Short-Hair Secrets

If you show horses, there has probably been at least one frustrating season where your horse got a little fluffier than you would have liked.

Tips for keeping your horse slick and sleek all winter.

Short hair secrets
The last thing you want is for your horse to be the fluffy one. Journal photo.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

For most people, long-haired horses aren’t such a bad idea.

It’s natural for livestock to grow thick coats when the days get shorter and cooler, and the extra hair keeps them safe and warm, protecting them from chill and sickness.

If you show horses, however, there has probably been at least one frustrating season where your horse got a little fluffier than you would have liked. And goodness knows, a shaggy horse just doesn’t sparkle when he stands next to a slick horse in the show ring.

Gigi Bailey says she remembers a day when the wind-chill factor at her De Pere, Wisconsin, farm plummeted to minus 92 degrees Fahrenheit. With winter weather as frigid as that, it’s a wonder that Gigi’s barn was full of short-haired horses – and they usually stay that way all winter long.

Part of Gigi’s short-hair recipe is standard: Make sure the barn stays warm, make sure the horses are kept warm, and keep the barn lights on for 16 hours a day. But, as she says, “Winning is 100 little things,” and sometimes you’ve got to be willing to take the 100 extra steps to help your horse maintain a slick hair coat.

“You can lose a good hair coat so fast,” Gigi says. “All it takes is one good chill – in the trailer or at a horse show or wherever – to lose it.”

Stem cell therapy is helping horses with tendon and ligament injuries. Learn more in the AQHA Stem Cell Therapy FREE report.

Start with a warm barn

Gigi explains that an insulated barn keeps horses warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Her show barn was constructed with this in mind. The building’s walls have a 14 R-factor; the ceiling has a 20 R-factor (R-factor refers to the energy efficiency rating of a structure.) She keeps the thermostat at about 64 degrees in the winter, and ceiling fans constantly circulate warm air throughout the barn.

“At 64 degrees in the wintertime in the barn, the horses typically wear a sheet and a heavy blanket, and they wear a light hood or a slinky at night,” Gigi explains.

Away from home and on the road

“Feel the day,” Gigi suggests, when discussing whether or not to haul horses with blankets. “Before we take a trip, we stand around and take a poll. ‘Should we haul in heavy blankets and light hoods? Just sheets? Sheets and blankets? Nothing?’ I prefer to put more blankets on the horses and open the windows up a little bit, mostly because I just think the circulation is healthier for the horse.

“When we’re at a show, we check blankets all day long,” Gigi continues. “We feel under the blankets at their withers and on their backs. We want them to be toasty – but not sweating.”

To body clip, or not to body clip?

While many trainers and barn managers prefer not to body clip a horse – because the buzzed hair often is duller and a different color than a normal short hair coat – there are times when it becomes necessary.

“If I do have to show one that grows long hair, I usually clip it,” Gigi says. “I think body clips are fine as long as you keep that horse’s hair as healthy as you can before you clip it.”

If she is unable to body clip the long-haired horse for some reason, Gigi makes certain that every other aspect of the horse is in pristine condition before she steps into the show ring. Every day throughout the chilly season, her show horses are curried and vacuumed, followed by a spray coat conditioner. She expects each horse’s grooming to be impeccable – just like a halter horse.

Find out where different types of stem cell therapy are being used around the world and learn their status on becoming approved in the United States in the AQHA Stem Cell Therapy FREE report.

A matter of health?

Maybe you’re doing absolutely everything you can think of to keep your horse’s hair coat nice and short, and he still fuzzes up. Unfortunately, it happens. Some horses just naturally grow more hair. But if the hair coat is dull, or if it is difficult to get the horse to shed throughout the winter, have your veterinarian run some routine health tests.

“When I see a horse’s hair go bad, I try to determine the cause,” Gigi says. “That little alarm will go off in my mind that says I may have a health problem – which routinely is anemia or a low thyroid. It doesn’t hurt to pull blood to make sure we’re OK.”

13 thoughts on “Short-Hair Secrets”

  1. Horses aren’t just things to win money with. Horses belong in a pasture with other horses and a nice long hair coat in wintertime. Not in a barn where the can’t look far away for danger. That’s very stressful for a horse.

  2. We have been in the show horse business for over 50 years. The only problem we have is when we try to turn our horses out (retirement, breeding, etc) Their home is their stall. THey love it, and when we turn them out in the lot, they are more than anxious to go back to their stall in about 30 minutes. And…why not?? It is clean, has a ceiling fan, nice bedding, and other horses right next door or across the isle to visit with…and the main thing I think they enjoy is NO flys, and someone always paying attention to them. They like thier home.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this article mostly because I do have trouble sometimes keeping my horses looking their best. Unfortunately I don’t have the facility to keep a 64 degree temperature but the horses do get daily brushing and nice winter blankets on all year round as well as stalling. I really like the advice on body clipping as well. For years I’ve been told to body clip yet the whole idea never really settles with me when a little grooming and good, daily, care can help you to avoid it!

