Let the whiskers grow

Did you know a horse’s whiskers help them to “see” in the dark? The vibrissae on a horse’s face help them to know how far objects are away from them, what to eat as they are grazing, enhance their ability to orient in dim light conditions and much more. The vibrissae are particularly important to horse on the underside of the muzzle because he/she cannot see what is directly underneath the head. It makes horses less reactive and jumpy to have a longer warning system about what will touch them and where objects are around them because they have more time to respond. This is preferable to becoming overwhelmed when something surprises them by touching the skin suddenly. Think of it as an advanced warning system for their heads.

First Germany in 1998, then Switzerland and France- more and more nations are banning the trimming of horse’s facial sensory hairs (whiskers) for humane reasons. Most recently, in November of 2020, the FEI unanimously passed a rule banning horses from competition in the 2021 season if their muzzle and eye hairs have been trimmed. I hope that this trend will make its way to the United States and our show circuits.

I am including articles in case you would like to learn more on the topic. I love the advice of one article that encourages horse handlers to notice if the horse’s with intact vibrissae behave differently around the face than those whose whiskers have been trimmed. I am going to try and note any differences I find as I work with different horses. I think about half of the horses that I currently do bodywork on have their muzzles trimmed.




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