Noise Abatement for the Horse

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It seems to me that our environment is becoming more and more polluted by noise. More specifically, in our sporting events, the actual endeavor is being promoted by extravagant displays of visual and acoustical hype.

Have any of you been to the NFR lately? Or perhaps a PBR event? Or maybe just the final steer at a USTRC roping?

I suppose I'm sensitive to the noise pollution because: A. I personally don't find it a positive experience, and B. My current horse is paranoid to high decibel levels.

I have come to observe there are other people whose horses also are trying to escape what seems to be a painful, frightening or threatening environment. But, in reality, if you have a horse you're using in a competitive endeavor, you'd better figure out a way to deal with it.

I have, by trial and error, tried to make life more bearable around rodeos and ropings with a horse that's impacted by noise. First of all, I've learned there are some horses you can't train, condition or correct when it comes to the intimidation caused by loud noise. It seems to me you just have to lower the stimulus that sets off the fight-or-flight, primordial response in these horses.

I've also found you'd better not wait and see if the horse gets upset before doing something about it. Preventative medicine is always the cheapest and most effective approach. Plugging the ear canal to lower the auditory stimulus seems to be the simplest and most effective way to deal with the problem.

Now, a word of caution about plugging a horse's ears. Some horses can be quite resistant to your sticking something in their ear canal if they haven't been conditioned to having it done. As I've mentioned in previous columns regarding oral administration of drugs, conditioning a horse to accept a procedure is critical.

The conditioning process should be done in a controlled, calm environment (i.e., a stall or corner of a pen). Take plenty of time getting the horse to accept your approaching him and putting a finger into his ear canal. Repeat the procedure, without confrontation, until the horse accepts it as routine. Then, when you get to the rodeo or roping, you can plug his ears at the trailer and make life more bearable for both you and your horse in a noisy environment. SWR