I recently read that horse fetlock hair shouldn’t be trimmed. It seems the fetlock hair we think looks untidy actually serves the purpose of channeling rain water away from the horse’s hooves. Think of it as a tassel. I’m told those frilly tassels cowboys wore on coats back in the cowboy days served the same purpose.
I’m noticing a trend towards letting horses go au naturel; skipping all the aesthetic trimming to allow the natural features of our horses to serve the purpose intended by nature. Another example of this is whiskers. Our horses aren’t show horses so I didn’t know this was happening but “horse whisperer” and special events speaker for Purina, Sam Powell, said that some horse owners trim their horses’ whiskers for shows. The trouble is, Sam explains, whiskers serve the purpose of keeping horse faces out of trouble. When a horse gets its face too close to something, the whiskers alert the horse. Think of them as “curb feelers.” Of course, many animals have them, including cats and dogs. Some horse owners trim their ear hair but Mikki pointed out today that all that ear hair probably helps keep the flies out of their ears. In addition to serving as a fly swatter, I’m told horse tails also provide a wind break when it’s cold. Sam said that in cold wind, horses will often turn their backs to the wind and the tail keeps the cool air from blowing into their nether regions and belly.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t give your horse a trim. Unless someone gives us a good reason not to do it, we plan on trimming some of the beard Valentine is growing. He looks like Abe Lincoln! Well, a horse Abe Lincoln. We’re also planning on trimming the bridle path to make it easier to put on a bridle and more comfortable for the horses. The bridle laying across a clump of hair looks uncomfortable.
So if you see our horses with ear hair, untrimmed fetlocks, long eye lashes, whiskers and hairy legs and armpits, you’ll know why. They’re just going au naturel.