  4. Hair growth is ALWAYS based on light as research has shown time and again. The 16 hours of light…enough to read a newspaper in…is the ONLY way to keep the coat from growing! The blankets just provide your horse the warmth they need because you are taking away the natural ability to keep warm by altering day length. Additionally, all ‘breeds’ and genetics will also play a huge roll in the amount of hair that does grow. I am fortunate to have a horse that doesnt grow much of a coat…we dont keep the ‘barn’ warm…just lights on 16hrs and layers of blankets based on temperature. Lastly, I find that the “weight” of layering keeps hair flat and does not allow it to ‘stand up’ which can contribute to hair growth. It is a true pain to blanket…especially during the transistional period of seasons! If you can allow your horse grow a winter coat I highly recommend it!

  5. Instead of using heavy blankets I find extra warm doona rugs are lighter and warmer although we don’t get really cold weather in queensland , even if you layer 2 of them they are not as heavy as 2 canvas with wool padding and the horse is happier without added weight

  6. Quote M Putnam: “They love it, and when we turn them out in the lot, they are more than anxious to go back to their stall in about 30 minutes. And…why not??”

    There is why yes: Daily movement – and longer than only in the arena, and as much as natural sunlight is crucial to the health and longtern stability of bones and joints. If an horse is brought up in a naturtal environment and used do living on a pasture or at least paddock, it will not be anxious to natural things as birds or cats… Keeping a horse in a stall only seems to me like a prison.

  7. My horse lived outside in Kansas year-round and now loves his stall, being a SMART horse. He figured out that creature comforts applied to him too. His stall opens up to the outside facing a road so he has something to look at and it is huge (48′ x 12′). His view gets him used to motorcycles, cement trucks, skate boarders, bikes and dogs. He was already used to antelope and coyotes.
    He gets turnout and loves grazing but wants to be in his stall when it’s dark, windy, hot or thunderstorms. Don’t feel sorry for this one, he’s made a smart choice on his own.
    Besides tired horses enjoy soft bedding and food brought to them, almost all the trainers of performance horses stall the horses they’re training. It helps reduce injuries, too.

  8. Even while showing, I try to keep all of my horses outside as much as I can. At my vet’s recommendation I try to simulate their natural environment as much as possible with constant grazing, movement and fresh air. The health benefits for my horses have been tremendous(reduction in symptoms of allergies and arthritis) and far outweight the invenience of a slightly fluffy hair coat. While showing at Congress during a particularly cold fall, I did have to body clip my show horse because he was pretty fuzzy even after being blanketed, but it worked out great and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

  9. I have a hores that gets a very thick, healthy coat in winter, even with blanketing. When working and riding, he gets much more sweaty and breathes heavy, even at the same fitness level, than summer. And no wonder, it’s like working out in a full body ski suit. So now I do a partial “trace” body clipping so that I can ride regularly in the winter-time without my horse breaking into a heavy & wet sweat that is hard to cool off & dry in the cold. All- around healthier.
    My horses have stalls open to large “sacrifice” paddocks (and pasture spring-fall)–being in a stall 24/7 is no healthier than us being in bed 24/7…but sometimes necessary. My horses are quite happy locked in a stall during nasty winter storms.In any situation that they need to be stalled, like at a horse show or for an injury, they are comfortable becuase they are used to it & not afraid or panicked.
    Horses have been stabled by humans for centuries (and blanketed to a degree! The ancient horses were a different creature than today’s domesticated horses. Even the wild horses of today took time to evolve from their domesticated descendents it is up to us to make sure it’s a healthy situation

  10. What a great article. I keep my horse in a barn during the winter and keep him clipped. we dont show but we do like to ride year round. Its better for the horse to have a shorter coat so he does not sweat as much when working.

  11. Try Fudy used be quite the arena competitor all year long til it came to the World event. Each year I shaved him or kept him under blankets. Finally – I realized he was unable to perform at the World as he was too cold. I let him be a happy hairy horse. He gave me the performances of his life. And lots of gold to go with them. If it was a hot November in OKC, I gave him a field hunter clip.

  12. I’ve stabled my horses in the winter until we moved. they are outside this winter and we’re in northern Canada, cold! My thoroughbred quarter horses barely grows hair at all and my other quarter horse looks mammoth. i have blankets on them when i’m home and find it helps lay it down better, they are also groomed 4-6 times a week. is there anything else I can do? Mammoth takes 2 hours to cooldown and dry. both look scruffy and dirty. there on extra protein, hair shine vitamins and a good diet for older horses.
    thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *