Do You Shave?
Updated: Mar 19, 2019
Yes, this is a cautionary tale to muzzle trimming.
For many years we trimmed all our show horses whiskers and ear hair. We never trimmed the whiskers near their eyes, however muzzles were always clean shaven. It wasn't until my handsome boy had a major reaction to having his muzzle shaved that I had even given it any thought.
Eros, my 18.2h Clyde Cross that I have owned forever... Quite literally, as I got him when he was 4yrs old and at the time of the reaction was approaching 18yrs old. This wasn't his first time having his muzzle clipped; It was though, the first time I was smart enough to put together that his inability to eat his hay was because of it.
As a young horse, Eros regularly had his nose and muzzle clipped with absolutely no issues. It wasn't until later in life, after he had gone may years without clipping, that he developed a trigeminal nerve issue when he was shaved. In layman terms, the poor guy felt like he had a bee stuck up his nose!
Eating grain, grass, and hay pellets or cubes was not an issue; However, eating hay was not going to happen! His nose was so sensitive that every time Eros would try to eat hay it felt like that bee was buzzing around up his nose. He would get so mad and upset that he would stomp his hoof, rub his nose, flip his head, and in general was very pissed off!!
The reaction was not immediate. Often it was a day or two or even three later. I didn't put two and two together to make four until it dawned on me, when his whiskers started growing back was when the symptoms went away! Both Eros and I are very happy that I came up with four and stopped shaving his muzzle. I do still trim ear hairs, but only a trim. Anything on the inside of the ear stays put!
The whiskers around the muzzle and eyes (called vibrissae) help our equine partner's spatial awareness. Removing these can not only aggravate the sensitive skin and nerves of that region, but can also limit a horses ability to avoid obstacles near their face.... Possibly making what is edible and dangerous hard to determine. In fact, since 1998 Germany prohibits trimming vibrissae around the muzzle and eyes, as well as trimming and/or cutting the hairs inside the ears.
While this certainly isn't the common practice, as most countries have no rules regarding shaving/trimming muzzles/eyes, it does make you wonder, why are we clipping these areas?
On a side note:
The big guy and I have had the privilege of showing at some of the biggest dressage shows in the country, including the US Dressage Finals, and I can attest that our long whiskers have NEVER been an issue. That said, his legs are always white white and trimmed, tack is cleaned, braids are tidy, and my breeches and saddle pad are bright white! In short, your overall turnout is what the judges see :)
Until next time!
Photo Credit: White Fence Equine Photography