Shedding Season Strategies to Help Your Horse Shed Faster
Updated December 15, 2023
Spring is in the air! The days are getting warmer, daylight is lasting longer, and the birds are chirping. With this change in daylight hours, it signals to horses that the spring season is on the way, making it is also shedding season.
Due to all the extra hair your horse is shedding, we often need to use different grooming tools and tricks than the normal, everyday grooming methods. Keep reading to understand when your horse may start and stop shedding, how to encourage faster shedding, and tips for grooming.
When Do Horses Shed Their Coats?
How does your horse know when to shed its thick, warm, winter coat? It’s not by temperature, as one might expect, but by sunlight. As the hours of daylight increase, this signals spring is coming and it’s time to replace the wooly, thick, winter coat with the sleek, short, summer coat.
Every horse has their own shedding schedule, which can vary depending on age, health status, and other factors. Horses with PPID (also known as Cushing’s Disease) often have excessive hair growth and can hang on to their thick coat for longer than necessary or year-round.
Since every horse has their own shedding schedule, you may find that your horse sheds all over at once, or in patches. Horses who shed in patches may shed out the neck first, then the flank, and so on until they’re all shed out. For most horses, patchy shedding is not concerning, but for any specific questions regarding your horse’s health, we recommend contacting your veterinarian.
Should I Help My Horse Shed Out in the Spring?
Watch this Ask the Vet video where Dr. Lydia Gray explains a few tips to encourage shedding in the spring that are healthy for your horse’s skin.
How to Help Your Horse to Shed Faster
Helping your horse shed out faster can be more beneficial than allowing the hair to fall out on its own in a few ways. Shedding tools typically only remove hair that is already loose. With some extra time and elbow grease, a great grooming session will remove those dead hairs, stimulate circulation, stimulate new hair growth, and spread-out natural hair oils to help produce a good shine.
There are three main ways to speed the shedding process along:
1. Blanketing in Winter
By blanketing during the colder months, your horse’s winter coat won’t grow as thick, and the hairs will be shorter. When spring comes, there will be fewer and smaller hairs to shed!
2. Artificial Light
Since it’s the light that signals the horse to start shedding, you can jumpstart this process by adding artificial light. If your horse is stalled, making sure they get 16 hours of light a day (between natural sunlight and artificial light) will encourage the shedding process to start sooner. This will allow for the summer coat to shine sooner.
It is recommended to add artificial light two months before you’d like your horse to start shedding. Just be sure to have adequate blankets on hand for your horse in the event of cold weather given their shorter coat.
3. Vigorous Grooming
If the first two options are not available to you, some elbow grease will help speed the process along! Spending some extra time grooming with the proper tools will loosen the dead hair and get that summer coat showing sooner than later.
It may take multiple passes with your grooming supplies to remove the hair that’s ready to go. So, plan to spend longer, more vigorous grooming sessions with your horse. They will be thankful to you for helping remove all that itchy, loose hair!
In addition, a quality grooming session allows you to keep an eye on your horse’s skin and notice any health changes. With the mud and wet of spring, this can help identify if any funky skin conditions like rain rot or scratches are developing.
Tips for Grooming a Shedding Horse
Shedding season can be a messy time of year for grooming! With all the loose hair, it can easily stick to everything around you. Before getting ready for a marathon shedding grooming session, make sure you’re ready as well!
Below are some things to consider and recommendations on what to wear when getting ready to groom your fluffy horse:
- Don’t wear any Chapstick or lip balm - hair will stick to your lips!
- Bring a lint roller to remove horse hair from your clothes.
- Wear clothing designed to be stain-resisting, to help keep clean, such as the Piper Evolution stain-resisting breeches.
- Wear a jacket! All those hairs can be itchy, so it’s always a good idea to keep those loose hairs off your skin and keep them from sticking to your top. A wind-resistant or water-resistant jacket is a great option, as that will also help lessen the loose hairs that stick.
- Bring a change of clothes. Especially if you are planning on clipping or doing an extensive shedding session, it may be better to bring a change of clothes so you’re comfortable with whatever you tackle next.
How to Groom a Shedding Horse
Grooming your shedding horse contains many of the same steps as a typical grooming session, just with the addition of a shedding tool after using a curry. For a deep grooming session, you may need to do multiple passes of both the curry and your preferred shedding tool.
Steps for Grooming a Shedding Horse
- Pick hooves
- Curry your horse’s body
- Curry your horse’s legs and face
- Loosen hair with a deshedding tool
- Hard brush your horse
- Medium brush your horse
- Soft brush your horse
- Wipe the eyes and nose
- Brush the mane and tail
If you’re not sure what brush might be best to use on your horse, read our article with recommendations for horse deshedding tools to keep in your grooming tote.
Condition and Shine Post Grooming
To seal in the healthy, clean coat you’ve just put so much effort into grooming, consider using a topical shine and conditioning product. A conditioning spray, polish, or moisturizer will add extra shin and nourish the coat. Plus, these products can help make the next grooming session easier as they help reduce dust, dirt and shavings from adhering to hair.
Clipping a Shedding Horse
Sometimes, you may not be able to wait for your horse to shed out naturally. Depending on your show schedule, the weather, or your horse’s health, it may be a better option to remove excess hair by body clipping your horse. Before clipping, we recommend checking the weather and making sure you have the necessary blankets available given your horse’s shorter coat.
Supplements to Support Your Horse’s Skin and Coat Health
In addition to grooming, consider making sure your horse’s skin and coat health are supported from the inside out by assessing your horse’s nutrition. Another option is adding a daily skin and coat supplement with high levels of omega 3 fatty acids. Supplements can help promote healthy skin and coat, and many also include key ingredients that may encourage normal shedding.
With these tools and some elbow grease, your horse will be shed out and ready for summer in no time!