Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Trimming Horse Whiskers--Yes or No?

Dr. Joyce Harman DVM questions the normal practice of trimming the whiskers off the horse:

"My question for you—and for most other competitive riders—is: “Why would you clip your horse’s whiskers?” Although they may appear superficial and nonessential, horse whiskers provide valuable information to horses. Equine eyes are positioned in such a way that objects immediately in front of or below horses’ noses are beyond their range of vision. So their horse whiskers help them “see” these objects. For example, while grazing, horses constantly rely on their whiskers to guide their muzzles toward edible food and away from other objects. The long whiskers near their eyes also warn them when there’s a risk of bumping into obstacles, such as branches poking up out of the grass."


I recognize that many disciplines require trimming of the horse's whiskers, ears, fetlocks, etc., in order to compete.  Please don't think that I am trying to diss this practice--you do what you have to do to compete.  However, I would like to point out that we are lucky in the showing of Icelandics.   FEIF (International Federation of Icelandic Horse Associations) does not permit clipping the horse's whiskers:

"The Icelandic horse is an unique breed with special qualities related to its primitive character. It shall be shown respect unreservedly. The following rules apply at all times: the natural appearance (e.g. natural growth and colour of hair) of the horse shall not be changed. Exceptions – the mane and tail may be trimmed if too long, and the horse may be clipped for health and welfare reasons. Hair on the muzzle, fetlocks, and inside the ears shall not be clipped. The rider shall take into account the special background and needs of the Icelandic horse, and keep the horse under as natural conditions as possible, which provide enough light, fresh air and space for free exercise. Artificial or psychological methods to alter the natural expression of the horse are not allowed."

I do have to admit that our shaggy, hairy Icelandics do appear somewhat "primitive" in open classes in comparison to the breeds that require more trimming.

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