Let’s Discuss: Muzzle musings

Though it’s been a thing in mainland Europe for some time, hairy muzzles have just recently become acceptable in the US Dressage scene in the last couple years. And though I admit it’s still tidy compared to a completely untouched face (it appears to me that the top half of the muzzle is trimmed, but not the bottom lip/chin), I still prefer a more svelte outline.

From what I understand (and any full-blooded DQ’s are welcome to speak up and correct me), these whiskers are meant to help the horse maneuver through his environment, and so it is a kindness to the horse to leave some whiskers intact.

A proper dressage horse with whiskers

A proper dressage horse with whiskers

All of the upper level eventers I’ve seen have their horses trimmed to the nines, and that includes any wispy muzzle, ear, or even tail hairs. Why the difference? No idea.

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An eventer’s trimmed profile

Other disciplines have different views on facial grooming, and of course there are plenty of opinions to vary within those disciplines. Muzzles aside, I know those who won’t clip the ears in the summer because of bugs, or in the winter because it’s cold, and pretty much every reason in between. Who knew facial hair could be such a hot topic?!

Foster showing off his maw

Foster showing off his maw

Obviously, I fall in line with the eventers on this one. Truthfully, my opinions on trimming probably come more from my mother than from any trends, but it’s always nice to be in good company. And yet, a tiny little piece of me feels guilty as I zoom the clippers over his muzzle.

What do you do when it comes to trimming? Do you change your horse’s grooming regimen with the season? Share your thoughts!

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21 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: Muzzle musings

  1. I never take off inner ear hair on my guys since they’re 24/7 field kept, but I’ll squish the ear together and take off anything that sticks out to give a more clean outline. Copper hates having his muzzle trimmed (he’s always been a sensitive diva about his nose) so I only take his whiskers off for shows, seldom though they are.

  2. I like trimmed jaw lines and whiskers, but I don’t clip out ears. I’m not showing A circuit hunters, I’m not in love with the look, and I think ear hair is important. Whiskers seem less critical.

  3. Whiskers are really important, they give the horse a chance to “feel” an object before it hits his nose. No matter what level I’m showing, I always leave them, a policy I started after I had a pony who, every time he got his whiskers clipped, scraped the crap out of his nose. I trim the goat beard under the jaw, I clip any hair sticking out from the ear itself, but I leave whiskers and especially eyes. It’s just asking for an injury to take away the horse’s ability to feel something before it hits the eye.

  4. I grew up in H/J land, so learned to trim muzzles, ears, bridle paths. I prefer not to shell out the ears because they just get eaten alive by bugs, but I do trim around the outside. I have been reading a lot lately about how horses use their muzzle whiskers to ‘see’ their environment, so have recently stopped clipping them! We’ll see how I feel when show season rolls around…

  5. I took off everything when I did the hunters, left the ears when I did the jumpers, and now that I’m eventing I leave everything. Honestly, the only reason for clipping whiskers is cosmetic. But the reasons for leaving the whiskers are for actual safety and well-being. I want the horse to be safe, happy, and comfortable above all else, so I’ve opted to let him keep his whiskers. He spent all year last year showing with long whiskers (AEC’s included), and if anyone noticed they sure didn’t say anything! It’s not something anyone would even see unless they got up really close… and to be honest, if they don’t like it, I don’t really care. 😉

  6. Being in Hunter Jumper land with a horse that’s not a huge fan of fly bonnets that hide ear fuzz, I try to at least keep the fuzz sticking out trimmed. Unless he’s been fully body clipped, I don’t clean out the ears. I usually leave eyelashes alone, but everything else gets cleaned up. His pasture does not really have any objects he would need his whiskers to navigate, and really the only time he gets face boo-boos is when he plays rough with the 3 year olds he lives with.

  7. I def leave my pony natural. I don’t mind a body clip in the winter but otherwise i just leave it. Mother nature put it there for a reason. Even the little bit of hair on the back of the fetlock is there to draw cold water away from the joints. It all serves a purpose.

