As many of you probably already know, as of the 1st of July 2022 the removal of whiskers from your horse’s muzzle or eyelids will be banned by Equestrian Australia across all EA National Disciplines for welfare reasons. You will not be permitted to compete in these EA events if your horse’s whiskers have been clipped or shaved (unless for veterinary reasons), so we thought we would remind everyone about the new rule, why this rule has been implemented, and exactly what is involved.
Why are whiskers so important to your horse and what is their role?
- Whiskers are part of the horse’s sensory system, found around the eyes and muzzle
- They have their own nerve and blood supply, which makes them more sensitive to touch and stimuli
- The follicles on whiskers are deeper and larger than normal hairs
- They help the horses access their environment and surroundings, as well as distance from objects, in their blind spots such as under their nose and directly in front of their faces
- Helps horses feel safe
- The whiskers on the eyelids help protect the eye by creating an automatic blink response whenever an object comes in contact with them, thus preventing any injury to the eye itself.
- It is also believed that whiskers, having such a strong nerve supply, can pick up vibrations or energy from objects such as electric fences, allowing a horse to feel the current of a fence before actually touching it.
The FEI banned the trimming of whiskers as of 1st July 2021. However, the governing bodies in several countries had previously implemented a similar rule and the clipping or shaving of whiskers had been banned in places such as Germany, Belgium, and France leading up to the FEI decision. Following the FEI ruling, the Equestrian Australia board voted to implement the same ban for all National EA events and disciplines. It was declared that whiskers on the muzzle and eyelid are in fact sensory organs and therefore cannot be removed. Given a horse’s conformation (long nose and where their eyes are located) they need a way to sense things and help to tell them it’s safe, that’s where whiskers come in, as they provide sensory feedback.
Even though the trimming of horses’ whiskers isn’t painful, it does take away their sensory ability allowing them to access the environment around them and help them feel safe. Some of you have probably already stopped trimming your horse’s whiskers however there are many who may have still been doing so, and it is now time to let the hair grow and look at it this way one less job to do before heading out to your next competition.
More information can be found on the Equestrian Australia website
Written by Selena. P