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Cleaning & Treating Horse Ears

"But Grandmother! What big ears you have," said Little Red Riding Hood as she edged closer to the bed. "The better to hear you with, my dear," replied the wolf.

Horse ears collect all kinds of dirt and gunk, as they should. The hair-lined, funnel-shaped outer ear is designed to protect the delicate parts of the inner ear. During warm months, tiny midges (sometimes referred to as no-see-ums) can bite and irritate ears, making the inside of the ear crusty or bloody.

To clean your horse's ears, use a soft cloth that is slightly damp and well rung out--you don't want water to drip into the ear. Use witch hazel or warm water, but not alcohol—it can be irritating or drying. Do not ever spray water or anything else into a horse's ear. You must avoid pushing anything deep down into the ear canal. Cup the ear with one hand, and gently wipe out any dirt or grime, starting from the bottom and working toward the tip. Make sure you're wiping the gunk up and out, and not into the horse's inner ear.


Clean your horse’s ears whenever you notice a buildup of grime, more often in the summer, when biting bugs are active.

What is aural plaque in horses ears?

Aural Plaques are whitish, flaky lesions on the inside of the ear. They are thought to be the body's chronic, inflammatory response to a papilloma viral infection (similar to warts) spread by biting insects. Aural Plaques can be a purely cosmetic problem or cause severe ear sensitivity. They are caused by one of several strains of papilloma virus spread by flies.

If you find those small, white, crusty spots in your horse's ears, resist the urge to pick or scrape them off. Typically, both ears are affected, and while the pale, crusty patches may look unpleasant, they usually don't cause the horse discomfort.

Use of fly masks with ear protections, frequent applications of fly repellent, and stabling the horse during the fly’s feeding times are important measures to reduce discomfort and prevent recurrence. Lesions typically do not regress spontaneously.

Can a horse get an ear infection?

Middle ear infections are uncommon, and horses rarely get infections of the external ear canal like dogs and cats do. Probably the most frequently encountered problem with a horse's ears is external parasites.

How do I know if my horse has ear mites?

Ear mites can be the cause of head rubbing, head shaking, and irritability. Check in your horse’s ears, you may see white specks moving in brown exudate on the surface of the ear. Horses may have head sensitivity with swelling that becomes malodorous at base of ears. Psoroptes (equi) ovis may be found under the mane, base of tail, axillae or between hind legs.

How do you get rid of ear mites in horses?

Once your horse has been diagnosed by your veterinarian with ear mites, you have a few treatment options which your vet will discuss with you.

The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse's ears.

~Arabian Proverb.

Grooming the whole horse with health in mind is a great opportunity to bond with your horse and check him over for any injuries or abnormalities.

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