Cleaning your horse’s ears
For the most part, your horse’s ears are “self-cleaning” and require very little interference from humans. Cleaning your horse’s ears are more about noticing if anything has changed, and checking on the skin and hair condition. And yes, you will need to use your nose for this, too.
- Both ears that are clipped, and unclipped, may need help with insects, ticks, aural plaques, and infections. Clipped ears may be more susceptible to sunburn, although that could happen to fuzzy ears, too.
- In the winter, frostbite is a possibility. While rare, frostbite is more likely to happen in the ears as there is little blood flow and the ears poke out. Your vet needs to be involved in cases of frostbite.
- You may also find aural plaques, which are cauliflower-like growths in the ears. It’s suspected that these are formed from a virus carried by insects. For this reason, many horses do better when the hairs inside the ears can remain as-is to protect them from biting flies.
You might find aural plaques.
How to clean your horse’s ears
- I start with my fingertips and feel around the entire ear, inside and out, to check for ticks, lumps, aural plaques, scabs, and anything new.
- To “clean” the ears, I still use a slightly damp, soft towel to rub inside and wipe down the outside of the ear.
- You can use grooming gloves or two-sided rubber curry comb to curry the ears lightly. Many horses appreciate this, but many do not!
- I will do the same for horses with clipped ears and be much more diligent about using a roll-on (not spray) fly repellent. Spray-on fly repellents can end up in the eyes and sensitive noses. An alternative to roll-on fly repellent would be to spray a cloth and wipe bug protection on your horse’s ears.
- Daily handling of your horse’s ears also builds trust and may make handing and bridling safer for both of you.
Your horse needs to tolerate ear handling. It may take a while to train him, but it’s worth it.
Don’t forget to inspect around the ears – prime locations for bridle and tack rubs.
Fly bonnets for horses can protect ears
- Fly bonnets are those handy “hats” for horses. Popular in some disciplines, and allowed in some disciplines at horse shows, they protect against flies, UV rays, and some have sound-muffling capabilities.
- Use fly bonnets with a little bit of caution. They can sometimes become askew while riding, blocking your horse’s vision. Many have strings attached to secure them to your horse’s bridle.
- The fly bonnets with sound-dampening properties are also helpful during fireworks seasons to muffle the booms and whirls.
Ear infections and mites in horses
- Horses are also susceptible to mites and very rarely, ear infections.
- Signs of mites or another type of ear infection included head shaking and rubbing, combined with a cranky attitude, a sure-fire sign for you to call your vet. The sensitive ears are also affected by swollen salivary glands at their base, so check for swelling around the base of the ears. Those swollen glands indicate trouble brewing, usually.
Ears-up only happens for photos when your horse is about to eat your camera.
Keep these things out of your horse’s ears
- Water, most medications, shampoos, and the like should not end up in your horse’s ears. There’s no reason to risk any bit of liquid or product getting into the ear canal.
- If something does end up inside the ear, call your veterinarian for a plan of action. If you need to apply topical meds, fly sprays, ointments, or anything else to treat a bug bite or scrape, use sparingly and be sure that nothing can melt or drip into the ear canal.
How do you care for your horse’s ears?
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