Feathers & Hair

Correct grooming of horses with an eye to equine welfare has been addressed several times. Grooming horses in the correct way also enables judges to give a good and reliable assessment of breed characteristics. With a new inspection season on our doorstep this is a good moment to examine KFPS policy with regard to grooming.                                             

Prospective inspector Sabien Zwaga: ‘We often see that inspection horses have not been groomed correctly due to lack of knowledge, but it is key that judges can assess each horse on the merit of its own natural breed characteristics. The scores for breed characteristics are included in the indexes which form the basis for breeding value estimates of stallions. A horse’s breed characteristics are an additional determining factor for possible predicates.’

Rules for grooming the horse’s head are subject to the guidelines as laid down in the Equine Sector Council in 2011.

It is not permissible  to shave the insides of the ears. When folding the sides of the ear together all protruding hairs can be trimmed away. It is permissible to trim around the edges. Whiskers around nose and eyes must be left untouched. Whiskers under the chin can be shaved but may not be burnt away.

Mane, tail and socks will be assessed in one context as feathers. Zwaga: ‘The tail should not be too long. A tail is too long when a horse could trod on its own tail when stepping backwards which could lead to possible loss of hairs. Best practice is to cut the tail at the height of the fetlock joint. It is also common practice to shave about 2cm of mane just behind the ears, the so-called bridle path, for a better fit of bridle or headcollar.


Presenting horses at inspections with (partly) braided mane is not allowed.’ Hair extensions in mane or tail are forbidden in the inspection rings.

Cutting away or shaving the socks is undesirable. ‘Mud fever is quite common in Friesian horses because the feathers retain moisture which may cause sweltering under the socks. For that reason it is allowed to shave the area under the pastern which is covered by the feathers. A serious case of mud fever calls for complete shaving of the hairs, but it would be wise to postpone presenting the horse at inspections until the mud fever has subsided and the feathers have grown back. It is allowed to shave the hair of the forelegs from the elbow to the top of the feathers.’



A Friesian should have a jet black coat colour. White markings to the face are allowed if no larger than 3.2cm and if not below the eye line. Some horses have a faded black or brownish colour. Sometimes the coat turns brownish as a result of sweating or sunshine. This may affect the marks for breeding type but should not present a serious problem. The real colour can usually be seen clearly at the base of the mane. Painting before inspections is forbidden and may lead to disqualification. Masking white markings or roan hairs is definitely very bad practice.

Pier 448 at WTC Expo Jan 2019 Photo by Nadeen Davis