How to Tran­si­tion Your Horse’s Coat for the New Sea­son

Dressage Today - - Ask The Experts -

QEvery fall I won­der how to best man­age my horse’s coat. I don’t want to clip him too early and some­times won­der if I should clip at all. What is the best prac­tice to keep him com­fort­able and clean as we tran­si­tion from sum­mer into fall and win­ter?

Name with­held by re­quest CAT HILL

Crisp au­tumn air has ar­rived and so has new growth on your horse’s coat. Sea­sonal tran­si­tions can pose chal­lenges for your horse, but reg­u­lar groom­ing can help. Coats al­ready be­gin grow­ing out as early as mid-Au­gust to pre­pare for the cool­ing tem­per­a­tures. Dur­ing this time, your horse may be­come itchy and un­com­fort­able. You can main­tain your horse’s com­fort and health through the sea­sons by de­vel­op­ing a sea­sonal groom­ing rou­tine.

De­ter­mine your rou­tine. Cur­ry­ing is al­ways the go-to prac­tice for new sea­sons. To re­move loose hair and de­bris, vig­or­ously rub cir­cles all over your horse’s coat. Use a gen­tle rub­ber curry comb, not a metal curry, on shorter tran­si­tional coats. For a very woolly horse, try adding a deshed­ding comb or rake to your rou­tine. Us­ing this tool on the longer ar­eas of the coat can loosen the hair and make horses look more pre­sentable through the sea­son. A rake with closely placed teeth is ideal for dense, com­pact coats. While your horse’s coat will likely de­ter­mine the type of tools to use, you can also con­sider the horse’s per­son­al­ity. Each horse is dif­fer­ent and may have a pref­er­ence be­tween curry combs and clip­pers. Try a few dif­fer­ent tools to see how your horse re­sponds be­fore fi­nal­iz­ing your rou­tine.

Try clip­ping your horse. Ex­pe­ri­enced equine groomers can opt to clip the horse if he is not yet shed­ding or has just started to shed. I rec­om­mend clip­pers that are cord­less (for mo­bil­ity) and have the abil­ity to run for a few hours at a time. I also like clip­pers that have re­mov­able bat­tery packs that can be swapped out dur­ing long groom­ing ses­sions. You still need to curry a clipped horse, as he will shed the frag­ments of hair that are left from the

pre­vi­ous sea­son’s coat. I like to use a groom­ing glove since you can get into ev­ery nook and cranny. This can also help you de­tect any health is­sues or dis­com­fort your horse may be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing.

Keep the coat clean and dry. In­clement weather—and the mud that fol­lows—can leave a horse cold and wet. Try to make sure your horse spends a por­tion of ev­ery day in a nice, dry en­vi­ron­ment. As the weather cools, it’s es­pe­cially im­por­tant to en­sure that mois­ture does not get trapped in your horse’s coat. A fine, short coat in the sum­mer is more con­ducive to evap­o­rat­ing sweat and reg­u­lat­ing your horse’s tem­per­a­ture. As the coat grows longer, an ac­tive horse will re­quire a reg­u­lar groom­ing rou­tine. Cur­ry­ing the coat as it grows out can pre­vent mois­ture from get­ting trapped. Clip­ping the legs and pasterns down the back also helps keep the skin dry. When trim­ming, avoid clip­ping in an up­ward mo­tion, as that could nick or ir­ri­tate the horse’s skin and in­vite in­fec­tion.

Take a closer look. If you no­tice your horse’s coat is dull and has lost its lus­ter or if your horse ex­hibits signs of dis­com­fort dur­ing groom­ing, check his skin. Scratches, rain rot and other skin con­di­tions can crop up at this time of year. Use your fin­gers to feel be­neath the coat. Check the armpits, chest and face closely for any hid­den is­sues like bumps, scabs or rough­ness. You can try work­ing a bit of corn­starch-based baby pow­der through the coat or zinc ox­ide cream for mod­er­ate skin is­sues. If you dis­cover any ma­jor ir­ri­ta­tions, con­sult your vet­eri­nar­ian.

By pay­ing close at­ten­tion to your horse’s en­vi­ron­ment, coat length and lus­ter and any signs of dis­com­fort, you can pre­vent is­sues and help your horse en­joy a healthy tran­si­tion into the new sea­son.

By pay­ing close at­ten­tion to your horse’s en­vi­ron­ment, his coat length and lus­ter and any signs of dis­com­fort, you can pre­vent skin is­sues and help him en­joy a healthy tran­si­tion into the new sea­son.

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