Regularly posted news and announcements that matter to you.
The Horse asked researchers and equestrian federation representatives for their takes on the new FEI rule banning shaving of facial vibrissae, which are sensory organs commonly called “whiskers.”
Posted by Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA
Removing long facial hairs that help horses “see” their close surroundings could deprive them of a safety mechanism and possibly make them feel disoriented. As such, the recent decision of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) to ban removal of horses’ “sensory hairs”—the whiskers around the mouth and eyes—constitutes an important move to safeguard equine welfare, according to equine veterinary researchers and industry leaders.
“The move by the FEI to ban the trimming of equine whiskers is to be applauded,” said Roly Owers, MRCVS, CEO of World Horse Welfare, in Norfolk, U.K., an international charity partnering with the Removing long facial hairs that help horses “see” their close surroundings could deprive them of a safety mechanism and possibly make them feel disoriented. As such, the recent decision of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) to ban removal of horses’ “sensory hairs”—the whiskers around the mouth and eyes—constitutes an important move to safeguard equine welfare, according to equine veterinary researchers and industry leaders.
“The move by the FEI to ban the trimming of equine whiskers is to be applauded,” said Roly Owers, MRCVS, CEO of World Horse Welfare, in Norfolk, U.K., an international charity partnering with the FEI on welfare matters for more than 30 years. “Whiskers, or vibrissae, play an important sensory role in protecting the muzzle and eyes of the horse and, hence, removing them because it looks neat is completely unjustifiable.”
Horses appear to rely on sensory hairs for judging how close their heads are to objects, especially when they’re so close they can’t see in front of their noses, since their eyes are on the sides of their heads, said Machteld van Dierendonck, PhD, who’s associated with the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Utrecht University, the Netherlands.
“All vibrissae are a kind of safety measure, not only above the eye (where horses have seven vibrissae on each side, including a ‘very, very long one’ nearest the nose),” van Dierendonck said. “Because a horse is not able to ’see’ under his nose, he ‘sees’ with his vibrissae.
“In a domestic stable environment, they need their vibrissae much more than in a natural environment, since there are many more obstacles—doors, grids, stable sides, buckets, etc.—than they would ever encounter in the wild,” she continued. Her review of previously collected data even suggested that horses with shortened vibrissae might have had a slightly greater tendency to incur more head injuries than those with intact vibrissae, she said.
Federations on Board To Stop Whisker Cutting
The FEI sought to “align its regulations with those of National Federations (Germany, Switzerland, France) which had already banned this practice,” said Hall. “We were pleased with the support the rule received through the Rules Revision process in the lead up to the November vote at the FEI Online General Assembly,” she told The Horse.
During that revision process, the German Federation encouraged the FEI to include a ban on clipping ear hairs as well—which is also illegal in Germany—but the FEI opted to keep ear hairs out of the ban for the moment. That’s “not surprising,” said Owers, who explained that ear hairs are “not whiskers” and “do not perform the same function” of providing sensory details about nearby objects. “The key issue with clipping/trimming hair around the ear is how well the horse responds to that—and, hence, what risk is posed to horse and trimmer,” he said.
Meanwhile, the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) expressed concern that the rules outlining the new FEI ban were “too subjective” and would be difficult to enforce, especially with regard to how much hair might have been clipped. “Since clipping the sensory hairs results in disqualification, is it to be understood that any trimming or shortening of these hairs would cause disqualification?” the Federation’s representatives wrote to the FEI during the rules revision process. USEF additionally stated that long hairs around the eyes could get tangled in blinders used during driving competitions, causing the horse discomfort. However, the FEI assured that this would not be an issue and that the ban’s wording should remain as is.
Ultimately, member nations voted unanimously to implement the rule, the FEI stated.
