It's spring, and we all know what that means—shedding! How can you get your horse's coat into slick, shiny show-ready condition? Liv Gude of Pro Equine Grooms has the answers...
Nothing Beats A Little Bit Of Elbow Grease
What's the best way to get my horse’s furry winter coat shed out quickly so he doesn’t look like a mothball?
A horse that looks like a moth-eaten wooly mammoth or furry monster is sometimes funny but mostly annoying. You can help your horse’s spring shedding a few different ways, but there aren’t really any shortcuts. So, as an added bonus, your arms may get sore and/or buff.
The curry comb may as well be glued to your hand. A good curry comb that is just the right flexibility for your horse is a must for his body and neck. Try out a few different types to find the one your horse responds to best. Some horses like a stiffer curry; others prefer a softer one. For legs, ears, faces and other sensitive areas, the pimple mitts or two-sided jelly curry combs are the best. You can get a lot of feedback from your horse as you curry these more sensitive areas, and you can also fold them in half to get the tricky areas.
All of us routinely use the curry comb before we tack up and ride, which of course helps shedding. But using the curry again after your horse exercises, even if he’s a bit damp with sweat, will take advantage of open follicles and release even more hair. And you can work on even bigger biceps.
You can also let your horse roll in the dirt more outside. Yes, roll more. While this seems contrary to any groom’s idea of a clean and well groomed horse, a good patch of dirt or favorite rolling spot acts like a giant curry comb. Follow with a stiff brush and some major flicking action, and a good part of the shedding process is done for the day.
The metal shedding combs can damage a coat, although I do like them for removing caked-on mud after your horse has wallowed in a mud patch. If you like to use metal combs or blades, please avoid any bony areas of your horse, such as the shoulders and hips, and skip using them on legs, face and ears.
If you have a horse vacuum, this is a great tool to help with shedding season. The horse vacuum is best used after a good curry session, as this brings up the dust and dirt trapped in a longer, wooly coat, and it helps control the flying hairs that have just been shed. It’s much easier to vacuum loose hairs up instead of sending them into the air with the flick of your brush. We can all agree that most of our horse’s hairs sent airborne by a brush end up on us.
Of course, the basis for a good healthy coat is a good healthy diet and exercise program. Work with your equine nutritionist and veterinarian to make sure your horse has the proper vitamins, minerals and fatty acids in the diet that create a healthy coat. This will ensure the new coat coming in will wow you.
Can/should you clip in the spring?
Of course you can clip in the spring! But, you may not want to. There are a few things to consider first.
As hair grows, it tends to taper and lay naturally. When you clip, all hairs are cut off at exactly the same length, which is a smidge unnatural looking and typically much duller than the coat you started with. However, if this is OK with you, go for it! After a few weeks, a clipped coat does look much more natural.
Another thing to consider is your horse’s color. Some bays turn mousy when clipped, and chestnuts can be more pumpkin-colored after a clip. Again, it’s up to you if you are OK with a possible color change of your horse.
You will also want to think about this—clipping a shedding coat won’t stop the shedding process—it will just make the hairs that will shed out much shorter. You will still have a ton of hair shedding out!
Blanketing is another consideration; even as the days get longer and warmer, the nights can be cold, and your freshly clipped horse will need some blanketing. You will also need to consider extra fly protection and sun protection during the day.
What is your show or clinic schedule like? If you have a creature that resembles part-horse and part-wooly mammoth and a show scheduled for next weekend, consider clipping to create a smooth appearance for the show ring. If your weekends are show-free for a few months, you can skip clipping and depend on the curry comb.
Get Him Blooming
What is the best way to get my horse's coat in gleaming shape for spring shows?
A gleaming show coat comes from the inside out. That gleam, or bloom, is the result of a horse’s own natural oils. Start with a diet that is well balanced, with the proper amounts of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. Add a good exercise program and pasture if you have it.
Then, it’s time for your elbow grease and a lot of it. Grooming is a great massage and brings those natural oils out. Try and limit shampoo baths that may strip those oils away. It’s very tempting to shampoo away a stain, but if you allow the natural oils to build up, you end up with shine, and stains will slide off with a damp cloth.
Your gleaming grooming routine should also include appropriate horse clothing to protect your horse’s coat. A waterproof sheet for rainy days, a cotton sheet for cool days and nights, and a fly sheet for warm weather protect your horse from sun, mud, flies and dust. This will save you time, keep that coat from bleaching out and getting stains, and help keep the dust and dirt away.
You can also make an old-fashioned hay wisp, which is rubbed on your horse to create amazing shine. Here’s how: Create a ½” rope from dampened and soft hay. Twist the hay until you have about 6’ of it. Then, create two loops at one end of the rope, one loop slightly larger. So you end up with two loops and one rope. Braid them all together. Ta-dah!! Wisp. When you are done braiding, you can dampen the wisp and even step on it. It should be firm and small enough to hold in one hand. This may take some practice, but it’s worth it! Using this wisp on the horse’s coat in a vigorous action with the direction of the hair will help the coat bloom.
Products are another way to help your horse sparkle and shine. You will need to decide what works for your budget and style. If you do plan on showing, please practice with any sprays or products before you get to the show, and definitely avoid using them on the saddle area, just in case.
If you create shine from the inside and outside, your horse’s gleam and bloom will set you apart from the rest. Happy showing!
Do you have any grooming questions or mysteries you'd like answered? Email them to us, and Liv will address them next month!