What do I need to know about clipping whiskers?
Well, just like manes and tails and shampoo and all other things, different strokes for different folks. There is no right answer, but definitely a few schools of thought on this.
I personally do not clip whiskers on my horses, as I don't show them. When I did show years ago, I chose to clip my hunter's whiskers to be more in line with the rest of the discipline, and the dressage pony got to stay long, a la European standards and the accepted turnout for dressage horses. If I was to step back in the show ring NOW, I would be too worried about my own possible heart attack to bother clipping any whiskers.
Horses use whiskers to help them navigate the world.
Whiskers provide another way for horses to navigate their world, and help to give them an idea of their immediate surroundings. Horses have wonderful eyes that can see quite a bit in front of them and behind them. They have trouble seeing below their noses and also directly in front of their faces. Whiskers are a sensory organ that helps them find food, avoid bonking their chins, and generally go through their day like a horse. That being said, I know tons of horses that have their whiskers clipped and do just fine in pasture, stalls, and being a horse. I can only guess that some horses may not adapt so easily.
If you choose to leave your horse's whiskers alone, you may still want to run a damp rag over his chin and nose to get rid of any crusties, slime, or green bits. They are generally self cleaning when a horse drinks, but sometimes that yummy mashed up and soupy meal hangs around a bit. Spider webs also love to get tangled in whiskers.
Five O'Clock shadow.
Say you decide to clip? What's the best way to do it? I like to use a smaller clipper, cordless for convenience, and a bit of patience. Some horses are easily tickled, and some don't care. Most horses don't mind the clippers around the face, and if you do a little bit at a time things should work out OK. If you have never done this, grab a friend to assist and perhaps have your friend hold the lead rope instead of cross ties, just in case.
When you use clippers, be wary that once you get the underside of the jaw, the hair coat is a bit thicker. Watch out for accidentally carving into that hair. You may want to point the clippers down and away to avoid this. (Trust me on this one!)
A hunter with the traditional clipped muzzle.
Some folks like to use a disposable razor. This is great for them, but you won't catch me using one. I can barely use one on myself without bleeding. And a horse's muzzle is totally lumpy and bumpy and the opposite of smooth. I would not suggest scissors, one wrong move or a tiny spook and you have accidentally stabbed your pony or yourself!
How do you guys trim whiskers?