To Trim or Not to Trim

Anyone who has read this blog regularly or looked really closely at our show pictures has probably picked up on the fact that Henry goes au naturale – he gets to keep his ear hair and whiskers.

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Basically, Henry keeps his ear hair and whiskers because I can’t think of a single good logical reason to remove it, but I can think of a lot of good logical reasons to keep it.

He keeps his ear hair because he has some aural plaque in one ear, and while he’s not at all ear-shy, he gets VERY fussy about wind/bugs/rain in his ears. The hair gives him some protection from the elements, so I won’t clip it out. Even if he didn’t have the aural plaque he’d still keep his ear hair… over the years I’ve really come to feel like horses genuinely need it, so while I used to clip the ears with some of my past horses, I won’t do it anymore. The hair prevents dirt and insects from getting in, and since Henry spends the majority of his time outside when the weather is good, I don’t think it would be fair to take his ear hair away. Plus Henry’s little squirrel ears really match his personality, I get a kick out of them. I just trim the little dingleberries before we go out in public.

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The whiskers, I feel a little bit less strongly about. Henry keeps his because he manages to scrape and bang his face enough as it is, I’m not going to cut his whiskers off and make it even easier. Plus I do believe that there’s something to the fact that the whiskers have so many nerve endings and are actually sensory organs that link to the brain… I think they’re more important than we realize. I wouldn’t clip the whiskers off a cat or dog, so I can’t think of a good reason to clip them off my horse either. I’m not one of those that thinks trimming whiskers is cruel, but it makes me happy to see horses that get to keep them.

In Germany and Switzerland (and I think Belgium and Sweden, at least) it’s illegal to clip the whiskers off, plus I know the Brits discussed a rule change proposal a couple years ago as well. Go to a show in Europe and whiskers are the norm. I figure if they can do it, so can I, and no one has ever commented negatively on Henry’s whiskers. Probably because you really can’t even see them unless you get very close.

Horb-Altheim 08.11.2011 Homestory Michael Jung:  Michael Jung und Sam Foto: Julia Rau  Am Schinnergraben 57  55129 Mainz   Tel.: 06131-507751    Mobil: 0171-9517199 Rüsselsheimer Volksbank   BLZ 500 930 00   Kto.: 6514006 Es gelten ausschliesslich meine Allgemeinen Geschäftsbedingungen
if it works for Michi and Sam…

What’s your opinion on trimming whiskers and ear hair? Is your horse clean shaven, or au naturale? Why?

 

56 thoughts on “To Trim or Not to Trim

  1. i do whiskers cause Remus looks like a goat (Seriously some of his whiskers grow so long it is embarrassing) but i only trim the ear hair that sticks out of the ear (In other words i close the ear and run the clippers on the outside). But leave the interior (bugs, gnats, flies are wayyyyyyyyyyyy too gross up here to do a clean trim like i used to do ). And he took has a tendency to get a funk going on in those ears so if the hair helps that is great. 🙂

    But the whiskers have to go. In fact i just trimmed him a second time last week and had to do all his jowl hair again. GOAT i tell you. Part goat 🙂

    I like Henry’s whiskers and squirrel ears 🙂

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    1. I’ll trim the goat hair – the jowls and jaw area – just not the whiskers. Henry’s are quite long and out of control but whatever helps him keep both eyeballs in his head and undamaged is ok by me. 😉

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      1. yes i have to admit Remus is pretty good at not killing himself (whiskers or no) so i am pretty safe there. Henry is a whole nother can of worms 🙂

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  2. I do ears the same way that you do – just trim the outside edges and whatever sticks out when I fold the ear in half. I used to clip muzzle whiskers religiously, coming from hunterland, but have become more lax about it in the past few years. If Dino didn’t wear a grazing muzzle almost 24/7, I would let him keep his whiskers as well. But the muzzle ends up rubbing half of them off, and I have to imagine that it’s terribly uncomfortable to have one’s sensitive whiskers constantly rubbing up against the muzzle, so I keep them clipped during muzzle season!

