For many years it has been the practice to remove the whiskers (vibrissae); the coarse hair like structures around the eyes and nose, of the horse for aesthetic reasons. This practice is common in many countries including Great Britain and America; however it has long been outlawed in Germany and Belgium as a cruel practice.
The purpose of the horse’s whiskers both around they eyes and muzzle provide sensory feedback on the horses environment. The length of the whiskers determines the safe distance from unfamiliar objects or substances and enables them to determine unfamiliar characteristics of food or detect small inedible objects providing an environmental map. The whiskers present on both upper and lower eyelids provide tactile stimulation and elicit the blink response. Due to the whiskers having a good nerve supply they are even thought to be capable of picking up vibrational energy (sound).
The German Animal Welfare Act (1998) prohibits and classifies as cruelty removal of any body part of the animal, including whiskers, unless authorised by a veterinarian.
The whiskers are an important sensory organ for the horse that should not be removed for cosmetic purpose.
Download the policy document here.