Find out here when it makes sense to shear your horse and what you should pay attention to.
General Information About Shearing
Horses are ideally protected from external influences thanks to their coat that is adapted to the seasons. In summer they have a thin but water-repellent coat, in winter they have a thick, long winter coat that optimally keeps the heat produced by the body and prevents hypothermia.
Nowadays our house horses are in a completely “unnatural” environment due to stable keeping, cozy blankets, and artificial heat sources. So it is not surprising that thick winter fur is no longer needed. However, if you train them in winter, the protection provided by the fur is no longer necessary, but also becomes a problem. The warm fur only leads to profuse sweating and the associated risk of colds. The overheating that results from physical exertion can also lead to weight loss – even if the horse is well fed.
Why Shear at All?
You might be wondering why you should shear your horse in the first place? After all, there are a lot of horses that get through the winter wonderfully without shears or covers. But if you work so much with your horse that it regularly sweats heavily, you should reconsider the idea of shearing. Because especially in cold temperatures and thick winter fur, it takes a long time until the sweaty fur is dry again. If the horse is not adequately protected from the cold during this time, colds and worse are inevitable. Even if the horse is wearing a blanket.
For this reason, many riders opt for a clip. However, this not only makes work easier, but it also means a great deal of responsibility. After all, shearing in winter is a massive intervention in the animal’s natural protection system against the cold.
In a nutshell, here are the reasons that speak in favor of shearing:
- It allows for faster drying after training;
- It makes training easier for the horse;
- Weight is maintained by avoiding excessive sweating;
- Shearing makes grooming easier;
- A shear creates a neat appearance;
- The risk of overheating is avoided;
- It greatly reduces the risk of hypothermia due to sweat deposits in the fur.
How and When to Shear?
When you have decided to shear your horse, there are a few important things you should keep in mind. If you just go ahead and “shear”, you can do more harm to your horse than good. Therefore, always make sure that you pick the right time to shear. The first shearing should only be carried out when the winter coat is fully developed and the horse starts to sweat more during regular work. Usually, this is around mid to late October. If the horse is now sheared, you have to shear it every three to five weeks so that the desired effect does not slowly wear off. This is how you proceed until the beginning of February at the latest so that the upcoming summer coat can develop properly.
In special cases, it is also advisable to shear the horse in summer. This is the case, for example, with older horses that do not completely lose their winter coat and so suffer from the heat in warmer temperatures. If you shear your four-legged friend in the warm season, you have to make sure that it doesn’t freeze at night or in rainy weather. A thin and, ideally, the waterproof blanket is therefore mandatory at temperatures below 15 ° C.
The second decision is how to shear the horse? The answer mainly depends on what the training schedule looks like during the cold season. If the horse is only worked lightly, it may be enough to cover the four-legged friend. This means that he develops a winter coat that is not too dense right from the start. It is also crucial whether the horse sweats a lot or a little on its own.
In order to make the choice of the type of harness a little easier, you should consider the following aspects:
- Will the horse spend a lot of time in the stable or spend the day outside?
- Do you already have different horse blankets or are you planning to buy additional ones?
- Does the horse freeze quickly?
- Has the horse been sheared before?
The most radical type of shear is full shear. Here the entire fur of the horse is shaved, including the legs and head. Particular care must be taken when shaving the head because the whiskers must not be shortened. On the one hand, they are important for the horse’s perception, on the other hand, removing or cutting whisker hair is prohibited by animal welfare law.
You can see full shearing especially in performance horses that work hard even in winter and go to competitions despite low temperatures. This is not only due to the fact that the sheared horses practically do not sweat. They dry again quickly after exertion and thus also after exertion and also look particularly well-groomed. However, this type of shearing should only be used for sport horses, as it deprives the animal of any possibility of keeping itself warm. This in turn means extensive care, because the horse has to be covered at all times. The ceiling is only allowed to go down during the work phase and cleaning, with the latter you also have to make sure that there is no draft. The horse may even have to be equipped with warming bandages and a blanket neck part if the temperatures drop sharply.