Despite its original concerns, USEF supports the ban, said Will Connell, USEF director of sport. “The ban on the shaving of sensory hairs already exists in a number of European countries, so for athletes that have been competing internationally, this will not present a huge change,” he said. “USEF did raise a question in response to the initial rule proposal, but the safeguards around the rule are sufficient should there be an issue relating to driving blinkers. USEF will now work to make sure all U.S. FEI athletes are aware of the restriction.”
Sensory Hair Science and Paying Attention to Horse Behavior
Ultimately, cutting off sensory hairs impairs equine welfare purely for aesthetic purposes, and the FEI ban “makes this very clear,” Owers. But protecting FEI competition horses is only part of the effort. “It is even more important to educate owners to understand the sensory role that whiskers perform,” he said.
Even so, little research has been carried out on equine whiskers, said Marianne Sloet van Oldruitenborgh-Oosterbaan, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ECEIM, Specialist KNMvD Equine Internal Medicine, in Utrecht University’s Department of Equine Sciences. “More work has been done on rats,” she said, mainly because it’s difficult to run reliable, ethical studies on whisker shaving in horses.
To test whisker function in horses, von Dierendonck and her students found that horses with clipped whiskers generally bumped their noses against the bottom of shortened buckets (not the depth the horses expected), but horses with intact whiskers didn’t. They also saw that, especially in younger horses, the animals seemed to lose their balance and sense of orientation for about a half hour after having their whiskers experimentally shaved off. However, because it’s nearly impossible to “blind” the researchers observing the horses (hiding from them which horses were shaved and which weren’t, to avoid bias), the study results haven’t been scientifically validated, she said.
Lexington, Ky. – The US Equestrian Board of Directors has approved August 24-29 as the dates for the 2021 U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions. The event will once again be held at HITS Chicago at Lamplight Equestrian Center.
Festival of Champions includes 14 national championship divisions:
- USEF Grand Prix Dressage National Championship
- USEF Intermediaire I Dressage National Championship
- Adequan®/USEF Young Adult ‘Brentina Cup’ Dressage National Championship
- Horseware Ireland/USEF Young Rider Dressage National Championship
- Adequan®/USEF Junior Dressage National Championship
- USEF Pony Rider Dressage National Championship
- USEF Children Dressage National Championship
- Markel/USEF Young Horse Dressage National Championships for Four-, Five-, and Six-Year_Olds
- Markel/USEF Developing Horse Dressage National Championships for Grand Prix and Prix St. Georges
- USEF Dressage Seat Medal Finals for the 13 & Under and 14-18 divisions
For more information or questions about the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions, contact Kristen Brett, Director of Dressage Programs, at [email protected].
- Unhealthy air containing wildfire smoke and particulates can cause health problems in people and animals.
- Particulates from smoke tend to be very small, which allows them to reach the deepest airways within the lungs.
- Wildfire smoke can cause respiratory issues for horses. They may experience reduced lung function and difficulty breathing.
- Knowing what is normal versus concerning can help to know whether a veterinarian should evaluate your horse.
- Limit exercise when smoke is visible and give your horse ample time to recover from smoke-induced airway insult.
*Quick reference guide for horse owners to determine potential smoke inhalation damage
*Quick reference guide for veterinarians on treatment of smoke inhalation in horses
Posted by Amy Young
The Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP) released the following response to President Donald Trump’s announcement that no new H-2B visas would be issued in 2020:
On Monday, June 22, 2020, President Trump issued an order that extends the federal government’s suspension of new H-2B visas, as well as other work visas, through the end of the year. This order, as with the previous order issued in March, claims to open up new jobs to Americans during a time of record unemployment. However, when it comes to the Kentucky horse industry, this order will put our industry at severe risk.
H-2B visas are critical to Kentucky’s horse industry. During a typical year, the demand for H-2B visas vastly outpaces the supply. To fully suspend the issuance of these visas is a massive blow to the Commonwealth’s signature industry.
