Fenwick ear bonnets. Legal?

Um… Yes!

Or, you have not experienced a horse that is sensitive to certain things.

I know one that does not like it when their own forelock hits them in the ear. I have one that is fine until a bug dares to land in/around their ear and then no matter how focused they were before, that bug needs to be dealt with.

Not saying that some people do not use them because they allow a little more space for color or advertising or heck, they just like the way they look, something you have made very obvious you care a great deal about so should understand.


At the other weather extreme, they can also be useful if it’s hailing!

@eightpondfarm yes, some people use them as a fashion statement. But the padded noise-muffling ones can be especially functional for horses with certain sensitivities (noise, bugs, etc). Some horses it helps, some it makes no difference, for some the bonnet makes them worse.

Leg wraps/boots are also functional depending on the horse and the level/movements you are riding!


right right right…serve a function for flies…sure, ok. Fashion is just an aside…ok, fine. Leg wraps serve a function for bones and joints, and tendons and muscles. But wraps come off when you go in the ring. Why is that? Seems to me they serve an arguably higher purpose than bonnets do.

And indeed, my taste is they don’t enhance the appearance of a horse. And, i don’t think they look cool. Or hawt. So maybe lets all revisit this chat in about 20 years and see if they end up being as silly-looking to you in retrospect as 1980s shoulderpads do to EVERYONE nowdays.

I remember around 45 years ago trying to find an ear bonnet for my horse against the deer flies when we went through wooded areas.

All I could find after a lot of searching (no internet back then) was a scrim ear net, I think Little Joe’s Saddlery in Richmond, Va. had it for sale.

I excitedly bought one. Turned out it was sized for a big draft horse, not a fine headed Anglo-Arab.

It did work somewhat against the gnats (if they did not get through the inevitable gaps) and the deer flies, but it was just so easy for my horse to shake it off.

I was so HAPPY when the more modern ear bonnets came out. They sure work better than that draft horse sized scrim ear net for the horses I ride.

I live in the South, in NC. Spring is gnat season and gnats just drive the horses insane.

Then come the regular flies, lots and lots of them.

Then come the buzz-bomber flies.

I adore the ear bonnets. They have made the horses I ride a lot happier and riding is safer for me.

I don’t do fashion. No dropped browbands or crystals for this lady (I think those dropped browbands look gross, just my humble opinion.) I have never put bandages on my horse’s legs for anything other than trailering (with cottons underneath, it was a long time ago.) I don’t do color coordinated anything, though it hurt that when I NEEDED an ear bonnet one time all I could find was a purple one with pink trim–yuck!–but the horses needed one.

If I did not have to deal with all the gnats and flies I would not use one because I used to like looking at my horse’s ears when I rode.


Let’s also remember that the current bonnets were popularized by Gem Twist, whose groom actually crocheted and sewed the first version. I can’t find a reference to him wearing them earlier in his career, so let’s assume them were first used in the 1988 Seoul Olympics; after which a lot of people saw the practicality and some saw the fashion opportunities.

I don’t have a good reference point for when they moved over to the dressage ring, but the original fabric ears, crocheted face with fringe was from 1988 or earlier.

That’s 32 years ago. Pretty enduring fashion fad.

ETA: This thread is an excellent demonstration of the difference between an opinion and an informed opinion. People who actually have competition experience seem to find the ear bonnets useful.


Re: fashion judginess

You don’t like them. That’s perfectly fine and understood. We won’t expect to see them on your horse.

Now, do you think they constitute animal abuse? If not, it seems like a great opportunity to retire the discussion because “not liking something because you just don’t like the look and think it is a fad” is a lousy reason to keep beating people over the head with your opinion.


Well, wraps are not legal to compete in. I have been trying to figure out how to word this properly since you posted, but it has to do with demonstrating correct gaits that do not forge, interfere, etc. which can be considered an impurity or unsoundness. Most people these days just use boots or wraps for ‘insurance’ against accidental injuries.

I first used a bonnet some 20 years (which I have spent mostly eventing, FWIW) ago, and while I don’t participate in the ‘matchy matchy’ ness of dressage, I fully support anyone who wants to :slight_smile: it’s harmless.


Not thinking of Fergie there?

My lovely red head didn’t like her forelock touching her ears, and was very noise sensitive, made for some interesting rides.

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Are you envisioning people warming up for their test for 30+ minutes without a fly bonnet and then getting off and putting one on before they go in for their test?


