It wasn't that long ago that everyone at my barn was complaining that it felt far too cold to be outside without the traditional winter "uniform" that consists of article such as coveralls, insulated riding or snow pants, a heavy jacket, numerous under-layers, winter boots, gloves, scarves, hats, and everything between. However lately the conversation around the barn has changed to the rising temperatures, and our bright white legs that are making their first appearances as we don shorts on days we don't ride. For all intents and purposes, summer has arrived in the Bluegrass.

If temperatures didn't get too warm, we were able to let Brandy keep her natural haircoat, which helped keep the bugs from eating her alive.

Photo: Keith Larson

The vast majority of the horses on the farm have shed their heavy winter coats in favor of a cooler and sleeker summer shine. However a few of the older horses are still on the fuzzy side, and make me think back to the annual process that was getting Brandy—our Miniature Horse with pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, or PPID)—ready for summer.

Like most Miniature Horses, Brandy was naturally a very hairy little critter. Add PPID to that (even with the appropriate medication) and you had a sorrel Mini who has about enough hair to provide a Belgian with a hair transplant should the need arise. Needless to say, ensuring Brandy stayed cool in the summer was of utmost importance. That—like most things with horses—was often easier said than done.

The temperatures remained cool enough in Michigan for several summers throughout her life that we didn't need to do much for her except groom her regularly to get all the dead hair off, braid her thick mane back off her neck, ensure she always had shade and lots of fresh water, and spray her off with a hose from time to time. And Brandy made it through those summers with absolutely no trouble, running around and torturing the big horses, screaming for food every time she saw a person, and maintaining her perky/bratty/(adorable)/boss mare attitude at all times.

The excessively hot summers, on the other hand, took more consideration. In those cases, leaving Brandy with a thick coat could have put her at risk for heat stress. Clipping her coat was often the best option to help keep her cool, but it came with its own challenges. With nearly no coat, mosquitoes and other pests basically had a Miniature-Horse-sized buffet just waiting to be eaten. Additionally, the risk of sunburn increased … mainly when she decided to move as I was running the clippers over her back (this happened more than once!). But on the plus side, she was cool all summer long and her risk of developing skin funk under her thick coat diminished.

Ultimately, we decided that clipping Brandy during hot summers and beefing up our fly control protocol was in her best interest. And fortunately, despite several bald patches from fidgets during clipping, Brandy never developed a sunburn after clipping.

How do you manage your hairy seniors during the warm months? Please share you experiences below!