Last Updated on March 27, 2022
It is not uncommon to see a horse wearing an ear bonnet either in the field or out riding. But what are horse ear covers and why are they used? Let’s find out!
Why Do Horses Wear Ear Covers?
The ears of a horse are a complex and sensitive organ. They are highly mobile and their funnel shape helps the horse to pick up every sound, giving them an incredibly good sense of hearing. We all know that feeling when our horse hears a suspicious sound and goes onto high alert, with his head raised and ears pricked!
A horse’s ears can pick up sound from a long distance away as they are prey animals, and need to detect any approaching predators. However, when we are riding our horses this can become a problem, especially if they spook at every noise. This is a particular issue for competition horses, who are required to perform to the best of their abilities in a noisy and unfamiliar environment.
To combat this problem, many horse riders and trainers choose to put ear covers on their horses. These help to gently muffle the sound that the horse hears, without cutting it out completely. The aim is to keep the horse focussed on the task it is being asked to do, without it being distracted by noises from elsewhere.
Many riders find that when a horse wears ear covers it will be more focussed onto the leg and seat aids. This could be because it is more reliant on the rider for instruction, or just less distracted by noises from the outside world.
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What Are The Best Horse Ear Covers For Riding?
Ear covers worn while the horse is being ridden are normally bonnet-style, that cover the horses ears. The front edge of the bonnet sits under the browband of the bridle, while the back section is held in place by the headpiece.
These horse ear covers are normally made of a soft and comfortable material, such as polyester or cotton. Crocheted ear bonnets for horses are also popular. Many riders and trainers choose to color coordinate their horse’s ear bonnet to match the rest of his show ring attire.
What Are The Best Horse Ear Covers For Turnout?
Another reason that some horse owners choose to put covers on their horse’s ears is to protect them from dust and flies. The ear of a horse is lined with fine hairs that are designed to filter out particles, but if the environment is very dirty then sometimes additional help is needed. If the hair in and around the horse’s ear has been clipped then ear covers may also be necessary.
If your horse is wearing an ear cover whilst in the stable or turned out in the paddock, the most important thing is to ensure that it is safe and secure to wear. If it slips off the ears it could cause the horse to panic, and if it falls over the eyes it will obscure the horse’s vision.
A popular form of ear cover for the horse to wear in the field is a hood-style cover. This is a stretchy, snug-fitting cover that goes over the horse’s ears. It extends down the face, with holes cut out for the eyes. This type is much less likely to slip than a bonnet-style ear cover.
Ear covers for horses are often also incorporated into other types of horse clothing. If your horse wears an eye mask and nose net, these can be part of a full-face hood that also covers the ears. This type of protective wear may also have a neck cover that attaches to the horse’s blanket or flysheet.
Whatever type of horse ear cover you choose, it must be fitted carefully. If it is too tight or able to slip it will rub, causing sore patches and hair loss. There is also the risk that the horse may get its hoof tangled in the hood if he tries to pull it off, or it could get caught on a fence or gate post.
Horse Ear Covers Summary
So, as we have learned, horse ear covers are used to muffle the sound that the horse hears, reducing any potential distractions when he is being ridden. It is also common to use a horse ear bonnet when the horse is turned out in the field, to prevent dust and flies from entering the ears. Whatever type of ear cover you use for your horse, it must be fitted carefully to ensure it does not slip or rub.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on ear covers for horses! Do you always make sure that your horse wears an ear bonnet when you are riding in a busy environment? Or maybe your horse hates wearing anything over his ears? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
Why Do Horses Wear Ear Muffs?
You might see a horse wearing covers over it's ears, and wonder why it is wearing ear muffs?! Well, these covers are not exactly ear muffs - they are not used to keep the ears of the horse warm. The horse is quite capable of keeping his ears nice and toasty, but ear muffs are useful for a number of other reasons.
What Are The Ear Covers On A Horse For?
The ear covers on a horse can be used for a number of reasons. Some people chose to use them as they keep flies and dust away from the horse's ears. Other riders think that ear covers muffle the sound that the horse ears, helping to prevent him from getting distracted in a busy and noisy environment.
Can All Horses Wear Ear Bonnets?
Theoretically, all horses can wear ear bonnets, but as with any new piece of tack you should give him chance to get used to it first. Many horses do not like having their ears handled and it will take gentle training to get him used to wearing a bonnet. If you are competing, you should also check the rules to ensure that ear bonnets are permitted.
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE