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If you’ve ever owned a horse, you know how difficult it can be to keep them clean. Horses have a habit of shedding their hair all over the place. No matter how many brushes or hair removers you buy, it seems like there are always some strands of hair hanging out in every corner of your stable (and your home)!
Remember: Your horse has three coats of hair to cycle through, so you’ll be cleaning up after them for quite some time.
For most horse owners, this doesn’t come as any surprise. After all, the horses we know and love have been shedding their hair since they were foals. But it turns out that horse shedding is not just something that happens naturally, it’s also something that you can control with how you treat your horses’ skin and coat from day one.
If you want your horses to shed safely (and feel good while doing it), you need to know two things: horse nutrition and grooming. Keep reading to find out how you can help your horse shed his coat healthfully this season.
What Is Horse Shedding?
Horses shed their winter coats when they’re no longer needed. You’ll see this most clearly in late January and early February, though it started back in December.
Horses shed on a predictable schedule, but the time frame for shedding varies between horses. Luckily for you, once you know when your horse starts to shed, you can prepare for the process.
Before you get started on your shedding routine, it’s important to understand why horses shed in the first place.
The Shedding Process
When days grow longer after the winter solstice, signaling that summer has arrived, horses shed their thick coats and grow thinner ones. This won’t happen immediately after the solstice; it occurs over the course of several weeks.
As the days get shorter after the summer solstice, your horse’s brain knows it’s time for that winter coat again. This takes about six to eight weeks to finish.
Contrary to popular belief, horses do not grow a new hair coat in response to changes in temperature, it is affected by the changes in light.
Shedding and Horse Health
The fact that horses grow their coats in response to the amount of daylight, and not temperature, has implications for horse care. Owners who thought their horse’s luscious coat was proof of the cold weather can now figure out why a lack of shedding might exist.
Here are some common shedding patterns that may signal a medical problem.
The absence of shedding is a sign that your horse may suffer from equine Cushing’s disease. In this condition, hormonal changes originating in the pituitary gland cause abnormal hair shedding.
Other clinical signs of Cushing’s disease include:
- Muscle loss
- Abnormal fat distribution
- Excessive sweating
Let your veterinarian know if you suspect your horse may have Cushing’s disease so they can run tests and put your mind (and your horse’s coat) at ease.
Horses sometimes experience seasonal alopecia, during which large patches of hair fall out before the new growth starts. The bald patches can last for weeks until normal coat regrowth occurs again. However, the horse’s coat will always return to normal with a little patience.
Balding and Excessive Hair Loss
If you notice your horse is shedding large amounts all year, this could be a sign of skin cancer. Check your horse’s skin for any abnormal tumors or sarcoids. Sarcoids are benign skin cancers that present themselves as tumors around the animal’s head and groin or in wounds.
Sarcoid tumors can take many forms—from flat and scaly to nodular and fibrous. Fibroblastic forms are more dangerous than others and require immediate veterinary care.
Nutrition and Your Horse’s Coat
During the shedding season, it’s important to keep your horse’s nutrition in mind. Here are some signs that your horse is not getting enough nutrition:
- Dull hair
- Thin skin and hooves
- Rapid weight loss
If you notice your horse is getting thinner or looks malnourished around shedding season, call a veterinarian immediately. These tips can help them feel better in the meantime:
- Make sure your horse is receiving adequate amounts of hay
- Manage insects to minimize allergies
- Add fat to their diet, such as vegetable oil
- Consider nutritional supplements
- Choose a source of omega-3 fatty acids to reduce skin irritation from certain pests
Grooming Tips for Shedding Season
Horse grooming is an important part of horse care, but during shedding season, you’ll want to focus on the areas where your horse sheds the most. Use a stiff-bristled brush or curry comb to remove loose hair from the coat, then use a soft-bristled brush to help distribute natural oils from the skin and add shine to the coat.
While grooming, be mindful not to overdo it. Repeatedly running a brush or comb through sensitive skin can irritate and even make the horse nervous if it takes too long.
Keep Your Horse’s Coat Beautiful
The most important thing to remember about horse shedding is that it’s a natural process. You can help your horse by providing them with extra nutrition and grooming tools. If you haven’t given much thought to a grooming kit, now is a great time to start!
At Country & Stable, we have a passion for horses and want to help you take care of yours. Check out our selection of grooming tools and kits to help your horse’s coat look its best. We keep our prices low so that no matter what your budget is, the treatment you get for your horse will be second-to-none.
The contents and materials contained on countryandstable.com are for educational and informational purposes only. “Content” is considered to be text, videos, images, and other materials contained on this website. The content in this article should not be considered a replacement for expert or veterinary advice. If you have questions or concerns about your horse, we always recommend you seek the advice of a qualified professional.