Earplugs for Equines: Can You Hear Me Now?

Horses' ears are notoriously sensitive; it seems they can detect the "snap" of a carrot or the rattle of a grain scoop from the far end of the pasture. The delicate internal auditory structures of the horse are designed to help him pick up the slightest hint of a physical threat (or dinner) and--just as we would shield our own ears at a rock concert or around heavy machinery-- we need to protect our horses' from damage associated with loud noises. Enter earplugs for horses.

"If you are going to submit your horse to repetitive loud noises, earplugs are a good idea," said Lucy Hirsch, DVM, of Jackson Animal Clinic, in Platte City, Mo. The bonus? Not only can they protect the horse's ears, they can help the horse perform more comfortably.


Earplugs for horses protect equine hearing

Equine earplugs are designed to protect a horse's hearing.

The pinna (the large cuplike part of an equine ear) is controlled by 16 different muscles, Hirsch explained. Horses swivel the pinna towards sounds that alarm or interest them.

The Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association held its 2008 National Championship in Tunica, Miss., April 17-20.During the event approximately 20,000 rounds were discharged as the competition progressed in two arenas.Competing horses made runs that exposed them to 60 blasts at close range. Many spectators and competitors, both human and equine, wore ear protection.

"Equine hearing can deteriorate with age, just as in humans, but ear protection can protect and prolong equine hearing, " Hirsh said.

But in situations such as mounted shooting events, not only is there the issue of hearing loss, there's the issue that the sound of gunshots aren't all that relaxing to a horse unaccustomed to the din. Generally, mounted shooters familiarize their horses to the noise to lessen their reaction. Kayce Amsden of Farmington, Mo., trains her shooting horses by first hauling them to a shooting match and just letting them watch.

"I load half the shot when training a new horse to make less noise, and I always keep the horse moving when firing," Amsden said. Some mounted shooters also use firecrackers at home to desensitize horses to the noise.

Commercial earplugs are available in several styles, ranging from approximately $6.00 to $20.00.

About the Author

Marsha Hayes

Marsha Hayes has been covering endurance, trail, and other equine topics since 2005. She believes every horse has a story.

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