Jessica, Springfield, Missouri
A. Although I don’t know of scientific evidence to back it up in horses, your friend’s theory is reasonable in regard to what we know about mammalian behavior. Whenever a sensory modality is altered significantly, you can expect behavior to be affected, as well, especially short-term. And for horses, their hearing is such an important sense. Those rotating ears impart a keen ability to locate and orient to potential threats—far more so than in humans. It’s probably the most common explanation I’ve heard or discussed with equine behaviorists and trainers regarding horses spooking. In the case of wind, not only is the horse’s hearing likely affected but there’s also the added visual factor of objects’ sudden erratic movements in wind gusts.
To make a recommendation for your horse, I would have to consider how dangerous the spooking is and if he’s improving with ear balls. For safety’s sake I might consider taking him for hand-walks with the plugs in or taking him out with a mellow companion horse.