Have you ever noticed unusual shedding with your horse? Does his coat appear unhealthy but you are not sure why?
In this article we will show you the primary causes for equine shedding. You will also learn how to treat the issue causing the shedding and bring back your horses beautiful coat.
What does abnormal horse shedding look like?
It is normal for your horse to shed its coat. This generally occurs in the spring as the horse gets rid of its heavy, warm winter coat.
If the coat is extremely heavy, then the shedding may look patchy and cause horse owners to be concerned but there should be healthy summer hair growing there in its place.
Any changes in the horse’s environment can cause him to lose his hair and even develop skin problems.
If you have recently changed up the hair products or made changes to his diet, then you may notice that he has begun to lose his hair.
If this happens, then he has an allergy to the new products that you are using, commonly including:
New detergent on the saddle blanket
While many people think that shedding is related to a change in the temperature, it’s actually caused by longer hours of daylight that occur in the spring.
You won’t notice the shedding until spring when the hair is everywhere but the process begins in December as the days begin to lengthen.
If your horse normally sheds right on schedule but is not this year, then there may be a medical problem that is stopping him from shedding.
If your horse is not shedding normally and you have ruled out a medical problem, then you will need to address potential issues in your stable.
If your horse does not get enough sun during the day, then his body will not know to shed his fur and will hang on to his winter coat.
You can alleviate this problem by allowing him to spend more time outside or by installing lights in the stable as artificial light, when used correctly, can help horses to shed their winter coats.
If you have noticed that your horse is losing some of its mane, then you will want to pay attention to what he is doing during the day.
It’s normal for horses to lose patches of their manes when they are reaching through a fence to get to the grass. You will be able to easily identify this as the problem if you see bits of its mane stuck in the fence.
Another reason that your horse can lose hair is because he is rubbing along buildings or fences to scratch himself.
This will generally leave a jagged spot on its body that are free of hair.
An injury such as a kick from an animal can remove some of the hair without leaving behind a telltale cut.
What diseases cause shedding in horses?
Equine hair loss that is with defined edges is generally caused by a problem with the horse’s skin.
One common infection that is caused by a fungus is rain rot.
This will start in small patches but can quickly grow to cover large areas of your horse, resulting in blisters and oozing.
In addition, ringworm is a common medical problem that will cause your horse to shed and is characterized by a red ring around the oozy bald patches. (1)
It’s important that your vet distinguishes between rain rot and ringworm so that he or she can correctly treat your animal.
Cushing’s disease is a disease that generally affects older horses and causes them to not shed on schedule.
If you have noticed that your horse isn’t shedding the way he has in the past, especially if it has longer hairs on his chin and belly still hanging on, then you will want to see your vet.
This disease can lead to laminitis and will require medical intervention to treat.
Even yeast infections can cause the hair to fall out of your horse, which can be quite alarming if you are not aware that your horse is sick.
This, along with some more uncommon diseases, can cause your horse to prematurely lose his hair and have bald patches on his body.
Your vet can rule out the more common issues that cause horse hair loss before checking for problems such as equine alopecia areata, which causes hair loss in horses due to inflammation occurring near the bulb of the hair and follicle.
One great way to help your horse shed is by regular brushing with a shedding brush. These brushes usually have stiffer bristles than other body brushes but aren’t as tough on your horse as a shedding blade can be.
You can read our review of the groom ninja shedding blade to see if it is the right shedding tool for your horse.
There are a number of advantages to using these brushes:
Won’t damage the hair follicles
Won’t dull the summer coat
Helps your horse shed hair quickly
Easy to clean
Gentle enough to use on any horse
There are supplements available that you can buy and use in your horse’s water that claim to help with promoting healthy function of the pituitary gland.
This, of course, will help with shedding issues and make sure that your horse grows a healthy coat each year.
Their pituitary gland is in charge of many functions, hair coat being just one of them. (2)
In addition, it’s important that you make sure that your horse is getting all of the necessary nutrients in its diet to help it grow a strong and healthy coat.
If it is at all deficient, then it will have problems growing and keeping its hair.(3)
The Importance of Vet Intervention
If your horse has open wounds that are oozing due to its shedding, then you will want to get it to a qualified vet right away as disease can easily spread through open wounds.
While the treatment may consist of just anti-fungal creams, seeing your vet is the best way to make sure that your horse does not develop a dangerous infection.
Other common causes of irregular shedding include worms and hormone problems.
Only your veterinarian can check for these problems so he or she may do a fecal test or a blood test to see if there are any underlying health problems that they should be aware of.
Once he or she has figured out what the issue is, then it is a simple matter of treating it to bring your horse back to their normal healthy self.
Unnatural horse shedding can be alarming but with the right treatment your horse can be looking great with a healthy shiny coat.
If you have any great tips on maintaining a healthy coat let us know in the comments.
Fred is the editor of Equine Ridge. He grew up raising horses and has been riding, training, and competing for almost four decades. Fred started out performing on the AQHA and PHBA circuits. Fred trained other competitors in English and Western riding disciplines and today offers free riding lessons to youth who would otherwise not be able to afford lessons. When not working with horses he can be found backpacking or trying to brew the perfect cup of coffee. Email Fred at firstname.lastname@example.org