Sunday, June 5, 2011

Hair Today Gone Tomorrow

Human beings are always trying to get rid of hair in some places and add it to others. This goes for men, women and their horses. What is it about the natural growth of hair that makes it distasteful and causes us to act contrarily to how our bodies operate? Don't get me wrong, I shave my legs and wish that the hair were thicker and longer on my head, so I'm not saying everyone doing it is wrong. Just weird.

Throughout the history of horsemanship, the grooming details of hair arrangement has undergone some drastic shifts. At one barbaric point, it was fashionable to "dock" a horse's tail to about six inches. A horse has a tail bone at least 12 inches long, usually more, so that meant chopping off a good portion of bone, skin & muscle. This practice is still seen in some Draft breeds although now it is done out of ease of management rather than as a vogue cause. Still barbaric, however.

Now, people go to great lengths to create a tail on a horse that is lush and long, sometimes even to the point of dragging on the ground. There are false extensions that can be added. There are miracle ointments and topical sprays that guarantee hair growth. There are even methods of keeping tails wrapped in socks, bandages, panty hose and special tail bags to protect the investment of the growing tail.

A horse being prepped for a show can simultaneously have it's mane pulled (thinned and shortened by pulling out the long hairs), a false extension added to its tail, the hair on its white socks clipped off and then replicated with a powdery spray, it's whiskers on the muzzle and around the eyes shaved off and a buzz cut given to the horse's ears and jaw. Again, trying to get rid of hair where it wants to grow and adding it to places where it doesn't.

Not all people fall into the equine hairdresser category. There are horse people who could care less about the horse's hair and let it be as it naturally grows. There are also people who fall in between. I'm in between. I do some clipping, but I draw the line at whiskers. The practice of taking off a horse's whiskers is atrocious. Whiskers aren't just wiry hairs, they are important sensory tools. Removing them doesn't render a horse senseless, but it does take away that little bit of warning to the eyes and muzzle that danger approacheth.

My horses that don't go to shows, keep the majority of their hair. I keep bridle paths clipped so that haltering is neater and sometimes, if it is very muddy, I clip the long fetlock hair to prevent the skin condition called scratches. There is a pony who doesn't shed all of her hair in the Summer due to a metabolic syndrome, so she gets a full body clip in the Summer. Otherwise if the hair grows on the horse, it stays on the horse. For horse shows, I clip fetlocks, bridle paths (a modest 2 inches) and the long fuzzy hairs on the outside of the ears. I also pull manes a little, but finish them up with scissors. Pulled manes are then braided. I do not take off whiskers or the hair inside the horses ears. Clipping those areas is unnecessary and detrimental to the horse's well being.

My horses have won classes at all types of shows and many types of classes with their whiskers on and hair in their ears. Maybe, for classes I didn't win, the fact that my horse's whiskers weren't shaved was a deciding factor. I guess if that is what it takes to win, then I don't want to.

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