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    1. yes muzzle too. Remus wears one too and I never even thought about that. HOW do you keep the muzzle from rubbing their jaw raw?? Mine never STOPS eating so it must not bother him too much? LOL

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      1. What kind of muzzle are you using? I found the Tough-1 Easy Breathe muzzle is the lightest/best/most comfortable and rubs the least! Usually Dino will get some mild rubs the first week or so that he’s wearing it, but then the skin toughens up and he’s just fine. 🙂

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  3. I never clipped the hair from my horses’ ears, only trimmed the hairs that stuck out when the ear is folded. The same for the whiskers, I’d trim the one or two that grew 3-4 times longer than the others so they’d be less likely to get pulled out and left it at that. Seriously, my mare had these two hairs that grew at hyper speed… they were always WAY longer than anything else on her face. As she aged and started to lose her sight, I left them at their natural length as the “first line of defense” when she got close to an object (I figured a 12 inch long whisker should give her plenty of buffer!)

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  4. I’m curious to see what everyone says here! With a history in the eq/hunter ring, I’m used to seeing horses with naked ears and noses. Francis has some wildly furry llama ears, but they’ll be covered by his bonnet when we’re at shows so I’m not terribly worried about that. He bumps into literally everything all the time anyways so I’m not sure that clipping his whiskers could even hurt at this point. Like, it’s impossible for him to slam his face into things more. He has reached the maximum amount. At first I thought it was an eyesight problem, but I quickly realized he’s just a clumsy dummy.

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    1. Coming from Hunterland, I too was used to the perfectly-trimmed and groomed look but it’s just one of the many things I love about Dressage and Eventing that it’s widely accepted to leave horses’ whiskers and protective ear-hairs alone. It’s definitely healthier for them, and easier for me! 🙂

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  5. My competition horse is “au naturale” as you put it. Not only is she similarly clutzy and doesn’t need any help bashing her face into things, but honestly… I don’t see the point of taking the hair and whiskers off. Will ear hair really distract from our dressage performance so much? Will it slow us down on XC? People really seem to love their bonnets in Area IV, which can hide the ear hair, but I don’t do that, either; I can’t figure out the logistics of it, so I stick to fly spray. It makes a nice picture, but as long as my braids look presentable, I just go with that. The red mare has a fabulous hair gene, so I can barely manage to keep up with mane pulling, tail banging and bridle-path clipping as it is!

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    1. I usually put a bonnet on Henry because he’s so over-sensitive about his ears, but last show I didn’t, and of course he started shaking his head toward the end of XC. I swear, most of the time nothing is even in there, he’s just imagining things. Like at AEC when he swore a bug flew into his ear but he was wearing a bonnet…

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  6. I don’t believe in clipping ears, either. I tidy up super long whiskers, but that’s all. (And by super long, I mean the 2ft long one by Pig’s eye that gets tangled in the bridle. OW!) First of all, I’d have to drug the shit out of my horse to do the insides of his ears, and secondly he lives outside 24/7 with voracious gnats and refuses to keep on a fly mask. The whiskers stay because he bashes his face on enough stuff. Clumsy creature.

    I do clip bridle paths (I know lots of crazy dressage folks who don’t, which makes me crazy) and trim up long fetlock hair. I leave the tail alone, especially since I once had a terrible mishap back there. NEVER. AGAIN.

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    1. Henry is not on board with ear clipping either. Can’t say as I blame him! I do a bridlepath too, and trim the long fetlock hair, and bang/clip the tail… I just leave the tail a little longer in the buggy seasons. Otherwise none of that other stuff has any impact on his health/comfort, so I figure it can go.

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  7. I used to be 100% for a cleanly clipped face. I thought it looks sleeker and more elegant. However, I am not sure anymore it really matters. From the Judge’s Dressage booth, it would be very difficult to see May’s blond whiskers or tell that her ears are fuzzier than they “should be”. If a horse uses their whiskers at all, I think they’re worth keeping, and the ear hair definitely is more convenient than Swat, bonnets, fly spray, etc.

    I will admit, I am considering roaching her mane, but that is more because we need to eek out every ounce of cooling ability she has! Even then, the whiskers and ear hair will stay.

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  8. I only ever clip right before a show, and I do the ears, but I always leave some in there so they’re not completely hairless when I do it. Whiskers I can’t stand though, I’ll trim them in between clippings because I can’t stand looking at those 5 inch long whiskers…

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    1. Every once in a while the whiskers annoy me too (usually when they’re caked in cookie slobber) but I figured my annoyance is probably considerably less than his would be if I clipped them off. Fair trade. 😉

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  9. I’d clip the outsides of Eli’s ears if he’d tolerate it, but I’ve left the hair on the insides on my other horses’ ears in the past. I may or may not keep clipping Eli’s whiskers. I have noticed that he gets a little freaked out for a few days around his face after clipping, which makes me want to not.

