Although horses cannot talk like Mr. Ed in the classic sitcom, they can hear and reveal emotion. A horse’s body language reveals much of what they are thinking. They communicate with expressions in their eyes and ears. You would be surprised what you can observe by watching a horse’s large ears.
The Better to Hear You With
A horse’s prominent eyes provide excellent vision for their protection and daily living. As humans, sight is a horse’s strongest sense. They can see wide angles at a great distance, which guards them against predators. Horses also rely on their oversized ears to tune in to their surroundings, especially when their heads are lowered while feeding or drinking. Since their hearing capabilities are comparable to ours, your horse hears everything around them.
Have you ever noticed how busy your horse’s ears are? Generally, the long, sail-like ears are mounted on top of their head for greater clarity. Whether your equine companion is eating, drinking, running, or asleep, their ears are always alert. They can pivot their ears nearly 180 degrees to capture the direction and distance of a sound. Sudden or loud noises can easily spook them. Your equine knows your voice, and he/she responds positively to soothing tones. Some people have told us that soft music is so calming to their horses that they leave a radio playing for them in the barn.
How Your Horse’s Ears Reveals His/Her Emotions
In addition to being sensitive to your horse’s body language, pay close attention to the ears. Basically they are an easy gauge to show how they feel. When a horse recognizes a person or another animal they love, his ears will perk up with glee. It’s the way they can show that they are eager for affection and want to be petted.
During a ride, most horses are relaxed. However, if a sound gets their attention, then the ears will flip and rotate at the sense of possible danger. The more they become accustomed to their surroundings; they will become less hypervigilant. Consequently, horses will never let down their guard completely. It’s an instinct that’s bred in them to live in the wild.
Folded Ears: Fight or Flight
The universal animal sign of fear or aggression is folded-down ears. If you approach a giddy horse or one that does not know you, you may be greeted with folded ears, wide eyes, and flared nostrils. The same response will be displayed when the horse is in danger or is defending their territory. When faced with fight or flight, most horses resort to their best defense, which is running away. During these moments of anxiety, they may also display signs of aggression. These signs include things like pawing the ground or snorting. Heed the warning and stay clear.
In their vast array of emotions, horses can often be stubborn and will display it by folding their ears. Sometimes, your horse may not want to go for a ride or go in the direction you want. Like a rebellious child, he might buck against being groomed, shoed, or a having a medical procedure. Have you ever seen a burros or mule act out? These equine cousins are notorious for folding down their ears in a stubborn pout. When your horse is having a tantrum, the best way to deal with it is encouragement and patience.
Caring for Your Horse’s Ears
The slightest breeze or touch of a fly sends a horse’s ear into a quick flip of irritation. The hairs lining the outer ear makes them sensitive. Some horses love to have their ears rubbed and gently scratched while they are off-limits for other equines.
Cleaning the ears should be part of a regular grooming routine. During the warm months of the year, a horse’s ears are prone to bites from flies and ear mites. Use a warm, damp cloth to clean the grime away from the outer ear gently. Talk to your vet if you notice bleeding or infection. Keep ear hairs trimmed to keep the horse’s bridle comfortable.
Equine Hearing Loss
Horses can experience hearing loss like humans and other mammals. Some horses have a genetic defect and are born deaf. While hearing loss usually affects older horses, it can strike at any age. If your horse seems oblivious to your voice or surrounding noise, he may be experiencing hearing loss. Ear infections and illness can also affect hearing. If you have any concerns, you should always consult your vet about your horse’s hearing needs.
At Oak Haven Acres, we deal with hearing loss and the challenges that it presents to equines. It’s commonplace for a horse to lose their vision and hearing as they begin to age. Their senses dull, and they are no longer safe left to their own devices. We take interest in horses that are in retirement and have some health ailments that are troublesome for owners who aren’t equipped to handle them.
If your horse is having issues with their hearing, then we can provide a safe place for them to live out their years. Call today to schedule a tour of our facility.