Shedding Season

It’s spring, every horse owner’s favorite time of year. There’s mud, volatile weather, bugs, and lots and lots of shedding.

Most livestock and many wild animals grow a winter coat and lose it once the days get longer- much to the annoyance of farmers and ranchers trying to keep their critters safe from spring storms, there’s no correlation with increased temperatures; it’s all to do with the amount of light stimulating the pineal gland in the brain. More light means less hair. Sometimes with the animals’ enthusiastic assistance. There are stories of bison uprooting telephone poles as they try to scratch off that icky dead hair, and cows can also get fairly destructive, as their skin is tough enough to tolerate scratching against trees, fences, et cetera.

Luckily for me, horses are a little less destructive. Mostly. Bailey usually confines herself to rolling in the mud, which clings to her and takes the hair with it when she rolls again, or when I ‘just have time for a quick ride,’ and end up spending an hour trying to get a clean spot for the saddle and bridle. I went over her with four different brushes yesterday- rubber curry to loosen mud and hair, shedding blade for just the hair, stiff brush to get rid of the remnants of the mud, and soft brush to work out the remaining dust and smooth the hair.

I didn’t think to take before and after photos, alas. She didn’t look terrible when I started, but there were a few minutes during the process when I wasn’t sure I owned a horse or a pig. Or possibly a giant ball of fuzz with eyes. And Bailey doesn’t even get a thick winter coat, relatively speaking. My childhood pony got so much hair that I had to shave it off every spring, and there was a pile of hair almost the size of the horse by the time I was done.

The funny thing about brushing a dark colored horse is that the dirt is usually lighter than the horse, so they look perfectly fine when you pull them out of the field, then the first brush stroke brings all that dust to the surface and you suddenly have an apricot-dun instead of the bay or black horse you thought you had. And of course, all of that hair and dirt inevitably sticks to you, no matter which way the breeze is blowing.

I think there’s a somewhat tortured editing analogy in here, where your first draft doesn’t look that bad, then you start pulling it apart and it looks awful, but if you keep going, it’ll turn out sleek and shiny in the end.

Bailey might need a bath before anyone could call her sleek and shiny. I don’t recommend dunking your manuscript in soapy water; a gentle brushing should suffice.

Happy editing, dear readers.

8 thoughts on “Shedding Season

  1. Don’t remind me. I’ve got four St. Bernards to strip.

    If anybody feels the inexplicable urge to make their own yarn, I’m about to have a bunch of material for it.

  2. Massively resisting temptation. I already have a closet full of unspun fiber… But, I looked up how to spin dog fur and it has a fancy French name, chiengora. Still not a good idea for me.

  3. A woman moved from Arizona to Pennsylvania and got worried when her dog was losing hair, admittedly not getting mangy but still — until she realized — winter coat.

  4. Have you considered putting your Writer’s Guide to Horses posts between book covers? Toss the “Equine Dentistry” post and this one in by way of epilogue, and sell ’em? I’m sure there’s plenty who’d jump at the resource.

    1. I’ve thought about it, but the major stumbling block is finding diagrams and images that are usable for commercial purposes.
      Maybe someday. In my spare time 🙂

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