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    1. I think some horses use their whiskers more than others, in which case it’d be understandable for them to be a bit freaked out when they’re clipped off. It’s funny – in Germany clipping the whiskers is considered on par with amputation, since they’re a sensory organ.

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  10. Pilgrim is all natural, too, for basically the same reasons. We’re the only eventers at a hunter barn so I’ve had to explain why my horse doesn’t look as “sleek” as the others many, many times. The little girls at the barn are in awe that my show prep (for an unrated event) is very basic and we show in turquoise. Pilgrim stays out as close to 24/7 as he can and he’s accident-prone as it is and doesn’t need any other excuse to hurt himself. Also, he’s a cuddler and its fun to be tickled with a whiskery muzzle.

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  11. I’ll do a taco cut on the ears, just to get outside stuff and keep clean. I think it’s rather vain to cut/trim whiskers just because you (general you, not you you) don’t think they are aesthetically pleasing. TBH, it is one of those nonverbal judgments that happens in my head, *check* you care more about how you look than how your horse feels.

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  12. I clip whiskers religiously (it just looks cleaner to me), but only trim ears (I do fully clip them once a year). I have a background in Showmanship and you can’t show in that class WITHOUT clipping… and hunterland hasn’t really helped with my neurosis about that so… I clip.

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  13. I really like seeing everybody’s perspective… Especially after seeing the jogs and the European horses that are fluffy. I came from h/j land where the horses even get the whiskers around their eyes clipped which I HATE.

    What really changed my mind though is Runkle has the cutest ear fluffs in the whole world <333 I can't bear to cut them, even the tufts that hang out of his ear. It's too cute.

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  14. I’m a clipper, but mostly because we do showmanship at all the shows. I don’t clip Lilly’s ears completely, but I do take the hair down quite a bit. When she’s turned out, though, she always wears a fly mask with ears, and I keep the handy roll on fly stuff handy just in case. Whiskers also have to go. I clip them with my clippers and then shave the stubble with a razor.

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  15. My horse lives outside 100% of the time, so I will tidy up his whiskers if we’re going somewhere, otherwise they stay. I’m actually not sure I even could clip his ears, so they stay fuzzy as well. He gets twitchy about me even trying to do the taco cut on his ears with scissors. Dexter also has an awful hair growing gene, so the small patch of hair he has as a bridle path is easily scissored away. He really hates the vibration of clippers on his head.

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  16. I always used to clip – though more cleaning up the edges of the ears not the inside. And then muzzle. But Annie seriously loses it if I try to do her muzzle and I don’t think I am
    Going to push the issue anymore. Like you said – I wouldn’t do it to my dog and with recent articles I’ve read it doesn’t seem like a worthy effort. If leaving my horse fuzzy helps them
    In any way then who the heck cares if someone thinks I’m “sloppy”.

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  17. I’m with you. I saw a photo of Steffen Peters and Ravel on the cover of Dressage Today with all of his muzzle whiskers and thought, “If they can win the world, why am I trimming whiskers off to show?
    The rebellious part of me continues to not clip whiskers.
    I close the ear and trim the outside edge only for big-deal shows (this is in a world where everyone body clips, clips inside and out on ears, clip FACES, and mile long bridle paths).

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  18. I keep Breeze natural. The whiskers are there for a reason, and the only reason for clipping them is for show. They serve a function, clipping them doesn’t (except for the few exception exceptions like the grazing muzzle). I clipped Breeze’s whiskers our very first show. I didnt know any better, thats what I was told i have to do. Haven’t done it again. I keep the ear hair too. Nor. Cal has flys and gnats up the wazoo (all the cows everywhere) so gotta keep his sensitive ears protected. I do trim the outside longer hairs. That’s about all he’ll let me do. I do his bridle path only as wide as the bridle itself. Can’t bring myself to do more. I use bonnets because he likes them (he immagines bugs in his ears too), but mostly for vanity reasons (have to hide his horrible forelock). I also leave my dogs whiskers.

