Why is Your Horse Taking Forever to Shed his Winter Coat?
- It’s such a knee-jerk reaction to answering this question with a simple “he has Cushing’s” but it might not be that simple.
- But that’s the first place you should check. Pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID), also known as Cushing’s, can create a long and dense coat that just doesn’t shed out as it should. Does every horse with PPID have a nutso thick coat? NOPE. Does every horse with a fuzzy winter coat that doesn’t shed well have PPID? NOPE. Only some blood work can tell.
That’s a lot of winter coat.
Some other reasons why a horse is not shedding so well:
- Um, how to say this nicely…not enough grooming. All animals will eventually shed their coats on their own. You can help! Lots of grooming can be good for you as it’s good for your horse.
- Not enough exercise. There’s some school of thought that exercise increases blood flow to the skin, to the point of helping his coat shed. Have I found irrefutable evidence to support this? No. But I suppose if your horse is getting some exercise you are out there grooming to prepare for it?
- Not enough light. Animals are triggered to start the shedding process as the amount to daylight changes. Horses that are housed in dark stalls for extended daylight hours may not be stimulated enough to start shedding. Horse with eye issues might also face a similar situation – his brain isn’t registering enough light. In some climates, the weather may warm up long before the lightness extends, so it may just seem like he’s taking forever to shed.
- How’s his nutrition? Genetics and nutrition account for a lot of things, and at least for nutrition, we can help. This article has some great tips for a shedding friendly diet for your horse: https://thehorse.com/157065/can-nutrition-help-a-horse-shed/
You can, and should, clip a horse that’s uncomfortable in his winter coat as the weather warms up.
How to help your extra wooly horse be more comfortable.
- Exercise, grooming, nutrition – check.
- Consider clipping your horse. There are plenty of horses out there that need to be clipped all year long for their comfort, not vanity. For especially dense and long coats, consider using a shear-type of clipper to have enough power to mow through that hair. These styles are also much faster than the smaller body clippers, although it’s much more of a rough clip. You can touch up later.
- Give your horse sandy places to roll. Let him exfoliate and shed himself! Brushes mounted on posts also help your horse self-groom.
- Bathe your horse. The sheer act of lathering and scrubbing will loosen up a ton of hair, and just let the hose do the rinsing.
- Get creative with your grooming tools – I love the gloves, and vacuums help, too. Tried a cactus cloth? They offer a way to get the hair out and buff in some shine while you are at it.
So. Very. Satisfying.
Here are some things that don’t work when it comes to the horse that’s slow to shed.
- Sticking your head in the sand. A horse that doesn’t shed needs some attention! Call the Vet, do a quick blood test, adjust some meds if you already know your horse has PPID, and carry on.
- Don’t forget about elbow grease. There are super wonderful tools out there to help you groom your horse into a summer coat – you may need to use them a few times a day.
- Adding blankets certainly won’t do anything except help your horse create some nice and sweaty blankets for you to launder. It’s the light – not the temperature – that signals shedding.
And thank goodness for shedding, the time change, and warmer weather!
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For the spiffy grooming gloves – check these out from HandsOn Gloves! Use code PEG for some free shipping, too.
These shears are amazing for crazy thick winter coats. Super powerful.
These are my go-to body clippers, and can help your horse be more comfortable.