There are many reasons why your horse is shedding during the winter. It may be due to the change in daylight, hormonal changes, or extensive grooming and exercising.
We will further discuss why your horse is shedding and also share some helpful procedures to take during the winter.
Why is Your Horse Shedding in the Middle of Winter
Change in Daylight Hours
Daylight changes with the seasons. Increasing daylight hours may trigger a horse’s winter coat to shed.
This is a process that usually starts after the winter solstice in December, but you usually won’t notice until a few months later.
Temperatures could play a role in shedding during the winter as well. It could be due to the increase in temperature after the winter solstice since we are heading into springtime.
Your horse’s hormones may be signaling your horse to shed. Did you know that your horse is on a shedding schedule?
A horse’s brain may signal its winter coat to grow a new summer coat, which usually happens in late winter.
You may notice a particular shedding pattern occurring where your horse sheds at a specific time of the year. The shedding pattern should stay consistent every year.
A horse’s pituitary gland could help the shedding process start by recognizing changes in daylight hours.
Your horse produces pituitary hormones that wake the reactions up in your horse’s body, which could cause your horse’s hair to grow or shed.
If you’re grooming your horse regularly with a currycomb or shedding blade in the winter months, that could cause your horse to start shedding more.
Grooming your horse can increase blood flow and stimulate hair follicles, causing your horse’s hair to grow while shedding its old coat, especially if you groom your horse after exercise.
Exercise may increase your horse’s rate of shedding. When your horse exercises, blood flow increases to their skin and the flow of sweat and sebum.
This is why active horses shed faster than horses that stay in their stall or are not exercising regularly.
So, it is essential to provide your horse with turnout or exercise as often as possible to maintain their shedding schedule. You could take your horse out for a brisk lunge session followed by the turnout.
What if Your Horse is Not Shedding?
If your horse is not on its regular shedding schedule, it could be due to a medical problem.
Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), also called Cushing’s Disease, is associated with the endocrine system that affects the pituitary gland. Older horses are usually affected the most by this hormonal imbalance.
Signs to look out for are if your horse has trouble shedding throughout the seasons, creating increased coat length, laminitis, lethargy, weight loss, sweating, excessive drinking, and urinating.
It may be due to your horse’s diet. Not having a balanced diet can cause your horse not to shed, such as not having enough key nutrients, including lack of protein or amino acids could reduce your horse’s hair growth.
Horses need to maintain their body temperature during the winter months, which means they need extra energy. Increasing the amount of hay will help your horse maintain their weight.
Are you noticing your horse’s coat is shedding slower than usual? It may be due to worms.
As the weather starts to warm up, horses can become infected with worms, which may cause inadequate nutrition leading to a lack of shedding.
Signs to look out for would be a loss in appetite, poor growth, weight loss, anemia, tail rubbing, coughing, and colic. Make sure you contact your veterinarian if you notice any of these signs.
It could be due to your horse’s living environment. During the winter months, your horse is probably in the barn more than usual.
Your horse may not be getting enough light due to being in their stall, which could disrupt their shedding schedule.
Do you live in an area where it snows a lot during the wintertime? If the answer is yes, it could affect your horse’s shedding schedule.
If your horse is outside a lot in the snow, their coat will make sure to keep them warm by staying longer.
Their winter coat will stand up to trap tiny air pockets between them, creating insulation like a blanket around your horse to keep your horse warm.
Not Enough Grooming or Clipping
Have you been grooming your horse less frequently during the winter? If the answer is yes, that could be why your horse’s coat is not shedding.
Your horse may need to be clipped if you have been grooming and your horse is still not shedding. It may help the new coat come through with the old winter coat gone.
How to Help Your Horse Shed?
Looking for a solution for your horse in the barn during the winter? Adding artificial light in the barn may help your horse to shed.
Artificial light can trick your horse’s brain into thinking it is getting close to springtime and trigger shedding.
It may make your horse shed sooner than it usually would, so it is good to have a blanket or protection to keep your horse warm for the rest of the winter.
When using artificial light, it should be on for 16 hours a day as if it were daylight. Having an automatic timer can make this an easier task.
Vigorous grooming can help your horse’s coat prepare for springtime and the show season.
Using a shedding blade like a currycomb may be a helpful tool in removing dirt, old hair, and debris from your horse.
The most effective way to use a currycomb is in circular motions. Make sure you’re careful around sensitive areas of your horse, such as the face, below the knees, and hocks.
Fiberglass blocks may help remove your horse’s winter coat. A shedding block works to pull your horse’s hair and is similar to a pumice stone.
Vitamins and Minerals
Your horse needs vitamins and minerals to stay healthy, especially during winter. A healthy nutritional diet along with vitamins and minerals will create a healthy and shiny coat.
Omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil and flaxseed can boost your horse’s coats and is the best source of fats for your horse to consume.
Including vitamins and minerals into your horse’s diet, such as vitamin A, B, protein, amino acids, zinc, and copper, will keep your horse healthy while increasing hair growth.
Forage is important for your horse’s health and shedding process.
Make sure during the winter months you’re providing enough forage for your horse. It helps produce sebum, an oily secretion of the sebaceous glands.
Dry forage will have reduced amounts of sebum, so you might want to soak or mash the forage to help produce sebum for your horse.
Ensure you’re following nutrient requirements based on the horse’s body weight when feeding forage.
How to Care for Your Horse in the Winter?
Did you know that your horse needs more water during the winter? It is mainly because your horse grazes on grass that contains high amounts of moisture during the springtime and summer.
You may want to maximize the amount of water your horse drinks typically to help prevent dehydration and colic. If your horse is 1,000 pounds, provide at least 10 to 12 gallons of water a day.
Food is essential for your horse during the winter. Your horse needs more energy to maintain its body temperature and condition.
For every degree below 18 degrees Fahrenheit your horse will require an additional one percent of energy from their diet.
Providing more grains such as forage will help keep your horse warm. Adding forage to your horse’s diet will increase microbial fermentation that keeps your horse warm.
Horses should always have access to shelter during the winter months. Sheltering your horse will protect it from wind, sleet, and storms.
Open your stable or have an open-sided shed for your horse to go inside when the weather is terrible. Your horse will be very thankful.
Your horse’s winter coat should become shorter after the winter solstice on December 22nd, meaning that your horse will need a blanket.
A blanket will keep any moisture away from their coat, which will help retain heat and keep your horse warm.
Providing a blanket for your horse will give them an extra layer of protection, especially when they have no shelter.
It is important to note that your horse’s blanket needs to fit properly so the blanket doesn’t cause sores or rub marks.
Remove the blanket daily to reposition or inspect. Keep the blanket dry and never put a blanket on a wet horse.
Lastly, you do not need to put a blanket on your horse until after December 22nd since your horse will have a natural winter coat.