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The Science Behind Shedding: Is It OK To Clip A Shedding Horse? by Erin Gaul of Equine Detailing

Guest Blogger Erin Gaul from Equine Detailing shares her expertise.

The Science Behind Shedding. Is It OK to Clip A Shedding Horse?

Time to debunk a couple of widely believed myths!


1. Your horse is able to predict an early or late spring based on when it starts to shed. Sorry folks…I see and hear this every spring but it just isn’t true. Horsehair grows and sheds in 3 distinct stages. Anagen, Catagen and Telogen. During the Anagen stage the horse is actively growing hair. The Catagen stage is a brief period where the hair stops growing and blood supply is restricted causing the hair to enter the Telogen stage. The Telogen stage is the resting phase. The horse has grown hair to its optimum length (determined by genetics) and now the hair is just hanging out. So, what makes the horse’s coat begin the Anagan phase, which kicks out the old hairs (shedding) and allows for the new ones to come in? Daylight hours! Yes, genetics, disease and to a certain extent ambient temperature play a role in the length and thickness of a coat but the horse begins its spring shed when the days start to get longer and the fall shed when the days start to get shorter. The glands responsible for producing the hormones that cause shedding are triggered over a period of weeks by the slight daily increase or decrease in daylight hours to signal the change in seasons and then…we get covered in hair. So no, your horse can not predict an early spring but late winter shedding does mean that the days are getting longer and spring is on the way.

2. Clipping your horse when it is shedding will ruin the summer coat…total nonsense. People often claim that clipping in the spring (some even say after the 1st of the year) will result in a coat that looks dull and choppy. First of all, a horse’s coat gets its natural shine from its natural oils (sebum) which is produced in the sebaceous gland. Each hair follicle has its own sebaceous gland and it is located beneath the outer layer of skin. This means that a horse can produce the sebum that makes him super shiny regardless of how short the hair is cut. If your horse has a dull and dry coat, please first take a look at your grooming practices, consult a nutritionist and refer to your vet to look for any underlying disease. As far as the clip not looking good because it is “choppy” looking…that’s just a bad clip job.

Please feel free to get in touch with Erin any questions!

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