‘Aesthetics should never compromise welfare’: major show brings in ear-trimming rule

  • The Great Yorkshire Show (GYS) has introduced a rule banning excessive trimming of equine ear hair in the interests of horse welfare.

    The show, which this year runs from 11-14 July, banned the trimming of whiskers and other sensory hairs before the 2022 event. A new rule for this year states: “Following several enquiries regarding trimming of ear hair, as part of reg.78 the hair on the internal aspect of the ear pinna should not be excessively trimmed as it performs a protective function against insects, sun and foreign objects.”

    GYS entries and livestock coordinator Amanda Stoddart-West told H&H that although ear hairs may not be exactly like whiskers, “they do serve an important protective role”.

    “Traditionally ears were always trimmed for purely cosmetic purposes to achieve the neatest look possible, but we must move with the times and put the animal’s needs first, and if it’s felt it’s necessary, an ear can be trimmed externally without touching the inner hair,” she said.

    “Some breed societies do have rules stating that animals must be shown in a natural state and I would hope some of the other showing bodies will be moving in the right direction where the animal’s needs move higher up the priority list, so this sort of thing becomes the norm.

    “Change can be difficult for all of us but having introduced the whisker rule last year, all animals bar one had its whiskers on which was very pleasing.”

    Mrs Stoddart-West added that a number of people had asked for the ban.

    “I think people are becoming more and more educated, and realise these inner ear hairs have a function,” she said. “Where classes allow it, we’re not saying ‘Ears are not to be trimmed at all’, just do it with thought, and consideration for your animal.”

    The rule states that the society “may take actions against anyone who is in breach of any of our regulations”.

    This could mean that if any of the GYS veterinary team were to spot a horse or pony with excessively trimmed inner ear hair, that animal may be prevented from competing.

    GYS head equine vet Julian Rishworth told H&H: “I applaud and support the Great Yorkshire Show’s strong stance on welfare. The aesthetics of the horse should never come with a compromise to welfare, however seemingly small.”

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