The best tools to help your horse shed
- The time has come – it’s no longer safe to wear lip balm at the barn. It’s time to help your horse shed.
- The shedding season comes in earnest twice a year. Obviously, the winter coat shedding cycle is much more dramatic and leaves lots of loose hair for spring birds to use for nest building. Your horse’s summer coat will also shed in the fall; it’s just not as noticeable.
- There’s a popular myth that horses grow and shed a coat because of temperatures. The shedding process is triggered as the hours of daylight increase. Decreasing daylight tells your horse’s brain to shed the summer coat and grow a winter coat in the fall. In the late winter and spring, your horse’s winter coat starts to shed as the day length increases.
- The density and length of a horse’s coat are genetically determined and have little to do with colder temperatures. Long hair and overall hair growth cycles vary from horse to horse!
The best grooming tools for shedding horses
The old-fashioned rubber curry comb for “regular grooming.”
- This essential grooming tool works well for most grooming but can get quickly overwhelmed with the shedding season. A curry comb that is deeper than the usual is often better. Curry combs also come in varying degrees of stiffness. A squishy and soft curry comb won’t be as effective as a hard curry. Consider finding a curry comb with longer teeth, too, if your horse has a dense coat.
The metal curry comb.
- These come in two basic sizes, the circle and the loop. Both are good for grabbing hair, but are they also damaging the sleek summer coat coming in? I’m not sure.
- The loop style of metal curry can also double as a sweat scraper after a shower. I’m not a fan of using metal tools on horses, especially over bony parts like shoulders, hips, legs, and faces. It’s not comfortable for many horses!
Shedding blades and furminators.
- I feel the same way about shedding blades and furminators as I do about metal curry combs. A shedding blade is a long straight blade that you can use to rake your horse. Many are like hacksaw blades squished in between wooden blocks. Do they work? Sure!
- Using Shapley’s No. 1 Light Oil (or No. 2 Heavy Oil, your pick) can pull out the hairs that you can’t grab after a thorough grooming session. Spritz a washcloth with your grooming oil and wipe your horse. The oil will pick up any remaining hair, lay down some conditioner, and add some shine. Grooming oils are especially helpful in promoting coat health with their conditioning properties.
The horse vacuum
- These lovely machines save you from flicking all of the loose horse hair into the air. Let the vacuum help you, all while giving you less hair to sweep.
- It’s totally legit to clip the shedding horse! Your horse will still be shedding, of course, but at least he will be more comfortable, and the hair he does shed will be much shorter. More on this topic here!
The grooming block
- These guys work similarly to the metal curry combs and blades. The blocks do wear down over time and are by scraping along a concrete surface. They are reasonably good at getting into smaller areas, too. The bonus for a grooming block is removing bot fly eggs from horse legs.
- This is a handy horse shedding tool that’s part sponge, part grooming block, part flexible curry comb. The texture is great for using the block as a curry comb on all areas of your horse, including sensitive spots. Many folks with sensitive horses use these to help their horse shed.
The Striphair groomer
- This flexible device, for lack of a better term, is a bit like a softer metal shedding blade. You wipe it on your horse’s coat to help your horse shed, and it’s great for legs and faces.
- These are a wonderful tool for working around all parts of your horse – including bony bits, legs, and faces. And when it’s time for bathing? YES, please! Gloves make fast work of bath time.
Horse shedding tips and tricks
Keep your horse’s skin and coat as the top priority.
- There are lots of factors that make up skin health, including diet, the weather, your horse grooming habits, genetics, and even how much your horse sweats influence healthy skin.
Your horse’s coat grows from the skin. Prioritizing skin health will also promote a healthy coat during shedding season!
Don’t skip on elbow grease and vigorous grooming.
- There are no shortcuts to good grooming habits. Proper currying helps your horse distribute sebum, aka those natural oils, and gives your horse a nice massage, too.
- When the hair is long, it’s not always best to make the traditional circular motion of currying. You may find that raking the hair in one direction is more efficient and tidier.
- Use clean tools! Your horse’s coat will stay cleaner and shinier if your grooming brushes and curry combs are clean. For metal shedding tools and blades, keep them oiled to prevent rust.
Stabilized flax and fish oil make great Omega-3 fatty acid supplements. Corn oil is too high in Omega-6 fatty acids.
The role of nutrition
- While there’s no magic supplement or feed ingredient to promote quick shedding, nutrition is critical to your horse’s healthy skin.
- Many supplements for hoof quality contain biotin, which is a crucial nutrient for your horse’s skin. Supplements with Omega 3 fatty acids essential amino acids will help create a nice coat and promote your horse’s natural oils.
- An equine nutritionist or your veterinarian can help you find the best supplements to slide into your horse’s diet. It’s a complicated task, as many products have overlapping ingredients.
Clip your horse if your horse will be more comfortable.
- It does not matter what time of year that for clipping. If your horse would benefit from clipping, go for it. Clipping a horse that is shedding will not stop the shedding process. Your horse will just release smaller bits of hair!
- In the spring, a full body clip allows for your horse to be comfortable as the weather warms up. You may choose to do a full body clip or trace clip to leave leg hair long in the fall.
- Anytime a horse is clipped, be prepared to supplement with blankets as needed.
Talk to your vet if your horse’s shedding cycle is askew.
- Many horses with Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), also known as Cushing’s, do not shed completely and have longer and thicker summer coats. A few blood tests can confirm this metabolic disorder.
- But PPID isn’t the only reason horses are slow to shed. Visually impaired horses don’t register the increasing amounts of daylight as other horses do. Horses in dark stalls without a lot of natural light may also have trouble noticing the signals to shed.
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Strip Hair groomer
What’s your grooming tool of choice to help your horse shed?