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  19. Dassah goes au naturale with whiskers and ears. The only not-natural beauty work she has is when I pull her mane, trim her bridlepath and bang her tail. I’ll probably trim the sides of her tail here soon, but that’s just so we can all see her badonkadonk better.
    I used to trim ears and whiskers when I showed in 4-H – all the kids were doing it – but now a decade + later, I see absolutely no need. Her ear hair and whiskers function as protection and sensory information; I can’t take that away from her! I even struggle with pulling her mane as it too provides fly protection, but whatever, I guess I’m not fully black and white on the subject.
    Plus, if a dressage judge is spending time looking at her ears and whiskers and factoring that into my score, then we’ve got bigger issues.

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  20. Au naturale all the way. I figure that I show for less than 20 days a year, and my horse needs to be a horse for all 365 days, so that takes precedence. I’ve never clipped whiskers because of the sensory thing, but I make other choices too where asthetics lose out. For example, my last mare couldn’t stand having her mane pulled so I cheated and showed in a running braid (at least she was half arab so I could partly play the breed card). Also, if I can’t bathe before a show for whatever reason, I’ll still show and just do the best I can with wet ones and brushes.

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  21. For YEARS I trimmed everything, ears, nose, under eyes and then I got B who is legit freaked by clippers near his nose and ears. He barely lets me touch his ears, let alone shave them. So he goes all natural. Plus, he bangs his face enough as is. Its ugly as sin, but venters don’t really notice if ears and muzzle are shaved and no points are taken off.

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  22. Val tends to get old man ears, so I try to clean them up some, but I’ve never cleaned them out completely, because there’s just not been a need. I do shorten his whiskers and chin hair, and he rarely comes in with nicks on his face so I assume he’s doing alright without it. It’s just the entire rest of his body that gets banged up by his pasture mates. Your trailer is the only place he’s managed to find something to whack his face on weirdly enough, even though he lives with a huge, low hanging tree, and your trailer has nothing poking out.

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  23. I truly believe that trimming facial hair is cruel. Horses developed to have those things for a reason, they aren’t like an appendix or wisdom teeth in humans that no longer serve a purpose. My instructor keeps telling me that I need to trim Sydney’s whiskers off. I keep them tidy, but I will never take them off all the way. Her ears I will trim anything that sticks out beyond her actual ear, but everything inside of the ear gets to stay.

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  24. I don’t trim ear hairs. They clearly need those. Even though Nilla also has a fly mask with ears. But I have no desire to trim ears anyway. Whiskers on the other hand, I really dislike. I can’t stand looking at them. I think it comes from growing up riding at a h/j barn where all horses had to be trimmed all the time. I just look at a whiskered horse and think it looks wrong. Nilla gets fed by me and doesn’t have to exist in the wild so I figure it’s my prerogative to shave her if I want to. But I totally support people not trimming. People should do whatever makes them happy and I’m glad that judges aren’t criticizing this sort of stuff anymore so that horses can keep their whiskers.

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  25. I’m a clipper.. My mare looks is a “handsome” mare as opposed to being obviously a girl. Being all clipped up changes her appearance dramatically to make her look elegant. Not to mention the ear hair has to go so that she can tolerate ear stuffs. Cause lord knows she can’t cope without having earstuffs. I’ve tried… and tried..

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  26. I just clean Ries up to make sure he doesn’t look homeless. Normally a good clip at the start of spring and by summer his ear hair is back to the perfect length to keep out bugs and dust. I also trim his whiskers so they don’t get caught in his flash or in a scratch place in his stall. Ouch!

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  27. From time to time I dabble with the idea of going back to an English show. I think we’d probably stay unclipped: full feathers on the legs, running braid (or two??), ALL THE HAIR. Except that I’ve clipped her neck already this year and it’s only May, and I may yet clip her jowls since that looks ridiculous with her neck. Oops. I’m just going to play the “confused Haflinger” card?

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  28. I am a take it or leave it kind of girl. When I have Violet in my own care, I choose not to clip most of the time, because there is no real reason to. Except she gets this funk in one of her ears that I have to treat if they get and stay wet. Then I kind of have to clip them, but mostly, I just hold the edges together and clip what is hanging out. Facial hair, if I’m not showing, I’ll let it go, but I do like the look of a clean nose. However, Violet is in a program where the person in charge of her care is very particular about everything being trimmed and pulled and plucked, etc. I’m good with it. I guess basically I’m kind of lazy about it if I am in total control, but the mare prefers to be treated like a show princess, so it’s what makes her happy. Is that weird?

