While it is crucial to be sure your senior horse is comfortable in the cold, it is important to consider their skin health in addition to the rest of them.
As it is the season for blankets, it’s only natural to bundle them up warmly so they burn less calories shivering and hold their weight more easily. It’s especially important to keep an eye on their coats and skin. It’s natural to assume that the thicker their coats, the better off they’ll be, but such is not always the case.
As with horses with Cushing’s Disease, more hair isn’t always a good thing. It traps in moisture which can in turn trap more dandruff, and fosters the growth of excess bacteria and even fungus. If your senior horse is still in regular work, or even if the weather outside changes dramatically, sweating under their blankets without being able to dry off easily can contribute to a plethora of skin conditions that can be difficult to clear up under a carpet of thick winter hair. Contrary to what feels like common sense, if your horse’s coat feels clammy, or seems to be suffering from a lot of dander, oily patches, or is difficult to groom, sometimes the best thing for them is to shave all that winter-wookie right off.
But he’ll get cold!
This is where those blankets come in! With the latest fashions avaiable – including those insulated, waterproof blankets complete with belly-wraps – you won’t have to worry about him catching a chill. Now that your horse’s skin can ventilate and breathe, you can go right ahead and dress them up with your blankets and easily keep the layers next to their skin laundered regularly if needed so that that oily, sweaty layer isn’t trapped against their hides.
If you are ever uncertain, talk to an experienced stable manager or talk to your vet to best manage skin health without jeopardizing their comfort. If your horse is fully clipped, even with winter blankets, it is important that he has a stable or shelter to escape harsher weather.
Whether you opt for a full body clip or a trace clip, not only will you find that grooming is monumentally easier without all that thick hair, you will notice that their skin health is likely to improve also. And if they are still being ridden regularly (which is a good thing to keep those joints moving!), they will be much easier to cool out, too.
You can find a variety of quarter sheets available to keep their backs and haunches warm whether you’re in the arena or out on the trail, so even under saddle you can keep them comfortable with the added ease of not worrying about their coats getting wet with sweat, and trapping all that moisture next to their skin under a blanket. Instead, you get to remove whatever “clothes” got sweaty, and toss something clean and dry on instead. The time it takes to shave them is totally worth the comfort and ease it affords for the rest of the season!