Horse Whisker removal banned in International Competition

Horse whisker removal from competition horses has been banned from 2021. The new rule was passed on 23rd November 2020 during the federations general assembly as part of the veterinary regulations covering horses competing under FEI rules in all disciplines.

From July 2021 any horse who has had their sensory hairs removed, unless for veterinary reasons, will be disqualified from FEI events.

The FEI wording states the following:- “if the horse’s sensory hairs have been clipped and/or shaven or in any other way removed unless individual sensory hairs have been removed by a veterinarian to prevent pain or discomfort for the horse. Areas of hair that must be clipped, shaven or removed to allow veterinary treatment are exempt from this rule. As of 1 July 2021, sanction 39 in annex VI will be applicable.” The sanction referred to is disqualification of the horse from the event.

The FEI veterinary committee have stated that trimming or removing a horses whiskers “reduces the horse’s sensory ability”.

Other nations where horse whisker and or ear hair removal is banned include France, Germany and Switzerland. The German federation welcomed the news “Clipping or shaving of sensory hairs is forbidden in Germany as well, therefore this addition is very welcome. This rule should, like in Germany, also apply to the hair inside the horse’s ears, which is part of an organ as well and have a protective function. Clipping the hair that is protruding the ear conch is permitted.”

The US federation stated “while there has been an addition to the glossary regarding sensory hairs, there is still a great deal of subjectivity which could lead to irregular enforcement at different competitions, since clipping the sensory hairs results in disqualification, is it to be understood that any trimming or shortening of these hairs would cause disqualification? Clipped “at all” or clipped down to skin level? It should be considered that when sensory hairs around the eye are left at full natural length, they can become tangled or trapped in the blinkers (blinders) of the driving bridle and potentially cause discomfort. Is there any consideration for whether this has been done at the event vs away from the event? We recommend removing these changes and addressing when the complete review of the FEI veterinary rules will be conducted. This would allow for more input to be gathered from veterinarians and professional horsemen. It is too subjective at this point and could provide difficulty in enforcement.”

The FEI veterinary committee have added that the hairs in the horse’s ears “are not considered to be sensory hairs and there is no perceived problem of sensory hairs around the eyes being trapped in blinkers of driving horses”.

The proposal was unanimous across the general assembly. The Horse Exchange welcome the new ruling.