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  29. Since my guys live outdoors 24/7 I just clean up the outside of ears if we’re going out somewhere. Copper would rather me take all of his ear hair than a single whisker though. He’s super sensitive about his muzzle. If I were going to a big show, I might do more than normal, but it’d have to be a pretty big deal. Basically I just do bridle paths. That needs to happen soon actually…

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  30. I ride hunters so I must clip for horse shows. However, I keep my horses at home with no indoor in the northeast, so come winter, everyone grows everything out. I keep the manes short, but I let them be horses otherwise for the winter. I usually trim whiskers when it’s time to start riding again, but I don’t fuss with ears until we’re heading to a show. Thus my retiree keeps his fuzzy ears. Sometimes I’ll just trim whatever crazy hairs are spilling out. I call that old man ear hair…

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  31. I love clipped ears because they look so sharp, but really could care less about muzzles. I ride jumpers, though, so more often than not, their ears are stuffed in bonnets and it doesn’t matter.

    I bodyclip for comfort. I do keep bridle paths- just the width of the bridle, though.

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  32. I’ve never trimmed them and never believed in it. I do scissors off a bit of the ear hair that sticks out of her ears and her bridle path but that’s it. My instructor is from Europe and really doesn’t believe in trimming so I don’t have anyone to convince me differently right now.

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  33. My first horse as an adult was a TB, retired from racing, didn’t live at the track, lived at the owner’s farm and trailered in for races. I never owned a pair of clippers when I had my pony growing up, I used to clean her up as best I could with scissors before an event. I grew up in Pony Club, yet never learned that horse’s whiskers help them feel their way.
    The mare’s whiskers were so long she looked like a billy goat! I decided to use my brandy-new clippers and shave her face. As soon as I was done, I turned her back out in my field and headed back to work. My friend called about an hour later in a panic. She thought the mare was having some kind of seizure, said she was jerking her head around, up, down, side, would try to graze and then would jerk her head back up before she could even take a chomp. I flew back home, watched what she was doing and I realized when I shaved her whiskers off, I took away all her ability to “feel” the grass under her chin. I have never felt so guilty for being ignorant of something. She adapted in a day or so, but believe me — no horse of mine will ever lose its whiskers again!
    I also firmly believe that they need a good portion of their ear hair to fight against nature. I do fold ears closed and trim everything sticking out, but the inner ear hair STAYS.
    Glad to hear so many others are of the same mind. In retrospect, I have 4 dogs and would never dream of removing any of their whiskers! Or ear hair, for that matter!

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  34. Eh I’m too lazy to devote much time to it, but agree that ear hair plays an important role. I don’t buy that whiskers do on horses (they are more akin to a man’s beard than a cat’s mobile whiskers) but ultimately I think it’s up to the owners. Which also means I don’t get to fuss much w my leased Arabs lonnnnng mane, le sigh.

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  35. I like a clipped face. I’ve never heard of an accident caused or avoided because of whiskers, so I’m in the camp of they can come off. For ears, I do not go to a full hunter show clip, but do more than the “taco” trim: around the edges and than the hairs from the out area comes off. They are not completely clipped, but not au naturale either.

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  36. I love that you bring this up and are passionate about it. I agree wholeheartedly. Georgie will be going with whiskers and ear hair this year. I trim the long hairs off of her ears but am keeping all the rest. I spoke to a DQ this weekend and she said whiskers are becoming more accepted in upper level dressage as well. Oh my! I feel like the Europeans are always a step ahead of us when it comes to animal welfare or not doing pointless things and I like to follow their lead much of the time. (The eliminated tail and ear docking in dogs which I wish we would do…)

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  37. I don’t clip their noses or ears. I figure the hair is there for a reason. As far as other people clipping their horse’s ears and noses, especially when it’s required for their discipline, I don’t get offended or see it as abuse either.

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  38. It’s been years since I clean clipped ears. My mare was so sensitive about bugs that I couldn’t do that to her. Just do the owl tufts and leave the rest. This is my first year leaving the whiskers. Coming from hunterland, it’s taken a long time to get used to the idea. I’ve seen Theo use his whiskers enough that I’d feel bad taking them from him for no good reason. The only exception is the one eye whisker that goes the wrong way and ends up poking him in the eye. That sucker has to go.

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