KEEP represents and advocates on behalf of the entire horse industry in Kentucky – all horse breeds and disciplines. KEEP’s goal is to preserve, promote and protect Kentucky’s signature $4 billion industry. Without a workforce that can meet the demands of the growing industry, it will be difficult for that economic impact to continue at the same level, especially as we are working to recover from the global pandemic.KEEP is contacting Kentucky’s Senators and Representatives in Washington to make them aware of this issue. Additionally, KEEP has joined with other businesses and trade associations across the country who are impacted by this decision to provide a response to the President and to the Congress.
Because the horse industry deals with animals that must be cared for, regardless of the pandemic, it is imperative that the industry can hire the labor force it needs. Additionally, equine operations across the state are working to ensure that their employees have necessary PPE and can work in a safe environment. Fortunately, due to the outdoor nature of the industry, it makes this much easier.
KEEP, through a partnership with the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Workforce Center, has spent the last two years building the framework for a talent pipeline that will bring more Kentuckians into the horse industry. While we are confident that this will result in an increase in the homegrown workforce for our industry, this will not happen overnight. With unemployment in Kentucky reaching alarming levels, we are hopeful that Kentuckians will look to the horse industry for employment. However, historically, there has not been an affinity for these types of jobs.
Kentucky is leading the country when it comes to the horse industry and its economic impact. With nearly 80,000 jobs, more than 238,000 equines and 35,000 horse operations in Kentucky today, KEEP feels strongly that the industry will recover from the pandemic. However, without a full workforce, that future is in danger. KEEP will continue advocating to ensure that Kentucky’s horse industry has an adequate labor pool to meet our workforce needs and will continue developing career pathways for Kentuckians to join this industry.
Due to the present Covid-19 restrictions, we are forced to adjust our traditional inspection procedures.
We, therefore, have determined that the best solution, for now, is to accept video submissions sent to us on CDs/DVDs.
Details will be provided at the time of registration of your horses.
The COVID-19 pandemic is responsible for a complete shift in the daily lifestyle of everyone in the United States, including our horses. Living under quarantine, curfews, and learning how to work from home has reiterated how important barn visits are to mental health. As states across the country relax stay-at-home requirements, we have some tips on how to keep your horses, horse people, and your barn as healthy as possible.
- Limit gatherings to as few people as possible, and continue to maintain the recommended social distancing protocols that include six (6) feet of separation between individuals. Just because the quarantine is being lifted doesn’t mean the threat is over. COVID-19 can be detected in the air for up to 3 hours after being transmitted. Some stables have created a schedule where clients can reserve time slots for their visits, reducing the number of people in the barn by only allowing 3-4 people to be present at once. This may be the most appropriate step forward for those barns in states that were forced to close outright.
- Encourage proper hand-washing and provide as many locations/opportunities for people to do so. Due to the structure of the virus, washing hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds is the most effective way to prevent contamination. Hand sanitizer must contain at least 60% alcohol to be effective.
- Make a daily or hourly cleaning chart to prevent virus transmission. Disinfect common contact areas regularly and avoid sharing equipment and supplies between people, COVID-19 can live on copper for up to four hours, cardboard for 24 hours, and plastic and stainless steel for up to 3 days.
- Non-porous materials (leather bridles/saddles/halters, nylon halters/lead ropes, gate latches, door handles, spray nozzle) harbor the virus longer than porous materials (cotton lead ropes, saddle pads)
- Clean communal leather tack daily with tack cleaner. Knowing how to properly disinfect tack is useful for any equestrian, be it for strangles or COVID-19. Aerosol sprays such as Lysol tend to strip the leather of oils, so if you use an aerosol spray to disinfect your tack, be sure to let it dry completely and then recondition the leather to protect it. Soap and water is another effective way to break down the lining of bacteria and viruses and is often safe for most tack. Diluted bleach disinfects well, but leather may dry out and crack from repeated treatments.
- Disinfect gate latches, spray nozzles, cross tie snaps, pitchforks, wheelbarrows, and other frequently used items regularly or after contact with personnel.
