Mary’s Musings: Spring is Here! And So is Shedding…

By: Mary Wicksten

So you went to see your horse after weeks of rain, cold weather, and wind. Did your horse look like this one? (Mine came close). Now what?

Maybe you were one of the folks who clipped your horse and kept him indoors — in a stall or other covered area. Maybe he did not “stock up”, get stiff, or get the equine version of cabin fever. Let’s hope he wasn’t out in a muddy pasture while wearing his blanket, and when you returned, was shivering without a way to dry out and no spare blanket (bad plan, but I’ve seen this happen!). Hopefully, you groomed the worst of it off and were able to put a blanket back on him afterwards.

So your horse is at pasture and is now so furry that he rarely gets cold? And now it’s time to ride? You want to make sure that your tack doesn’t catch on any long hairs. Comb the hair flat, making sure that there are no burrs or mud clots right underneath where you tack will rest. Now, you will need a shedding comb just about every day. This will get rid of tufts of shed hair (much to the delight of small birds that use it to line their nests!) Tradition dictates that you also pull the mane and forelock to the appropriate length. For this, check breed specifications – traditionally, Arabians can have longer manes than Quarter Horses. Yes, clipping is another option, but can look artificial. Most riders like to clip the area just behind the ears for a bridle path.

Going to a show? Now you’ll need clippers to clip those so-called “goat hairs” below your horse’s chin. There is a difference of opinion regarding hair around the mouth; some authors say that if your horse is out on pasture, those hairs should stay to keep his nose away from spines or other trouble. Clipping a horse’s ears can be a bit intimidating for both parties. If you haven’t done it before, seek help from your instructor or another experienced person. You may need to use your favorite equine distraction method or a twitch. Note that schooling shows may not require such trimming. Now head down to the fetlocks and clip off any “feathers”—unless you are riding a Clydesdale, in which case you need to clean and fluff them. How about the tail? You need not braid the tail for a dressage show, but it looks good if it does not reach beyond the fetlocks and is cut straight across. Comb the tail from the bottom up to avoid tangles. Lastly, put on a stable sheet and hope that he doesn’t roll in the shavings!