The banning of clipping or shaving off horses muzzle whiskers is finally in the official rulebooks.
Finally, this welfare issue is accepted and has been banned across several affiliated organisations both Nationally and Internationally. This far-reaching welfare concern was headed up by The World Bitless Association (of whom I am an endorsed trainer) https://www.worldbitlessassociation.aug directly to the world’s leading competition organisations where pressure has been placed to change human behaviour. As a direct result of indisputable science-led results and findings, the protection of the horse’s sensory whiskers has been highlighted as compromising welfare if removed.
Facial whiskers (vibrissae) are a tactical sensory system.
Horses need their sensory whiskers in life just like your pet cats or dogs. No less nor more important to them as with a wild Tiger or Zebra. These whiskers (sensory hairs) have deep follicles with a full blood supply and nervous system feeding into the whole body. They are there to supply vital information on their surroundings.
The struggle to get welfare issues implemented in law.
It can be like pushing water uphill to get real welfare changes implemented into any animal welfare sphere but they are finally happening for horses in competition. Among stricter rules regarding the use of the whip and spurs on competition horses, there are also active rules on tight nosebands with the new 2 finger rule. This means that horses finally get to breathe and be able to move their jaws more and have less compression/damage done to their sensitive tongues and on the bars of their mouth.
Human Behaviour change from grassroots up!
Humans have much to answer for in how we treat horses when cosmetic appearance, money and results apparently matter more than the welfare of the animals themselves (who are not volunteers in all these choices or situations after all.)
As of July 1st 2021, these important associations have implemented the new rules which ban the clipping of horses sensory whiskers and as such will benefit every horse attending the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The governing bodies have accepted the change to benefit the horse.
Federation Equestre International (F.E.I) https://www.fei.org, is the umbrella organisation of all International Affiliated equine competitions. They run the rule book for Eventing, Show Jumping and Dressage.
British Dressage (BD) https://www.britishdressage.co.uk
British Eventing( BE) https://www.britisheventing.com.
British Show Jumping (BSJA) https://www.britishshowjumping.co.uk
The British Grooms Association is now advertising that removing vibrissae is illegal for all horses competing under FEI rules. https://britishgrooms.org.uk/
More work to do where resistance will be enormous
All eyes are now on the Showing and Hunting horse worlds, hoping to see them catch up and ban this purely cosmetic procedure. Show horses and Hunt horses are routinely clipped out to within an inch of their lives which means there will be massive resistance to change. The show horse is even presented to be judged with all of the protective internal ear hairs removed. This leaves the inner ear in danger of debris falling in. Even eyelashes are trimmed away sometimes -MADNESS! Why we do what we do is beyond me at times.
However, welfare issues are human behaviour issues and as such, it requires human behaviour change.
We are hoping that the general population of horse owners will take note of this ban and accept this ban by no longer shaving off their horse’s whiskers in daily life. Most ridden horses are clipped out in the winter. Routinely horses suffer the removal of their sensory hairs for no other reason than it has always been done this way. We are hoping that this ban will filter down through the horse world to every clipped or trimmed horse, everywhere in the UK.
Switzerland, Germany and France have made an outright ban on muzzle whisker clipping across all horse-owning sectors. Hopefully, the UK welfare laws will soon incorporate this too – forcing the hand of the old fashioned traditionalists who consider the cosmetic appearance to be more important than accepting a welfare issue.