Shedding season is arguably the worst season to be in the stable and requires specialized horse shedding tools to manage well.
If you haven’t experienced the shedding season before, buckle up: when horses blow their coats in the spring (and, to a lesser degree in the fall) you can expect a fur cyclone circling your barn for the next 2 months!
In this article you’ll learn:
- 4 essential shedding tools that should be in every grooming kit
- Tips for barn management when fur is flying during the shedding season
- An explanation of how, when, and why horses shed
- Plus a link to my article on ways to get your horse to shed faster.
Ready to master shedding season like a pro? Read on.
Shedding Tools and How to Use Them
There are many tools at your disposal to help speed up the process of shedding. There will be hair everywhere! But your work will be rewarded with a beautiful, new, shiny summer coat.
These blades are cheap and easy to use. They are made up of a small strip of metal that is bent into a teardrop shape and are usually held together with a plastic or wooden handle. One side is smooth and the other has teeth. These are inexpensive shedding tools and should be available at any equine shop.
Shedding blades take time to use, and because they have teeth, you need to be careful when using them on your horse.
To use the shedding blade, place the tool with the teeth against your horse’s coat and slide it along the coat (slide in the same direction as the hair. Horses don’t like it when you go against the direction of their hair, it is very uncomfortable).
It is not recommended that you use this on your horse’s legs. Just their body and neck. NEVER use this on their head or face.
Rubber Curry Comb
My personal favorite! The rubber curry comb is a small round brush made of rubber- by far the most popular horse shedding tool. It has rubber teeth all around the brush that help grab dirt and hair alike. It is small and fits nicely in your hand and it is comfortable to hold and very easy to use.
You can use the brush by making big motions, and sliding down the length of the horse. You can also run it in circles on your horse’s body to loosen the hair. Just keep in mind that this will go against the grain of the horse’s hair and could cause discomfort. Whether a horse will like the motion depends solely on your specific horse so make sure you watch them for any discomfort. My horse loved it on the rump and whither, but if I tried on her stomach… Well, I was bitten more than once!
Because of how gentle it is, it is also safe to use on the horse’s legs. If you are very careful, it can even be used on the horse’s face. My horse loved a good scratch on her forehead with this brush. The reaction to touching or brushing their face is different for every horse so you will need to make that judgment yourself.
Fun fact: This brush is also great for cleaning horse blankets. If you’ve used a blanket during shedding season, you may have noticed so much for that it looks like an entire extra coat of fur is stuck to the inside of your horse blanket! Place your rug on the ground with the inside facing up and use the rubber curry comb in circular motions to loosen and remove the hair before washing.
Metal Curry Comb
A curry come is similar to the shedding blade. They are a small metal band bent into a circle. The edge of the band contains teeth like the shedding blade. However, the metal curry comb is one of the harshest tools you could use. Be careful, especially if your horse has sensitive skin.
One shedding tool you may not have heard of is the use of shedding stones. Shedding stones are typically made from Basalt, a type of lightweight and porous volcanic rock. These stones are more gentle than metal curry combs and shedding blades. These stones can be a good option for horses with more sensitive skin. There are a few different stones you can purchase including pumice stones and volcanic stones- all feature the rough, grippy surface that’s great for pulling loose hairs from a shedding coat or for removing bot eggs from a horse’s legs.
Stones are used in the same way as the other horse shedding tools. Simply ‘brush’ your horse with the stone to loosen any dirt or excess hair on your horse’s coat.
Manage Your Barn for Comfort
Many riders, even those without allergies to horses, get uncomfortable during shedding season. Loose fur sticks to lips, eyelids, clothing, and can even mechanically irritate skin. But there are a few ways to help manage this discomfort:
- Groom your horse outdoors – This lets the wind carry the excess hair away from you.
- Wear nylon – hair doesn’t stick to nylon in the way that it does other materials. It will help prevent you from taking the hair home with you stuck to your clothing.
- Leave your horse’s blanket off when you can – This allows the horse to shed naturally outdoors and the wind to carry away any loose hair during the day.
- Wet towel – Have a wet towel handy. You can use it to wipe down your eyes and face as needed
- Shower – When shedding season comes around, I shower after I see my horse EVERY TIME! It removes the horse hair from your skin, hair, and eyes.
- Shedding tools – Invest in top quality horse grooming tools to speed up the process of shedding (More on this above)
Why Horses Shed
The cause of this massive shed is your horse’s yearly routine of losing their thick winter coat and replacing it with a brand new, lightweight summer coat. It’s a natural and necessary process that keeps your horse healthy and comfortable. But as a rider or horse groomer, it can be an uncomfortable experience.
This process is in the basic biology of a horse. The process is a year-long cycle that adjusts the fur thickness depending on the weather. The cycles are triggered by the summer and winter solstice. This is done by the horse’s eye registering the number of hours of daylight each day. The hours of daylight are processed through the brain’s pineal gland. In turn, as the days get colder, it will trigger your horse to grow a thick, warm coat for winter. As the days get longer and warm up, it triggers the shedding of all of that extra fur and leaves just a short, shiny, light-weight coat for the summer days.
Fall shedding tends to be more manageable using shedding tools and basic grooming schedules since the hair that sheds in the fall is shorter and finer than thick winter coats.
Shedding often happens in stages, that can last weeks or even months. So if your horse starts shedding in January, don’t worry, they aren’t going to lose all of their warm fur while it is still cold outside. It’s just a small amount for now. You will just need to brush the loose hair out of their coat. If your horse is blanketed, it is especially important to brush out the loose hair because loose hair will irritate your horse’s skin under the blanket.
Final Thoughts on Shedding & the Best Tools
Shedding season is the dreaded annual tradition of fur-caked riding clothes and never-ending hair floating on the breeze. However, seasonal shedding is a natural process that keeps your horse as happy and healthy as possible. There are a few ways to help manage the shedding season and make it a little less painful- with the right shedding tools, it can be managed well.
Try to be patient, take your time grooming your horse well during this season, and use the proper horse shedding tools to get the job done quickly and efficiently. When in doubt, refer to our article on tips to get horses to shed faster.