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Horses of a feather

Updated: Nov 11, 2021

Horses with a lot of hair

Last blog post was about the fun photo session I had with 2 Gypsy Cobs.

I told you guys that the owner, Christine, let me groom one of them. I also told you I had a lot of fun doing that. What I didn't tell you guys in that post, was that they both had rolled in their fresh shavings just prior to my arrival ...

Equine photography Gypsy Cob horse in pasture

We got out most of it but I keep thinking of that when I think about getting a horse again here in Switzerland. I'm thinking I do not want a horse with feathers.

I know, our Udo had some feathering too but not this much. It was much more manageable 😳. So I decided to do some research.

Check for filth under all that hair!

Feathering does seem to require some extra care but apparently not too much. And the most important thing is not per se keeping those things clean, as it is to not forget what is hiding under them. Because while focusing on the feathers, we might loose track of the tendons and ligaments under there, as well as the skin and the coronary band. And if especially long, we might even miss minor hoof issues, that have a tendency to become major.

Daily health check

It becomes less easy to do leg inspections, which should be done daily. I should know, I had to do it with Sophie. She would sometimes come up with the strangest things, things that would have been easily missed should she have had feathers. So daily inspections! You don't want to miss swelling, which can range from tendon injuries to wind puffs.

Another issue is that your horse's hooves are partly, and sometimes entirely, covered. Your daily inspection should therefor include lifting up all that hair and check the coronary band and heel bulbs. This is where cuts, scrapes and cracks will show up first.

Skin issues

And, oh hell no, scratches! I remember the owner of a boarding facility I was at, shaving her horses feathers to be able to treat it thoroughly. Because, obviously, all that hair made it difficult (read:impossible) to apply anything. And the horse did not like the trimmer ...

On top of being impractical, feathering retains moisture, making it all the more likely that skin issues in any form will rear their ugly heads.

equine photography gypsy vanner running in pasture

Tip to check for injuries

Back to that injury: feathers make ice therapy harder to do. A useful tip is to make the hair and leg wet, that way the cold is more easily delivered.

When my Sophie had done something stupid again, I bought these kinds of ice packs. They are a real life saver.

Grooming those things

And last, but not least: how do you keep them clean?

As for anything, your horse should be on a well-balanced diet to keep all the hair healthy. Obviously you should not only do this for healthy hair growth but for the wholesome wellbeing of your horse.

Grooming oils will help too. Do apply generously 😄 and then brush it in. It will not only help keep the hair healthy, it will also repell mud and water.

Use a good quality shampoo and detangler. Not all products repel dirt and some might irritate your horse's skin, so you might have to experiment with different products.

If you do all of this daily, you should be all set! Good luck!

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