Pro Tips For Grooming a Shedding Horse
Spring heralds the start of a busy season for equestrians everywhere. Whether you love showing, hitting the trails, or simply savoring gorgeous summer evenings at the barn, good times are coming! But before you can bask in the warmth of summer, you must survive shedding madness.
Our first tip? Never apply chapstick before brushing!
Welcome to the magical (ahem) time of year when horses start to shed their heavy winter coats in favor of shorter, sleeker summer ones. If you have a wooly equine friend, knowing how to groom them properly during this time is essential. This blog post will discuss the best way to groom your shedding horse and all the tools you’ll need for the job.
Shedding Season 101
Let’s start with a quick overview of shedding season, including when and what causes a horse to shed their coat.
When exactly is shedding season?
Although it may seem as if warmer weather triggers a horse to shed its coat, it’s actually caused by sunlight!
Exposure to at least 16 hours of natural or artificial sunlight daily triggers a horse to start shedding its thick winter coat in about 60 days. The shedding season typically occurs in the spring.
Southern climates naturally have more sunlight and trigger earlier shedding. The lack of sunlight during winter in northern climates causes thicker coats and shedding to occur later in the spring.
The process of shedding a winter coat varies from horse to horse. Some horses shed out faster than others. The length of time it takes for your horse to shed their coat will depend on several factors, including the climate they live in and its age.
In fact, if a horse that usually sheds out quickly starts to shed more slowly, it may be a sign of health issues, and you should consult your veterinarian.
Summer coat vs. Winter coat
Horses grow two main types of coats: winter and summer.
As you might expect, a horse’s winter coat is thicker and longer to protect them from the cold weather. A summer coat is shorter and thinner, which helps keep the horse cool in hot weather.
How to Brush a Shedding Horse
The best way to help your horse shed their winter coat is to brush them regularly. This will speed up the shedding process and help keep their coat and skin healthy.
Use a curry comb to loosen any dirt and dead hair clinging to your horse. A rubber curry comb works great for this job. Use rubber grooming gloves if your horse isn’t too sensitive.
Use the curry comb by rubbing in circular motions over their body, avoiding sensitive areas such as the legs and face. Then, unlike the circular motion of the curry, a stiff-bristled brush should be used with the direction of hair growth.
This brush will help remove loose hair and dirt loosened by the curry comb. Follow up the curry brushing with the stiff-bristled brush.
Finally, use a soft-bristled brush to give your horse’s coat a smooth finish. This will also help remove any dust or extra hair left behind.
Note: There are several brushes and other products made specifically for the shedding horse!
These products can be substituted for a curry comb and stiff-bristled brush during spring when shedding is at its peak. But, regardless, do know that you can tackle shedding with the same grooming tools you already have in your box.
If you love gadgets, keep reading because we have information on a few that will make spring shedding a breeze!
What NOT to Wear during Shedding Season!
When brushing your horse, be aware that all that hair you’re removing from them will inevitably float… directly toward you. This is not the time of year to give your horse a quick grooming sesh before work because you WILL wear all that hair to the office!
Short-sleeved shirts and pants made of breathable materials such as cotton are excellent wardrobe choices, or invest in equestrian performance fabrics designed to shed hair and dirt. (Kerrits is a great brand to start with!)
You might also want to invest in a lint roller to remove any extra hair from your clothing after you’re done grooming.
Another tip is to avoid wearing black clothing while grooming a shedding horse. White or light-colored clothes are best because they won’t show the hair as much.
Grooming Tools for the Shedding Horse
Several products on the market can make shedding season easier for you and your horse. Below are a few of our favorites:
This brush will be your best friend during shedding season! It removes hair, dirt, and other debris clinging to your horse.
Along with exposure to light, regular and vigorous curry brushing also stimulates shedding.
Use this brush after loosening dirt, debris, and hair with the curry comb. Unlike the curry comb, use this brush in the direction of hair growth. Hair growth patterns can vary slightly on the body, so watch closely for changes and follow accordingly.
Avoid using this brush on sensitive areas of your horse’s body, such as the face or legs.
This is an excellent tool for removing hair from your horse’s coat without damaging the skin. It can be used on sensitive areas, such as the face and legs, that other brushes might irritate.
The Strip Hair Gentle Groomer can also be used wet or dry, making it versatile for any shedding situation.
A shedding blade is a great way to quickly remove large amounts of hair. Be careful not to use it too often, though, as it can irritate your horse’s skin if used excessively.
The shedding blade can be handy during peak shedding season when removing large clumps of hair.
This block is a must-have for any horse owner! It helps remove hair, dirt, and other debris from your horse’s coat. You can use it in combination with a curry comb and brushes or by itself.
If your horse grows a thick winter coat, this may be your ticket to an easier shedding season.
