Kathryn Bright

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Abstract Mounted shooting is becoming a very popular sport within the equestrian community, exposing many horses to extreme levels of noise that the animals would not be exposed to otherwise. I selected this project because it is important for me to know how this hobby that I personally enjoy is impacting the health and well-being of my equine partners. Veterinarians can provide an elementary answer by clapping and checking for a physical reaction. However, that does not tell the client much other than the animal responded to one auditory cue. It is important to understand how firearm exposure could affect equine hearing to determine if these horses are being exposed to excessive loud and dangerous acoustic stimuli. Although a variety of studies have focused on how the sounds of firearms affect humans and other species, such as rats and dogs, there is currently no research available on how these loud sounds may be impacting a horse’s auditory function. Using the BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response) examination on a total of 12 equines split into two groups, horses unexposed to noise and horses exposed to firearm noise, the research team was able to compare data to answer the research question: How do high levels of noise affect the equine auditory system? The results were analyzed by comparing the absolute latency of wave V of the BAER. The BAER examination is an objective test that measures the changes in voltage in the EEG (electroencephalogram) response following the acoustic stimulation provided by the testing team. The exposed group of seven equines met specific criteria to be selected. Each horse must have been frequently exposed, at least 3 days a month for at least one year, to be considered for this research. Ages ranged from 10 to 18.8 years in the exposed group, and 11.4 to 18.8 years in the nonexposed group. The five horses in the nonexposed group must have had zero known noise exposure. There were no breed or color restrictions for any animal in this study. The purpose of this research was to determine if there is a difference in BAER responses between adult horses that were frequently exposed to firearm noise versus those horses who had not been exposed to noise.

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