Indeed! The extra hassle of having to remove them (and not the bridle) at bit check is enough to keep me from putting them on horses that don’t benefit.


I was not. I guess that means I know of two horses that fit into this category now.

@McGurk Thank you for the history reference. I was hoping someone like you would come along and give us a reference point. I knew they had been around for a good long time.


If you don’t like them, don’t use them. It’s a really simple thing to do.


Who puts an ear bonnet on for five minutes? My guys can work for up to 1.5 hours at a time. This one in particular tends to be cold backed and requires 20-30 minutes of walking before he relaxes. Add that on to a 30-45 minutes work session and another 15-20 cool down walk and it’s WAY more than five minutes. I don’t know of anyone who puts on a bonnet for 5 minutes. To think that’s what people are doing is a bit uneducated.


My horse is like this. I think I see a Fenwick ear covering in our future.

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First you have to get it on. I had to start of by holding it against the base of their ears (or as near as I could get) for a minute or two. When the horse finally relaxed because it felt so good (relaxed eyes and nostrils) I went to the next step. It is truly amazing how high a 14 hand horse can get its head, lol.

I still had to keep moving SLOWLY putting the ear bonnet on even after they gladly let me clean out their ears thoroughly.

One was an elderly 14 hand Arab mare, the other was a not quite as elderly QH 14 hand high gelding. They were truly set in their ways, and me touching their ears was a NO!!!

It took me a month or two at one or two rides a week to make true progress. I think both horses had been “eared” on the left side. At first I had to approach from their right side, right ear first, and then I could slowly put it on the left ear.

It took me several more months before I could start putting it on the left ear first.

The Arab mare was rather polite about her objections, mostly by transforming into a giraffe. The QH gelding was not very polite at all, bordering on explosive. He slung his head violently at first and started threatening to rear. I would back off, go back to the last acceptable action, and slowly started working toward the ears again.

Eventually I succeeded. It took patience.

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Thank you for the tips, Jackie. I keep telling him how much he would love having the insides of his ears brushed. We may be one step along the way already – he wears a fly bonnet in turnout during the summer, and there’s no issue putting that on. It’s the insides of the ears that are off limits.

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Adding on to my post above. This is based on my flawed memory, so I won’t swear to it, but I believe the whole Gem Twist story was that he had never been noise reactive previously, but when they took him on a European tour, the crowd noise at indoor venues really bothered him, and the groom came up with the ear bonnet. It worked so well he just wore it thereafter; and obviously for the 88 Olympics, where crowd noise was an issue outdoors because of the size of the crows.

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I had used the really small bristle brushes inside their ears before I bought a Zoom Groom cat grooming “brush” from chewy.com. It is called the Cat ZoomGroom multi use brush. https://www.chewy.com/kong-cat-zoomgroom-multi-use-brush/.

The horses have “told” me that they greatly prefer that to the bristle brushes. This is the ear cleaning tool the resistant gelding finally accepted as wonderful.

Of course I started using it on the base of the ear ("OOOH, NICE!), then the outside of the ear, and after a few times of this I started on the inside of the ear. When it got to the itchy spots he fell in love with having his ears cleaned out.


Please come ride my mare in the height of deer fly season and/or noseeum season (which lasts from about may - Oct) and tell me how your arms feel when they get ripped out of their sockets and how your ass feels when it hits the dirt :smiley:

Fwiw, she is the first I’ve had that can’t cope and I trained horses in a legit swamp years ago. Chemicals don’t cut it for her, it’s a bonnet with ears or a tantrum of needing to crawl out of her own skin.

This is not even an ear shy horse - she has the children of the barn trained to report directly to her stall upon arrival for ear rubs/cleanings. Me: child, put her ear cloth on your hand, you’re going to get disgusting earwax all over you
My horse: don’t make the minion stop, I’m good without the rag, no wait, rag good, better scritches, no don’t stop, yes rag, no don’t stop, ok time for other ear!

When her door is opened and they present a hand she literally lowers her ear to their hand level so they have maximum scritch power and aren’t having to reach thereby causing them to do a poor job of it. lol


Yup, my horse hates bugs anywhere near his ears. He wears a fly mask with ears in turnout and a bonnet when he works. And even though the test is only 5 minutes, why would you risk ruining it if a fly lands on his face?
I saw a PRE swarmed by those nasty green-headed horseflies during a test in an arena that was next to the woods. He freaked out and the rider had to withdraw.

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