  8. I don’t do ear hair to keep bugs out, and I leave the eyelashes, but the rest of the face needs to be shaved for me. I just really dislike horses when they look like goats. I know the whiskers help them maneuver in the wild, but my horses live in stalls/paddocks. They don’t need whiskers and getting them shaved off is the price they pay for being fed hay and grain instead of trying to find grass amongst the sagebrush.

  9. I always trim the bridle path. I cannot stand an untrimmed bridle path. I used to trim the fuzzies off ears (like other commenters, basically squishing the ear and just trimming anything that sticks out), but my guy was apparently ear twitched earlier in life, and does not like it. He’s a blue roan, so when he used to be stabled outside 24/7, those ear tufts woud be sticking out the base of his ears would be bleached blonde. Drove me nuts, but he couldn’t stand anyone doing anything to ears besides stroking them, so I’ve gotten used to it. He also grows feathers in the winter, which I personally love. And he only gets his muzzle trimmed when we’re showing. Which is not often at all.

  10. i don’t really buy into the idea that a horse’s whiskers are like a cat’s, they seem more like a man’s beard – not really about navigation so much as just…. hair. idk. i could be wrong, but i’ve also never seen a freshly trimmed horse suddenly start bumping into things either (whereas you might see a cat do that). i leave the ears alone tho.

  11. For the first time this year I did just the fuzzy outside edge of Murray’s ears, but have left them alone entirely otherwise. Too many bugs and such to get in there! I also leave his whiskers, although one day he put his face on the clippers while they were running so then I had to take the time to tidy up the mess he’d made of himself.

  12. I hate trimming anything that is there for a reason. I’ll trim chestnuts without a second thought, but whiskers and ear hair serve a purpose. So its really hard for me to trim both. But I do. But maybe I won’t moving forward. Is the dressage judge really going to care if the rest of my horse is well groomed??

  13. I nice, tidy and clipped face makes me happy. I come from a background of doing showmanship though, where it’s essential to be clipped. I clip whiskers, chin hairs, eye hairs and fetlock hairs. I trim up the outsides of the ears too, but not usually the insides anymore because… I just don’t care that much.

  14. I’ve been leaving whiskers and ear hair alone since high school b/c of feels and flies. I’ve never trimmed the inside of the ears and used to only trim whiskers for some shows (since they grow back fairly quickly) Eye whiskers have never been touch as that’s a big no no- I don’t want to chance any eye injury that I could of prevented- even if it’s a small chance of happening- 1 eye injury in a 1000 is worth leaving eye whiskers if they would of prevented it!

    Now that my guys live out 24/7 I don’t even trim whiskers for shows. I’ll trim fetlock hair, the goat beard, and the outside of ears but that’s it. I think they still look quite dapper and handsome and whiskers are hard to see on a galloping horse so truthfully who would even notice?

    During the winter I leave all the hair and barely pull mane. If we go somewhere (like a clinic) I’ll pull mane and trim ear tuffs and beard if it’s particularly ugly but leave the fetlock hair alone. I never do a full body clip and if I do a hunter clip I only clipped off half their face hair. It just seems a bit cruel to take all the hair in our climate (legs and whole face) Nights drop below freezing quite often and temps in the teens are common enough too. I don’t want to worry about wrapping legs on those cold nights!

  15. I pretty much leave everything, except I trim breads and feathers on my draft X ponies. All my horses are on pasture 24/7 so it makes the most sense to me. I might feel differently if they were boarded inside and I was showing at a high level (quite unlikely!). It does look tidy when horses are all trimmed up!

  16. I’m a reader from sweden and we dom NOT trim off the horses whiskers. It is something we are educated on from the beginning to not do as it is a very important sense for the horses and we don’t want to debilitate the horse. For me it is unbelievable that some reasons in the above answers is purely because of looks and thinking that they don’t need it in domesticated circumstances, or because one do not really believe in the science. Although, i do recognize that there is a very large difference in how things are done in different countries and there is different standards, I can’t help to be a bit astonished.

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