How to Get Rid of Your Horse's Long, Stubborn Winter Coat
The warmer weather of Spring and Summer is fast approaching…but your horse’s winter coat doesn’t seem to know that. If your horse is still sporting long locks and sweating up a storm when you work them, here’s how to tackle that pesky, fluffy winter coat.
From grooming and nutrition to medical investigations, there are ways to get that shiny and short summer coat back. And you definitely want to – not only does it look amazing, but it also means your horse won’t get uncomfortably hot when they’re worked under saddle or struggle to cool down after a hard workout.
So if the winter coat is still hanging around as the days get longer and hotter, here’s what you can do to get rid of it.
Grooming Tips to Get Rid of a Long Winter Coat
A good grooming routine can go a long way towards helping a horse lose his winter coat.
Of course, you’ll want to get well-acquainted with the horse owner’s favorite tool: a curry comb and elbow grease. Currying is one of the simplest and best ways to help speed up the shedding process. You’ll usually see a difference after just one good curry comb session. And it’s a good workout too – your arms will definitely feel it!
One of the best things you can do to get rid of stubborn winter fur is to give your horse a good, thorough bath. In fact, you’ll want to combine your curry comb with a bath if possible. This helps to loosen any lingering hair and encourage it to come out – much like how human hair tends to come out during a good shampoo in the shower. Choose a warm day to bathe your horse, or use hot water if you can.
Extra Tools and Tips for Getting Rid of Winter Hair
A curry comb is no secret, but there are newer tools on the market which can all be very valuable. Grooming or bathing gloves are often more comfortable to hold than curry combs and mean you can use two hands at once.
A shedding blade or grooming block can be really effective at getting rid of excess hair – but be very careful when using them around sensitive areas. You shouldn’t use them on areas like the face, legs, or withers.
Some horse owners swear by using extra lights for their horses too. The theory is that using lights when the sun is down in the morning or evening “tricks” the horse’s body into thinking the longer days and summer have arrived, which jump starts the shedding process. If you want to try this out, you’ll want to aim for 15-16 hours of “daylight” so you’ll probably need a fairly bright light on in their stall for 4-6 hours a day to extend the amount of time they spend in the light.
So that’s the external stuff sorted. Now, what about a more holistic view of long and short coats?
Nutrition Tips for a Short, Shiny Coat
Helping your horse develop a lovely summer coat means treating the inside as well as the outside. Just like with our hair, nails, and skin, providing proper nutrition and digestive system support helps your horse to look like the best version of themselves.
It goes without saying that a horse who is underweight is likely to take longer to shed. This is because the winter coat helps to keep them warm when they don’t have excess calories from food or fat to burn. So your first step is to make sure your horse is a healthy weight through a combination of grazing, grass, lucerne, concentrates and balancers. Checking their teeth can also be an important factor here, as horses with poor teeth often struggle to eat properly.
Remember that forage should make up the bulk of any horse’s diet – 24/7 access to some type of grass is always recommended. The more work your horse is in, the more likely they are to also need some sort of grain to meet their energy requirements. If you’re struggling to find the right diet for your horse in terms of energy needs, temperament, health, and condition then a vet or equine nutritionist can help to formulate a plan which works well for your horse.
Certain additions and supplements can also make a huge difference to coat condition. Again, this is sort of like ensuring that you get enough healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals in your diet – sometimes through supplemental pills. In horses, their grain, salt lick, and balancers can all help to contribute to good coat condition.
On top of this though, a lot of owners feed an additional source of oil. Canola oil and soybean oil are particularly good choices, as they’re a good source of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, which horses can’t produce in their own bodies. As it happens, these fatty acids are pretty important in terms of a shiny coat!
Other Reasons for a Long Coat
Occasionally, the climate isn’t to blame for a horse’s persistently fluffy and long coat. If your horse’s coat is very fluffy or long, or doesn’t seem season-appropriate, you may want to investigate medical causes.
The main medical reason for a long coat in horses is Cushing’s. Equine Cushing’s disease, also known PPID, is a disease which affects a horse’s endocrine system. It’s particularly common in ponies, but can also be present in horses. Usually, it’s only seen in the mid-teens and older.
Cushing’s affects the pituitary gland, which is a gland located at the base of the brain. When a horse has Cushing’s, the pituitary gland produces too much of certain hormones, including cortisol. This is what causes most of the symptoms associated with Cushing’s, one of which is a long coat.
You can read more about Cushing’s or PPID here. However, if your horse seems to be lethargic, sweaty, overly thirsty, or delayed in shedding their winter coat you may want a vet to investigate whether there’s a medical reason for it.
Sometimes, older horses who don’t have Cushing’s will also have longer coats. This is usually their body’s way of keeping them warm as their metabolic rate slows down. Regardless, any changes in condition should be checked out by a vet, especially if there are other symptoms associated with it.
Remember that horses will all shed differently. Some take longer than others, some might respond to changes in season or feed more dramatically than others, and some might just need a bit more help. It’s just like how we all have different hair compared to one another!
On top of that some horse breeds naturally grow thicker coats than others. A Connemara or Fjord is more likely to have a long and fluffy coat than a Thoroughbred or Arabian horse, for instance.
But if your horse has a stubborn winter coat, these tips should help to get them back to their shiny, short-coated glory. Share your favorite tips for shedding the winter fluffies by leaving a comment!