By Cat Hill, World Class Grooming
Brought to you by Shapley’s Grooming Products, Official Grooming Products Sponsor of Pony Club
The evenings are getting cooler, the leaves are changing, pumpkin spice is showing up in the grocery stores, and fall is upon us! As the crisp fall weather arrives, our horses present us with some unique grooming challenges.
Fall Shedding and Itching
You might think of the spring as shedding season, but the fall is the other side of that cycle. In the fall, horses often begin rubbing or itching themselves. I find that losing their summer coat can leave horses even itchier than it does in the spring! If your horse is starting to itch his mane and tail off, the culprit is probably general body itchiness. First and foremost, curry the coat with the stiffest curry your horse enjoys. With horses that dislike a curry comb, try cactus cloth, which can provide a great massage and rub without irritating sensitive skinned horses.
The fall season also tends to increase the amount of oil being produced by the skin, and some horses will get an oily, gummy or waxy feel to their coats that can cause them to itch as we get further into fall. A good wash with a deep cleaning but gentle shampoo can help break up the oil and let the skin breathe. Shapley’s Medi-Care shampoo is my favorite for itchy horses in all seasons, and I find that massaging the soap in with grooming gloves really gets to both the loose hair and oil buildup. If you can’t wash your horse, use a dry shampoo like Shapley’s Easy Out. Spray the horse thoroughly, curry the product in, and then towel the horse well.
For horses that continue to itch their tails, first check that the area between the horse’s hind legs is clean, as well as the sheath (geldings) or teats (mares). If those areas are clean, then try carefully washing the dock, rinsing well and then applying Shapley’s MTG to the dock to help prevent them from itching their tails off.
Healthy Weight for Winter
In the late summer and early fall, it’s a good time to evaluate your horse’s weight headed into the winter. A horse who is a little poor this time of year will struggle to gain in the colder winter months, so taking the time now to check their body condition and add some nutrition if necessary is a good idea. If you are unfamiliar with the body score index, have your vet out to do an evaluation and help give you advice on how to get your horse to a healthy weight prior to the winter so that he’ll be looking and feeling good.
Clipping for Comfort
Finally, keep a close eye on older horses or those with Cushing’s disease. If they grow too much coat too early, it can be hard to manage when we still have very warm days. These horses have a difficult time handling the heat, and horses that are breathing hard, sweating or panting in their stalls are in danger of colic and dehydration. It’s OK to clip a horse if you need to for their comfort, just be ready to blanket them on the cool evenings. If I clip in early fall, I give a good wash with Shapley’s Hi-Shine shampoo after and then spray then with Light Oil # 1 to add shine, since the coat can look a bit dull when clipped mid-shed.
Staying on top of your horse’s grooming is always better than trying to play catch-up once a problem has already arisen. When in doubt, curry and elbow grease are always the right answer!
Cat Hill is a professional equine groom, clinician and co-author of the best-selling book, World Class Grooming.