- Stall door latches, hose ends, light switches, faucets, and feed scoops should be cleaned and disinfected frequently.
- There may be state requirements to wear gloves or face coverings to reduce the risk of spreading germs. Many businesses will be looking to taking the temperature of those present in and will not allow anybody to come if they register temperature or feel sick and this may go a long way to helping clients feel comfortable.
- Long story short, nobody spends 2 months on the couch unscathed, so take it easy getting back into training. Many riding stables are closed to tenants and all equine events have been canceled in an effort to reduce the virus’s spread. Due to these closures, many horses are not receiving regular workout schedules, or maybe no exercise at all. While daily lifestyles are difficult for all during this pandemic, adapting a horse’s schedule to life after quarantine can be equally as challenging. Exercise-related injuries would be a terrible way to end the quarantine.
Making boarders and clients safe and secure will be critical in getting the horse industry back on its feet, and each facility, whether private or public, should have written policies regarding COVID-19 and expect all clients and professionals to adhere to them. Keeping our horses healthy has always been a priority, but without their owners, you can’t keep the lights on. All of these tips, and more, can be found on the AHC COVID-19 Resource Page; please visit it here as we continue to update it during this transition.
Details: Contact Cliff Williamson at [email protected].
American Horse Council
The Dressage Calendar Task Force is one of the eight FEI discipline-specific task forces that were appointed to evaluate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the FEI Calendar and possible solutions to mitigate its effects. They have been working in close cooperation with organizing committees for a number of events, including the host of the 2020 Dressage World Breeding Championship and the German FN.
The new dates, which were also approved by the WBFSH President Jan Pedersen, mean that the event this year will be held indoors.
The WBFSH was informed last Thursday that the dates were approved pending a final decision of the FEI Board before they could be published. The dates are now on the FEI website.
Studbooks and their national federations are requested by the WBFSH to carry out the selections for the postponed championships, according to the permissions that exist within each of their countries as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, in terms of holding equestrian events. The dates for nominations and final entries have not yet been published. The FEI and the host of the WBCYH Dressage will be working on this in the coming weeks and months.
For now, we are pleased that this event, which has become an annual highlight for breeders, riders and dressage lovers, will also take place in 2020. The Championships for Young Horses focus on the connection between breeding and sport and continue to contribute to the development and improvement of top horses for the International sport.
ALL AMERICAN WARMBLOOD HORSES WHO HAVE QUALIFIED FOR THE
2020 FEI WBFSH Dressage World Breeding Championship:
PLEASE CONTACT US SO THAT WE MAY NOMINATE YOUR HORSE/S TO COMPETE IN VERDEN.
The Foundation for the Horse and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) have partnered with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) to manage a program offering relief to horse owners unable to afford veterinary care.
The ASPCA awarded The Foundation for the Horse a $50,000 grant to support the Vet Direct Safety Net initiative. This program, originated and piloted by the ASPCA, aligns with The Foundation’s mission of improving the welfare of horses and enables AAEP-member veterinarians in the U.S. to administer compassionate service to horses and the equine community without incurring financial stress to their practice.
“We are thrilled to partner with the AAEP and The Foundation for the Horse to continue bringing the boldest and most creative safety net programs to life,” said Dr. Emily Weiss, vice president of ASPCA Equine Welfare. “Since 2018, the ASPCA Vet Direct Safety Net Program served many horses and we are proud to support The Foundation for the Horse in order to continue empowering equine veterinarians to locate and provide care to at-risk equines in their communities.”
Equine practitioners who apply to participate in Vet Direct Safety Net will be able to provide up to $600 worth of free veterinary services per animal to assist horse owners in need with emergency stabilization procedures, euthanasia, or disposal.
The data collected from horse owners in exchange for veterinary services will also provide opportunities to better understand existing equine welfare issues and, ultimately, better serve America’s horses at risk or in transition.