Shedding Season Survival: Get Your Horse’s Gleaming Coat Back

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BY JESS CLAWSON

It’s almost spring. Like I promised, winter doesn’t last forever. I can tell that winter really is ending, because all of my fuzzy yaks are just beginning the process of turning back into sleek athletes as they lose their winter coats.

This is, honestly, my favorite time of year for grooming. As much as I love putting the final touch on a gleaming, fit horse just before they go into the ring, I find getting all that winter hair out so satisfying.

There are a lot of tips and tools out there to help you make this process quick and easy. I’ll run through some tools, and then talk about more general principles and practices.

Grooming Gloves

These are my new favorite grooming tool. They’re basically gloves with nubs on them and you can curry TWICE AS FAST because you’re using both hands! My horse especially loves it when I scratch his itchy spots with these. They’re great for shedding, and seem to pull the hair right out. These are for horses who love to be curried.

Grooming Block

I like these a lot for shedding, and so does my horse. Even my grumpy old semi-retired guy doesn’t mind this tool. You just run it front to back and watch the hair come out. It’s SO SATISFYING. The block will eventually wear down and need to be replaced, but they’re not expensive. I find most horses don’t mind me using these on their legs, either, which is definitely a bonus.

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Shedding Blade

These are the long, flexible strips of metal with teeth that have either plastic or leather handles. I mostly use them when a horse is totally encrusted in mud that I have to break through. They work really well for that, but you have to be careful because you can hurt their skin with these if you use too much force. I don’t use shedding blades on bony areas like the point of the shoulder or on the legs.

Curry Combs

We all already have these, and they work well. It’s good for overall horse health and will get the hair out. The downside is that the hair kind of flies around everywhere with this method. It will definitely stick to your chapstick, but it works!

Vacuum

Though not every barn has one, these things are amazing! I’ve also heard that a regular ShopVac can work for this purpose too. Vacuums get the loose hair out, gets the dirt off, and it’s fun. It’s also great for when you really need to clip your horse but it’s too cold to bathe.

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Grooming oil on a washcloth

This is a valuable tool if your horse has to look nice. It will pull some of the dead hair off without getting hair all over everything and leave a sheen. It’s not the fastest way to do it, but it’s a good winter horse show prep.

In addition to these helpful tools, there are some general tricks of the trade that will make your make your horses sleeker and your shedding season more bearable.

Elbow Grease

A beautifully gleaming coat takes some work. The horse’s genetics and nutrition play a role, but we can get a long way by just currying our horses every day. It also gets that winter coat off.

Timing

There are times when it’s especially useful to shed out the horses. After light work, when they’re warm and not sweaty, the hair comes out more easily. Horses also seem to really enjoy grooming more when they’re warm. Also, if your horse has dried crusty mud all over her, scraping or currying off the mud really pulls the hair out.

Nutrition

Everything to do with the quality of your horse’s’ coat is better if they are eating well. Work with your vet to determine the best feeding regimen for your horse. Along these lines, make sure your deworming and parasite prevention plan is up to date, because parasites will make the coat look dull regardless of what else you’re doing.

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Lights

Many barns keep bright lights on the horses until late in the evening, because it’s the light, not the temperature, that tells the coat how to grow in. If you keep the horse under bright lights all winter, they might not grow much of a winter coat at all. Some people start lights around the first of the year to get the shedding process started early.

Getting rid of all that extra hair is a lot of work, but watching winter coats melt away with the ice is also really rewarding!