Can That Older Horse Still Hear? By Kentucky Equine Research Staff · September 7, 2012
Hearing diminishes somewhat in older horses, as it does in many humans, but most aged horses get along fine, even with less than perfect hearing. As long as they are in a herd, or at least turned out with one or two buddies, they will watch the other horses for cues about danger that may be approaching.
A simple test can be used to see whether your horse’s ears are still in good working order. Wait for a time when he’s dozing, either in the field or in his stall. Stand where he can’t see you (and well out of kicking range) and call or whistle loudly. If you get no reaction, clap your hands several times. If he doesn’t move, shake a bucket with a handful of grain in it, or a tin can containing several rocks. Continue to make louder sounds—pop a balloon or air-filled paper bag, or plug in a loud radio. Start with milder noises and work up toward louder sounds: you don’t want to scare your horse or any nearby horses. Flicking an ear, raising his head, or turning toward you are all signs that your horse may have heard the sounds you are making, or he may have seen you move, as horses have an extremely wide field of vision.
Of course, if your older horse knows and trusts you, he may have seen and heard everything and just not bothered to react! Either way, he probably won’t run into problems if he’s in familiar surroundings and has another horse around for companionship.