If you are anything like me, you dread the winter months because of what they do to your horse. No baths, longer hair, snowy, muddy and messy. Sometimes just a small beauty treatment can make your winter fuzzball look less like a neglected backyard pet and more like a presentable, well-loved, four-legged friend.
GQ, my handsome guy, doesn’t have the luxury of a stall. He lives outside all year round and because we get some cold, unpredictable winters, I don’t have the luxury of keeping him clipped and show-ready like I desperately wish I could. I often find myself telling him, “You look like a hooligan!” and then it gets followed up with a mini winter beauty treatment. Here are some of the things I do to keep my horse looking presentable during the winter:
Clip those whiskers! Use your clippers with a light touch to skim off extra long nose whiskers. Since the hair on his muzzle is a little longer, you don’t want to apply as much pressure as normal or you’ll come away with uneven, goofy looking patches on his nose. Keeping the clippers moving downwards in the direction of the hair will also reduce your chance of making patches. Also trim off the long scraggly pieces of his beard under his chin and jaw. This takes a little more finesse to make look even, but your horse will look so much more put together without 3 inches of hair hanging off his chin and also makes it easier to tighten your nose band for a ride.
Keep a bridle path! During the winter months when GQ’s coat is long, I use scissors to trim his bridle path. If your horse does not stand quietly, I do not recommend trying this technique! I ask him to put his head down, (which is a convenient trick I will address in my next post!) and trim his bridle path until it is even with the coat on either side. I trim off any obnoxiously long pieces of fuzz and taper it so that there is not a giant divot on his poll where I’ve taken the bridle path down to the skin and left his winter coat long around it. If you don’t trust your horse to stand nicely for you to use scissors, use your clippers with light pressure and don’t clip all the way to the skin to avoid that divot!
Make that mane even! Since GQ is outside all the time, I don’t want to shorten his mane as much as I would during the show season/warmer months. However, I still want it to look even and well-maintained. A long scraggly mane is one of the biggest turn-offs on a horse in my opinion. Make sure you comb out your horses mane at least once a week and keep it pulled/trimmed to an even level, even if you want to keep it a little longer for some extra warmth. [Make sure to give your horse a good scratch at the crest! Almost every horse I’ve met gets super itchy there–especially in winter! =D ]
Tidy up the ears! I don’t want to completely expose GQ’s ears to the harsh winter weather, but I do want them to look nice and neat. To tidy up the ears, I pinch the edges together, which forces the extra long hairs to stick out and I clip those hairs. It is amazing how such a small action can make your horse look infinitely more presentable.
Whip out the Show Sheen! Actually, any product that says it “conditions” will do. I actually use Cowboy Magic Super BodyShine because I like the smell a little better than Show Sheen and its a bit cheaper, but they share the same principle: Add shine to your horse’s coat, repel dust and condition the coat. If your horse wears a blanket, this is especially kind for him because he’ll get pretty static-y and dry under those covers. Use a spray like one of these to help relieve the static shocks your grooming tools will cause and pull dust out of deep layers of that winter coat.
Clean those hooves! With horse feet, you’re kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place because lack of moisture in the hot summer months creates problems, but excess moisture in snow and mud can also damage your horse’s feet. At least once a week, use a stiff brush to get debris off of the hooves and clean them as well as you can. A lanolin-rich product like Corona can replace some of the nutrients that the excess moisture saps out. You don’t want to use a sealer though when your horse has been standing in water or mud because you can inadvertently do more harm than good by trapping excess moisture into the hoof.
Try some of these tips to keep your horse from looking like a hooligan as you wait out the cold and your horse will look presentable and loved all season long!