This brush works WONDERS! It’s easy to handle, horses seem to love it, and the blade stays sharp enough to last seasons (not weeks). It takes off a significant amount of undercoat with each stroke.
Bonus: It comes in various sizes and works great for dogs and cats, too!
Want to see it in action?
Yes, vacuums made specifically for horses do exist. These vacuums are designed to remove hair, dirt, and debris from your horse’s coat without damaging the skin.
Despite their convenience, the vacuum can never fully replace a curry comb and brushes. But they can be handy during times of peak shedding.
Vacuums should be combined with your other grooming tools, including the curry comb and brushes.
Throughout this article, you may have been asking yourself why you can’t just skip all that brushing and grab your electric clippers instead. It’s a valid question and one with a few angles to consider.
Can you clip a shedding horse?
The answer is yes; you can clip a shedding horse. There are a few things to consider before you start clipping, though.
- Clipping removes the insulating layer of hair that helps keep your horse warm in the winter. And even though your horse’s body may be getting signals that spring is coming, there may still be a string of cold days between now and summer. This means you must keep an eye on the weather and provide a blanket on chilly days.
- Clipping can be stressful for some horses. If your horse is already anxious or high-strung, clipping may not be the best option.
- Clipping does not take care of all the hair. It simply makes the hair shorter. You will still need to deal with hair sticking here and there throughout the remainder of the season.
Clipping can be especially helpful if your farm gets muddy in the spring because mud and long hair do NOT mix!
It also can be helpful if your horse sheds in patches. Clipping can even out a shedding pattern, and is quite beneficial if you’re planning on an early spring show.
Aside from the above reasons, you may want to stick with shedding the old-fashioned way or plan ahead as discussed in the next section.
Coat Management – A Preventative Game
If shedding is overwhelming, consider dealing with it by taking preventative measures. This means planning and dealing with the hair before it becomes a problem.
Horses shed in response to progressively longer hours of light each day. It takes around 60 days of exposure to at least 16 hours of natural or artificial light to trigger the response.
If you consistently expose your horse to light, its coat will theoretically not fill in as thickly as it would without light exposure.
Remember that there are some individual differences in how horses develop their winter coats, so it’s not a completely foolproof plan.
And horses grow their coats to keep themselves warm so you will need to take over their function in the form of blanketing if you live in a cold climate.
If you live in warmer climates or are working your horse regularly, clipping during the winter may be a good option. But if you cannot closely monitor the weather and blanket accordingly, clipping may not be the best option.
Consistently blanketing your horse doesn’t necessarily stop a winter coat but does trigger a shorter winter coat. There may also be situations when blanketing your horse is necessary.
This is especially true if you decide to clip your horse and live in a cold climate. In general, horses can do well without blankets if they have access to a dry shelter.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How can I stop my horse from shedding?
Shedding is a natural process that helps a horse survive in a particular climate. And horses with specific endocrine and other health conditions may cause their coat to grow more heavily than they would otherwise.
There’s no way to stop shedding once it starts. But there are tips elsewhere on how to prevent a thick winter coat.
Q: How do you de-shed a horse?
The best way to “de-shed” a horse is to groom them regularly. Tried and true tools such as curry combs and stiff-bristled brushes are great options. Various de-shedding tools such as shedding blades and grooming blocks on the market also help.
But at the end of the day, regular grooming your horse is key to managing the shedding season.
Q: What’s the best horse shedding tool?
There is no one “best” horse shedding tool. The best tool is the one that works best for you and your horse. Different horses will prefer various tools. And some horses may not be bothered by shedding blades or other de-shedding tools, while others may find them irritating.
The important thing is to find a tool that your horse doesn’t mind and that you feel comfortable using. Then, get to grooming!
Q: How can you get a horse to shed faster?
Vigorous grooming with a curry comb can help get that winter coat out more quickly. Increasing the hours of light your horse is exposed to is another way to naturally encourage shedding. The lighting can be either natural or artificial.
Your horse needs exposure to 16 hours of light per day to stimulate shedding. Light exposure should be consistent, and to trigger the complete shedding process, your horse needs at least 60 days of light exposure.
Shedding season can be a trying time for both horse and owner. With a bit of planning and effort, shedding season doesn’t have to be quite so bad. So get out there and start de-shedding your horse!
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
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- Help your horse shed its winter coat – Horses (msu.edu)
- How Horses Grow Winter Coats – Horse Illustrated
- What Shedding Can Tell You About Your Horse’s Health (equusmagazine.com)
- Add Vacuuming to Your Grooming Routine (practicalhorsemanmag.com)
- Should You Clip the Shedding Horse? – Pro Equine Grooms
- When to Blanket a Horse (psu.edu)