Here in Lexington, spring is (finally) in the air. The sun is shining, the temperatures are rising, and the horses are shedding…and, boy, are they shedding! For the past few weeks it's been a rarity to enter the barn when owners are grooming their fuzzy charges and not have to dodge tumbleweed-like-structures composed of horse hair rolling down the barn aisle; one of my barnmates has even taken to grooming her very furry horse outside, hoping a breeze will help shedded hair vacate the area. But most horse owners—myself included—tend not to mind going home each night covered in horse hair; after all, it means winter is behind us and great horse weather is either here or right around the corner.
This much leftover hair after a good curry can mean only one thing: spring is here!
Photo: Erica Larson
For the past few years, Dorado has had a blanket clip during the winter so I can keep him in consistent work (or, as consistent as possible without an indoor arena) but won't be faced with the issues that accompany a sweaty horse in cold weather (and Dorado's a really good sweater!). But as the spring temperatures rise and our sessions gradually intensify, he starts sweating under his hairy patches. Ergo, spring "shedding" for him has involved a set of clippers to remove the hair from his legs, face, and haunches; I choose to leave a small patch of full-length hair under his saddle, which generally sheds out completely in a few weeks' time with some help from a curry comb. So far this spring I've removed the hair from Dorado's front legs, but alas, I forgot how dull the clipper blade was when finished body clipping him in November. Oh well…off to the tack shop for me!
The rest of our horses retain their winter coats, so shedding time is much "hairier" for my parents in Michigan than it is for me. For example, Jessie, our 26-year-old Appaloosa mare, grows a great winter coat each year. Although we give her some help via frequent scrubbings, she sheds out beautifully each year. Many of the other senior horses I've cared for over the years have been similar, although I think a few seem to take a little longer than their younger counterparts to fully lose their winter coats.
But the one "shedding problem child" in our family is our 24-year-old Miniature Horse, Brandy. Every Miniature Horse I've ever cared for or worked with (and I need you to take my word on this…there's been a whole lot of different Minis over the years!) has been a very hairy little critter and, as you might remember, Brandy has pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID, or equine Cushing's disease; of course, one of the side effects of PPID is abnormal hair growth). As a result, she grows a really (really) great winter coat, but consistently has a hard time shedding it out when the warmer weather comes around. Her shedding difficulties have improved a bit since our veterinarian prescribed the FDA-approved pergolide product when it was released on the market; but she's still a Mini and, as mentioned, a very hairy critter by nature. As a result, we've started body clipping Brandy each year when the temperatures rise and we're quite happy with how that plan has worked out.
So as the temperatures rise, how are your aged horses doing in the shedding department? Do they shed well naturally? Or do you provide substantial assistance? I'd love to hear your experiences…please share them below!