Caring for equine ears
A horse uses its ears to express itself. Their position can tell you a lot about the horse’s mood. But if he shakes his head, won’t let you put the bridle on, and doesn’t like his ears messed with, something might be irritating the insides of those ears.
Kathy Anderson is an extension horse specialist at the University of Nebraska. She says if the horse will let you, gently look into the ear to see what’s bugging him.
"If they’ve gotten ticks you might be able to see them. There’s various different kinds of ticks or mites, or gnats and stuff that can start to irritate them," says Anderson. "You’ll notice maybe some scabbiness up there in their ears, some matting. Some of those types of things are probably the most common things that you’ll first see."
For the most part, a horse’s ears are self-cleaning. But Anderson says if you need to get rid of the insects and gunk inside, wipe them out with a cloth sprayed with fly spray. If it’s a bad infection or the horse won’t let you touch its ears, you should probably call your vet.
"They can come out and they can mildly sedate the horse and do a better job of cleaning things up inside that ear," says Anderson. "Sometimes they’ll also go ahead and deworm them, because with whatever might be irritating or going on, the basic dewormer can help clean up some of the mites and clean up some of the things that might be in there causing the irritation of that horse’s ears."
Horses that have a severe reaction to insect bites might also need an oral anti-inflammatory treatment.
Anderson says the fuzzy hair inside the horse’s ear is a natural defense to keep bugs from going internal, and should be left alone. Some people clip out the hair if they’re going to show the horse. In that case, she recommends preventing problems by wiping out the ears with fly spray on a cloth.
If your horse will wear a fly mask with ear protection, this is another way to bring some relief from biting insects.
Here's a list of insects that like to bother horses and what to do about them
Find more tips for cleaning equine ears
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