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Trimming whiskers is something what has always been considered common practice. Certain disciplines, such as showing, it was almost a requirement to remove your horses whiskers. But with more and more people starting to think that trimming whiskers might not be good for our horses and organisations banning trimming whiskers in their competitions, public opinion is really starting to change.
What do horses use their whiskers for?
I never had cats as a kid, but I always remember being told that you should never cut your cats whiskers as they use them to know if they can fit through a gap or not. While horses don’t use them for judging if they can fit through a gap, they are still important to the horses day to day life. Whiskers are incredibly sensitive and help horses “see” the world around them.
Why do people trim horses whiskers?
While occasionally you may need to trim whiskers for a medical reason, most of the time people trim whiskers purely for aesthetic reasons. They either prefer the look of having trimmed or no whiskers, or they think their horse needs to look a certain way when competing.
Why shouldn’t you trim a horses whiskers?
There doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of scientific evidence for the negative effects of trimming horses whiskers. But when we combine what we know whiskers do with some anecdotal stories, there are some obvious risks when trimming horses whiskers.
We know horses use their whiskers to help navigate their surroundings. It’s therefore not surprising that a horse might be more prone to banging their head after having their whiskers trimmed. A bit like if you always park with parking sensors and then turn them off one day, you will be slightly less aware of your surroundings.
It’s also not uncommon for horses to act a bit strangely after having had their whiskers trimmed. A good example is horses not wanting to put their noses in feed buckets or eat out of haynets. This is usually a short term issue. But obviously a horse not being comfortable to eat is an issue.
FEI makes trimming whiskers illegal in their competitions
As of the 1st of July 2021, you will be disqualified from any FEI competition if your horse has clipped/trimmed whiskers. This is based on veterinary advice that it reduces a horses sensory awareness. While you might not compete in FEI competitions, it is important to remember that lots of other organisations, such as British Dressage, follow the FEIs rule changes.