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Q re using Ear Poms/Ear Plugs -- does it hurt?

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  • Q re using Ear Poms/Ear Plugs -- does it hurt?

    Wanted to get folks' opinion. I've been using the fluffy ear poms in my horse's ears to block out noise and help him stay focused on what we are doing. He's a 6-yr old OTTB and seems very sensitive to noise -- the ear thingies help *tremendously*. I've noticed that he doesn't mind at all when I take the ear pom out of one ear, but throws a little tantrum when I take it out of his right ear. Does this mean anything that I should worry about -- does anyone else have a horse like this? Should I have his ears looked at by a vet?
    Thanks for any thoughts.

  • #2
    He's probably more bothered with you messing with his ears and his head than he is with the ear plugs themselves. I've also noticed a lot of horses are more particular about the ear plug in one ear over the other.

    I started using ear plugs on my 6yo tb to keep him focused and, in about a month or two, he's gone from never wanting me anywhere near his ears (he's a terrible cribber and I think it's made his poll a little achy from time to time) to actually being pretty agreeable. I'd say just keep using them and your horse will start to relax a bit.


    • #3
      I think I've heard in the past that OTTBs sometimes are sensitive about their ears, since their track experience may include people grabbing their ears to distract them at the starting gate.

      I've also seen many horses who are more sensitive about one ear than the other.

      Most horses eventually realize the ear plugs are not a big deal.


      • #4
        Personally if the horse is demonstrating different behavior on one side compared to the other, I would want to rule out any physical issues or problems with the side he objects to. I could be he has a little scrape or something that you are irritating without knowing it, or something like a wart or fungus (common in ears, unfortunately.)
        We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


        • #5
          There are pressure points in their ears, I used them a lot at the track when I needed to do something they did not want me to do. That said, a lot of horses are funny about one ear and not the other. What does he do when you put them in?
          Shop online at


          • Original Poster

            he will throw his head up in the air and try to back up... when i take them out, he does the same thing. i'm not very tall, so it's a bit of a challenge trying to get it out of his ear!!! he doesn't act like anything is bothering him. he doesn't mind ear scratches, but he really doesn't like my attempts to put anything in (or take anything out of) his one ear...


            • #7
              Where do you put them in and take them out? Have you tried doing it in the stall so he can't back up? That works well with some of them, especially if you add a carrot to the process as a reward.

              When I put in the left one, I stand on the left side of the head, put my left hand over the nose by the noseband to keep the head down, and put in the earplug with my right hand. Reverse the stance for right ear.

              Most of them get it- although I do know one pony who's done a million shows in the past decade, and it's still a rodeo every time with the ear plugs.


              • #8
                if its consistently the right ear? you're probably taking the left one out first all the time, so, by the time you get to the right ear he knows whats coming and can think about reacting.

                try changing up your routine, take the right one out first.

                and, you can also trick him. pretend like you're going to take it out, but don't do it. go do something else, then come back again and pretend again. keep pretending and taking a break until he stops throwing a tantrum (he will eventually discover he's throwing tantrums for no reason, because you don't actually take it out). when he's all 'whatever', then take it out
                Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


                • #9
                  One of mine is really bad about the right ear and fine with the left -- both putting in and taking out the ear plugs. Nothing in his history that would have caused it, and no physical issue that we've ever found. Just him.
                  Part of our routine is to use cookies. Hold the cookie in one hand and put in or take out the earplug with the other hand. He still doesn't like me doing the right one, but he tolerates it, knowing he gets a cookie. Sometimes he only gets a cookie on the right ear, since the left is easy!

                  Oh -when taking them out, be sure not to pull any hair. That really set my one horse off, so I have to really careful just to grab earplug and not the inside hairs.


                  • #10
                    Every day for two weeks I gave my guy a peppermint every time I put them in and took them out. He started to look forward to them! Now I give him a treat every few days to keep him happy. Works great!
                    Originally posted by tidy rabbit
                    Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community.


                    • Original Poster

                      Thanks for all of your feedback, I appreciate it.


                      • #12
                        I started using them last year, with great success with my pet h/j OTTB gelding, who punishes me for the noises he hears, and he is way too athletic and quick and powerful for these sorts of moves in my old age. But getting them in and out was a problem, and he LOVES his ears stroked, played with etc. We can stand facing each other,with him sucking on my coat (usually), me using his ears as motorcycle handles, twisting them and using the "clutch", while making the motor noise with my tongue, with him with a dreamy look on his face. Don't ask me why or how this ever got started, but it is just something that we do together sometimes. But he no like the ear plugs.

                        No warts or growths or exudate coming from his ears that I can see, and I can explore down into the depths pretty well. But getting those ear plugs in there, and out again, was not pretty. Then one day while we were riding, he started to shake his head so violently that he could hardly remain standing. He had on occasion managed to remove one sometimes by shaking, but this frantic headshaking was worse than anything before. Backed me off putting them in again. Got him a crocheted hat with earcones instead, which has worked fine. Was going to line the earcones with foam insulation to further reduce noise, but apparently not necessary now. I swore I would never make any horse of mine wear one of those ridiculous hats, and now I own one.