Does your horse need earplugs? Maybe?


Earplugs, or pom-poms, or no-hear-ums, are an option for some horses that are sound-sensitive. These little balls of fluff or foam reduce noise, so (in theory) your horse is not distracted by or spooked by sounds.


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As with most things horse, there’s a fair amount of debate about using earplugs or puffs.


  • Some disciplines, like the hunters, routinely use earplugs in and out of the show ring. Other disciplines, like dressage, forbid earplugs in the show ring. Most people who use them at home and shows use them as a training supplement and safety prop.


  • If your horse is a lunatic because of sound sensitivity, you should use training aids, like earplugs, to work through issues while having a little safety net. Earplugs should not be a crutch, but an aid. Earplugs shouldn’t replace desensitization training or real training in general.


  • You might use earplugs during a clipping session, to keep ear hairs from falling into the ear and also decrease your horse’s reaction to the noise of clipping. ​​​​​​​


  • Use ear puffs during fireworks, too, to dampen the noise and stress. 


horse ear up close


The logistics of using earplugs in horse ears.


  • Earplugs are usually a soft and fluffy ball, about the size of a pom-pom. They sit inside the ear and serve to muffle sounds.


  • Some brands of earplugs claim that hearing is still intact, but the startling, spook-inducing noises are diminished.


  • Other riders use foamy balls, like a cat toy. They might be painted black or brown for show situations so the cat toy color isn’t showing through.


What about putting the earplugs in?


  • Some horses don’t care at all about having them put in. You want to work slowly, reward often, and make it a part of your horse’s life.


  • For the ear-shy horses, your mission on day one is NOT to put them in. Your mission might be to get your fingers within one foot of your horse’s ear.



  • If you find yourself using force to pop them in, you’re doing it wrong.


  • Some horses might decide that they are fine with you placing the earplugs in, but keeping them in is another story. Head shaking is a real option for some horses, and they may or may not get over themselves.


show horse with black fly bonnet on ears

Another option. Fly bonnets can come with extra padding to muffle sounds.


You also have the option for the sound-sensitive horse to use a fly bonnet with special ear covers that muffle sounds.


  • This is a bonus for many horses – bug control plus scary sound control.


  • If you plan to show your horse, you will need to check with your discipline’s governing body to find out if they are legal. You might find that pom-pom like earplugs are not allowed, but the noise-reducing ear bonnets are legal. Go figure.


large black ear puff

They come in all sizes, too! And colors.


At any rate, decide what’s best for you and your horse. You might find that on days when the neighbors are sawing and mowing and rustling the trees you need some insurance, but on other quiet days, you can skip the earplugs.



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