One of the first things we purchased after our initial horses arrived was an electric clipper. We were told that we must have one so we could start desensitizing our horses to the noise they make. I am so ashamed that we had no more sense than to listen to these people. Thankfully, before the box was ever opened, we began to think. And ask questions. And ultimately, without even brushing the thick layer of dust off the box, it was tossed in the trash, still unopened. We thought for a moment about trying to sell it and get some of our money back. But only for a moment. We didn’t want to be responsible for someone else making the same mistake we almost made.
A horse’s whiskers (vibrissae) are actually an incredibly important sensory instrument to them. The whiskers around the eyes and muzzle are extremely sensitive and have a rich nerve supply. Each whisker has a region of the sensory cortex dedicated to it. Equine behaviorist and scientist P.D. McGreevy says, “This dedication of a portion of the cortex to each vibrissa indicates that they must be extremely important to their sensory system and should not be removed for cosmetic purposes.”
They use them to judge texture and distance to things.
Due to the position of their eyes, horses cannot see under their mouth so the whiskers allow them to explore and identify what is under their nose.
Foals use their whiskers to help them locate their mom’s teats to suckle.
The whiskers and lips work together to gather information about what to eat and what not to eat. That means horses without whiskers are be more likely to eat a poisonous plant by mistake.
The whiskers are used to detect how far they are from a surface and thereby aid comfort behaviors such as head-rubbing. Without this sensory tool they will be more likely to bump into objects and injure their faces and eyes by accident. This is especially true for stabled horses, who are surrounded by walls, hooks etc.
The whiskers may even detect vibrational energy, which would explain why horses with whiskers will put them near electric fences to test whether the power is on and thereby avoid an unnecessary shock.
Horses use their whiskers to communicate with a friend while mutually grooming. Whiskers enhance their sense of touch and help the horse to feel the other horse’s muscles contract and relax, thus allowing a mutual grooming horse to assess the mood of the other.
If horses didn’t need whiskers God wouldn’t have put them there and horses wouldn’t grow them. We shouldn’t take away one of their senses without permission just to serve our concept of what looks good.
Ask: What’s in it for the horse, not what’s in it for us.
- See more at: http://thesoulofahorse.com/blog/horses-need-their-whiskers/#sthash.LiDZCqoy.dpuf