Hunter or Hunting Shear
The hunter or hunting shear is also suitable for horses that are in medium to hard work. However, it is mainly carried out on four-legged friends who go with them on big hunts in autumn. Similar to full shearing, the body is almost completely sheared, only the legs and the saddle position are left out. Despite the fur that has been left standing, one must be careful to keep the horse warm with blankets at all times, even during quiet rides.
This type of clipping has two advantages:
- The horse hardly sweats, even with intense exertion.
- The Hunterschur still offers some level of protection. The saddle area prevents chafing and saddle pressure, and the fur on the legs protects against cold, mud, hoof injuries, and thorns.
When shearing you have to be particularly careful when it comes to the location of the saddle field. If you position it incorrectly, you can leave places on your back unprotected. In addition, it visually beautifies the body of the horse (if the saddle field is too far back, the back is visually shortened, the shoulder lengthened). It is best to put on the saddle in front of the shear and trace the outlines of the skin with chalk. So you play it safe and have an individual shear template.
The third type of cord is the blanket cord, which is suitable for horses that are in moderately difficult training. So take part in tournaments but also stand on the pasture during the day if the weather permits. The areas where the horse sweats the most during light to moderate work are sheared: the neck, chest, and stomach. Leaving the fur on the back creates a natural kidney blanket, which makes it possible to ride off-road even without a blanket. Horses with sensitive backs benefit from this balanced combination of sweat and cold protection.
Fourth, we come to Irish shearing, which can be sheared very easily and quickly. It is ideal for horses that are only lightly worked. And also for young horses who still have to get used to shearing. By shearing the neck and chest, only the areas that start to sweat the fastest are cleared of fur. At the same time, enough fur remains to protect the horse even in colder temperatures and when it is out on pasture.
Last but not least, bib shearing, which is considered to be the most popular and widely used. Here only a narrow strip of winter fur is shorn on the front of the neck and chest, which – if necessary – can be extended backward to the stomach. Because of this, this type of shear is also called “neck and belly shear”. This minimalist cord practically prevents sweating during light work. At the same time, however, the horse can easily go outside and into the field without a blanket.
Meanwhile, there are also many horse owners who do not want a classic shear, but rather individualize and spice them up. Either classic shear types are modified and decorated or only smaller decorations are sheared into the otherwise existing winter fur, such as small pictures or lettering. There are even competitions that choose the most beautiful, most creative, and most elaborate shear. However, you should never forget that the clip must still fit the horse and its training dimensions and should not just look good.
After Shearing: Cover-up
In order to compensate for the lack of thermal protection your horse has after the shear, you should definitely cover it up after the shear. When choosing the right blanket, the time at which it is sheared is crucial. If you shear early in autumn, for example, September or October, a thin transitional cover is sufficient, which should be replaced with a thicker model in colder temperatures. If, on the other hand, you start right away in winter, you should immediately use a thick blanket, which should be around 100 to 200 g / m² more than the blanket that your horse was wearing before shearing.
Basically, horses with extensive sheared fur need at least three blankets: A light blanket for milder days, a thicker one for cold days and nights, and a sweat blanket that is put on when warming up and cooling down after training. We also recommend an exercise blanket, for example, a kidney blanket, which can, however, also be replaced with a sweat blanket underneath. This serves to protect against wind and cold, even if you are only walking and the horse does not sweat heavily.
If the horse is also a pasture in winter, a waterproof but breathable turnout blanket is also worthwhile. Both properties are important, as a wet blanket (whether wet from rain or sweat) draws a lot of heat away from the horse and can lead to colds. If you want to expose the shorn horse when it is below freezing temperatures, you should combine the blanket with a neck part.
Last but not least, a note: Shorn horses can be fed a little more. Maintaining body temperature without winter fur requires a lot of extra energy, which in turn leads to higher food and calorie requirements.