Irish horse and pony featuring lots of hair and whiskers

Think About Leaving Those Whiskers Alone

Think About Leaving the Whiskers Alone

Horses and ponies come wide in a range of shapes and sizes, and in a wide variety of hairiness too.  Regardless of the type or breed of the horse or pony, they all have special tactile sensory hairs called whiskers. Whiskers are the coarse hair-like structures found around the horse’s eyes and muzzle. The purpose of these whiskers, both around the eyes and muzzle, is to provide crucial sensory feedback on the horse’s environment and surroundings. The whiskers on a horse or pony has a vital role in the sensory awareness system of the equine. The horse whiskers are amazing sensory hairs that have their very own nerve and blood supply. This can help horses and ponies navigate their surroundings, particularly when visibility is poor. The length of the horses whiskers determines the safe distance from objects (similarly to cats) and the whiskers also compensate for the blind spots a horse has in front of its face and underneath its nose.

More often than not the only information a horse receives about their immediate close surroundings is the information provided through its whiskers. The whiskers of a horse also enable them to understand unfamiliar characteristics of food or detect small pebbles or other inedible objects that might find their way into the horses dinner. Due to the whiskers having such a good nerve supply, one scientific study has even suggested that horses may be capable of picking up vibrational energy through their whiskers, which might help them detect sound frequencies, or feel the energy in an electric fence without touching it.

 Hairy Irish horses and ponies featuring a hairy coat and full whiskers


Whisker follicles are different from other regular hair follicles, in that they are deeper and larger than other hair follicles. Whisker hairs haver a richer blood supply and a far greater connection to nerves than regular hairs. These features make horse whiskers incredibly sensitive to touch. For many years it was standard practice for most horses and ponies involved in showing to have their full muzzles shaved. Thjs often gave a neater more refined muzzle, and with the addition of shine products often produced a stunning visual end result. Nowadays with more scientific research on all aspects of equine physiology, we have more reason to pause and think is it really necessary to do this.

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