Lucky I would bet money has been ear-twitched, though frankly I can't blame them as his method of resistance is "stop dead and pretend to fall asleep" and tapping with the whip or buggy whip is apparently just soothing. It takes a LOT to get his butt in gear if he doesn't want to move.
I have one right now with sensitivity to the right ear, which I know for a fact came from being ear-pulled at the track. It just takes patience and reassurance to get them used to being handled kindly.
Little Star Chihuahua Rescue
The Barkalicious Bakery
Two of my OTTB's are sensitive about their ears being touched, so I make a point of giving them a good rub now and then when the horse is in a good mood, enjoying his scritches. I never clip ears, even to show, so I'm not worried about that aspect. I do need to put Swat cream in there the odd time though, so I try to show the horses that my touching their ears is not a bad thing.
I have a horse that hates, hates being sprayed with fly spray. I brought this up to a Monty Roberts type trainer years ago, and his answer was this " so, don't fly spray him" Funny, once I got over the "must spray him" mentality, it all came together and now I just do it when the bugs are bad, no issues at all with the horse. Same with the ear thing..I just leave it alone unless I have to touch them. The odd touch here and there, short and sweet, and it's all good.
"My doctrine is this, that if we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt.”
― Anna Sewell
Beyond the Track was written by the program director at New Vocations. It has lots of straight forward info on working with OTTBs, explains life on the track, what they may & may not be used to, and how to help them adjust once they leave track life. Wish I'd had it when I first got my OTTB. I'd recommend the book.