Emily's Opinions

Whisker clipping … is it really a big deal?

I’ve seen a lot of chatter lately about whiskers. To cut or not to cut …. that is the question.

Before I dive in to my personal opinion .. it’s best that I give you a look at what your horse’s whiskers actually are and what they do.

Whiskers are a specialized type of hair found around the muzzle of most mammals. Dogs, cats, horses, cows, rabbits, the list goes on. Whiskers are longer and thicker than body hairs.

Their significance? They send important messages to the brain about the animal’s surroundings. Each individual whisker is sensitive to the touch, and when stimulated – sends a message to the brain. They help the horse recognize things around them, and decide how to respond. They might notify the horse of an incoming change of weather, help the horse recognize different types of forage on the ground, and help him feel his way around – protecting his mouth and nose. Perhaps one of the biggest jobs of the whisker is to help your horse see. Both during the day and night. Did you know that your horse has a blind spot right in front of it’s nose? The strategic placement of the whisker helps the horse use them almost like a white cane for humans who are blind. Or a seeing eye dog. The whiskers help the horse feel his way around, avoiding danger.

What if our horses cut off our fingers? The things that we use to feel around with in uncertain situations. Essentially what we’re doing to them when we remove or trim their whiskers.

Now that you know exactly what a whisker is …. why on earth would you want to trim or shave them?! Let me guess, your answer is “because I show.” Did you know that a judge can not mark you or your horse’s turnout down for long whiskers?

Judges in Europe however, CAN disqualify you if you have trimmed or clipped whiskers. You heard it right, several equestrian federations from countries in Europe have officially banned the act of dismembering horse whiskers. Germany was the first country to ban the clipping or trimming, with Switzerland following. France hopped on the bandwagon a few days ago when they announced that they have banned horses with removed whiskers on all show grounds.

What’s taking so long USA? My thoughts are that it’s purely aesthetic. No one wants to see long, unruly whiskers. But guess what? I am 95% certain that the judge 1. can not see the whiskers from the judge’s box, and 2. does not care. Yeah, it might not look quite as clean, but honestly – I don’t even think most people notice. I personally think they’re quite cute.

I feel pretty strongly about the topic because many of you know, West lives outside. I like to keep as many things as possible natural for him. He lives outside all day and night, year round, in a private, two acre paddock. He loves the outdoor life, and I love it for him. It would be unfair for me to put him out alone, with no other horses in such a big pasture full of all kinds of trees, bushes, and forage with no “fingers.” Nothings to feel his way around with. Especially at night.

Have I clipped whiskers in the past? Yes. Will I do it again in the future? Probably never. While we might not notice a change in our horse’s actions or behavior when we clip vs. when we don’t clip, I know they do. We aren’t there in the middle of the night when they’re trying to find their way around the pasture in the dark. We don’t know what it’s like to have a blind spot directly in front of our face. There are so many situations where we as humans need to use our fingers to test the waters or explore something new before going full force at it with our bodies, and horses need that too! I’m hoping that the United States hops on the whisker ban train soon. Whiskers for everyone!

Do you have an opinion on the topic that you’d like to share? Whether you agree or disagree with me – I want to hear it! Leave it in the comment section below, we can chat!

3 Comments

  • Madelyn Leahey

    I totally agree! Sometimes Jess gets clumps of grain or something stuck in her whiskers and she is super super bad about water on her face so I’ll clip that out, but otherwise Jess goes completely natural!

  • Nicole Zekany

    My old trainer made us clip whiskers during show season because she didn’t like the look of them. Now that my horses live at my house I let them grow and keep them at about 2 inches so they can still have them but they don’t get so long that they caught in the flash when they’re bridle is on! I like how they look though! They’re adorable!

  • Caitlin Brown

    I’ve recently heard about this and I completely agree with you. I have a cat and dog, and my cat specifically needs his whiskers to feel his way around the small spaces he gets into lol! I personally don’t want to clip the whiskers on a horse because of their purpose and I too think they look cute!! 🙂

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