THE IMPORTANCE OF SENSORY HAIRS

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By now, many FHANA members are likely aware of the recent announcement regarding the KFPS grooming rule. The enforcement of this long-standing rule is a direct reflection of the KFPS’ increased stance on protecting the health and welfare of Friesian horses. “Vibrissae”, commonly referred to as sensory hairs, serve an important function for horses in the detection of their environment and protection of the eyes, muzzle, and ears.

KFPS GROOMING RULE
Article 14 Grooming of the KFPS Rules and Regulations states: “Trimming the insides of the ears and trimming or clipping of the tactile hairs around eyes, nose and mouth is not allowed.”
Effective immediately, the KFPS will be enforcing the Grooming Rule. If you do not follow this grooming rule and you attend an inspection, your horse will be automatically dismissed from participating in the Inspection. There will be no reimbursement of Inspection fees by FHANA or the KFPS.

WHISKERS
The whiskers on a horse’s muzzle and on both the upper and lower eyes play a particularly important role in their sensory awareness system. Whisker follicles are deeper and larger than other hair follicles, with a richer blood supply and a connection to far more nerves than regular hairs. This helps make whiskers incredibly sensitive to touch, even if it’s something as subtle as air movements. The length of the whiskers also determines the safe distance from unfamiliar objects, compensating for the blind spots a horse has in front of its face and underneath its nose. The whiskers above and below the eye provide an automatic blink response when they encounter something, such as a fly or an object, which helps protect the eye.

INNER EAR HAIRS
Hairs within the inner ear also play an important role in the horse’s sensory system by providing feedback from their environment and also protecting the delicate structures of the inner ear. The outer ear hair (more fluffy hair) encloses the inner hair, acting as a protective barrier to the sensitive inner ear skin from bugs, sun, and foreign objects.

IMPACT OF TRIMMING
While many horses may tolerate the action of trimming, removing the whiskers will take away the constant supply of varying sensory information they deliver, which has the potential to cause confusion, stress, and increased risk of injury.

WHAT IF I SHOW?
The 2022 United States Equestrian Foundation (USEF) rule book states the following regarding clipping Friesian horses: “In accordance with European standards, the Friesian horse is not required to be show clipped in order to be shown. Judges are not to penalize an unclipped horse.”

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