Should I Clip My Horse?

Dressage Today - - Ask The Experts -

I live in the North­east, where we can have some very cold weather. I ride through the win­ter and won­der if it’s worth clip­ping my horse so he doesn’t take so long to dry off after I’m done rid­ing. But I worry that he’ll be cold when he’s turned out. Is it worth clip­ping him?

SARAH RAL­STON, VMD, PHD, DACVN

Name with­held by re­quest The coat of a horse serves sev­eral valu­able func­tions. In sum­mer, the short, fine hairs pro­tect from sun­burn and abra­sions and pro­vide some pro­tec­tion from bit­ing bugs. The short, fine hair coat also al­lows ef­fec­tive evap­o­ra­tion of sweat, aid­ing in ther­moreg­u­la­tion in hot weather. Un­der nat­u­ral con­di­tions, horses start to shed their sum­mer coats and grow out the longer, coarser win­ter coats as the days start get­ting shorter in mid- to late fall. This is con­trolled in large mea­sure by the pho­tope­riod, not tem­per­a­ture. Blan­ket­ing your horse start­ing in the fall will not nec­es­sar­ily re­duce his nat­u­ral hair growth. Keep­ing the pho­tope­riod longer (lights on in the barn for 12 hours through­out the late fall/win­ter sea­son) may also re­duce the hair growth and will en­hance shed­ding in the spring. Ex­cep­tions to this are aged horses (usu­ally 20 years and older) with un­treated

pi­tu­itary dys­func­tion (equine Cush­ings) who fail to shed their win­ter coats in sum­mer and do need to be body-clipped to be com­fort­able in the hot months.

The longer win­ter coats trap the warmer air close to the skin, keep­ing the horse warm in the cold weather, re­duc­ing his en­ergy needs. Each hair fol­li­cle has a tiny mus­cle as­so­ci­ated with it that al­lows the horse to fluff up his coat in cold weather, in­creas­ing the in­su­la­tion qual­i­ties. It al­lows horses adapted to cold weather to com­fort­ably en­dure tem­per­a­tures well be­low freez­ing, even if the wind is blow­ing, as long as they are dry. Horses with their nat­u­ral hair coats can eas­ily tol­er­ate tem­per­a­tures well be­low freez­ing as long as they have some sort of shel­ter from wind and pre­cip­i­ta­tion. Even in snow storms horses with nat­u­ral win­ter hair coats pre­fer to be out­side. It has been doc­u­mented that blan­ket­ing un­clipped horses in cold weather

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