From Endurance to Dressage
Like clockwork, the day after the winter solstice, Izzy lost a few hairs from his coat. Not many, but just enough to show that his body knew that the daylight hours be increasing.
When I went out the barn yesterday, I finally saw that Izzy's winter coat is shedding and his darker summer coat is peeking through.
Izzy always sheds the hairs from front to back. His barrel are rump are always last to lose their shaggy winter hair.
Yesterday, I had to keep emptying the brush as it quickly filled up with hair. While I love the Schimmel brush all winter, shedding season is when I really appreciate how well it gets the deep down dirt and hair off. I both love and hate shedding season. What's waiting underneath is worth it, but getting there means a lot of itchy noses and a lot of bad hair days.
Izzy's about to get all kinds of ugly!
New strategy. Poor Izzy. For the past three or four years, Izzy's summer itch has been such a struggle. I can't even list all of the products and strategies I have tried or used to alleviate his itching. This summer, I am trying something a bit more drastic; I roached his mane.
Izzy had already rubbed out at least the bottom quarter of his mane, and he was working on getting the rest rubbed out as quickly as possible. The parts that weren't yet completely rubbed out were sticking up at odd angles, fuzzy and tangled from his incessant rubbing. I had hoped that by moving him into the stallion pen, which has no-climb wire on all four sides, he wouldn't have a way to rub his mane. Unfortunately, where there is a will, there is a way. Last week, I grabbed the clippers and gave him a buzz cut.
It actually doesn't look that bad as Izzy has a pretty neck. He's like a bald dude with a nice head. I am hoping that I'll be able to keep his mane cleaner and that he'll feel less itchy and sweaty without the hair tickling his neck. I left what mane he had at least an inch tall so that his skin would have some protection, and I buzzed his bridle path as short as always. So far, he has stopped rubbing his neck, but now he is once again rubbing his shoulders. I am also working on soothing that with Zephyr's Garden Skin Rescue which definitely helps.
I hope a bad haircut relieves some of his itchiness. Poor guy.
Izzy's coat is the most beautiful in early spring and early fall. By late summer he fades to what many would call a buckskin, and by late winter his coat looks like a grizzly's. Right now, his dapples are just starting to show, and his coat hasn't yet started to fade.
#1 His RPSI Brand
I know Izzy hasn't fully shed his winter coat until his brand starts to show through. I can almost see it now, but it will be another month or two before it's visible without a miscroscope.
While they'll get more pronounced as his coat begins to fade, his dapples are also just beginning to show. He doesn't have them with his winter coat, but when the light hits just right, you can see them appearing.
#3 The Shiny Gene
Izzy has the shiny gene; Speedy doesn't. It's short lived though. Once his coat begins to fade, the shine goes with it. I've learned to appreciate it while it lasts.
#4 Itchy Skin
Along with a beautiful coat, early spring also brings out the itchiness. Izzy's mane has finally grown back so that it is at least long enough to braid. I doubt I'll get to though as he has already started rubbing it out. I've tried a variety of steroids, shampoos, topical ointments, and more, but nothing seems to help. We live too close to the river and the biting, itchy no-see-ums.
#5 Hock Sores
As soon as it warms up, the ground also turns hard. Izzy's paddock is sandy and warm, but that combination seems to be the perfect formula for hock sores. He sleeps on the same dry sand all winter long, but his coat must be thick enough to protect the thin skin on his legs. Without that extra hair to protect his skin, he gets small sores on his legs. This weekend I started using coconut oil to help keep his skin more moist and elastic. After just one application, the sores already looked better.
Horses' coats require different maintenance depending on the season. There might not be any mud to scrape off in the spring, but having such a thin coat means their skin needs a lot of love. Hopefully summer will take its time arriving and won't overstay its welcome.
Izzy's skin and coat would sure appreciate it.
Since I don't clip my horses in the winter - they live outdoors all year long, I have a bucketful of grooming tools that I rotate as the seasons change. We don't normally get as much rainy weather as we had this December, so I don't usually deal with much mud. I have been reminded that grooming muddy horses sucks.
My grooming bucket contains a couple of hoof picks, a jelly scrubber (which is on its last legs), a human hair brush, a Tiger's Tongue (also on its last legs), and a number of Haas brushes. This time of year, I exchange my softest brush, the Diamond Gloss, for the Haas Schimmel which has coconut fiber bristles. That thing tackles crusted on mud like a beast.
Izzy's coat doesn't like the Streigel curry as much as Speedy's coat does, and the Schimmel only works when he has his thickest coat. The Schimmel works great on Speedy for ten months of the year, and I can use the curry all year long. Right now, Izzy has a super thick coat, so the Schimmel is pretty much all I am using on him. The other day, I showed up and he looked like this ...
The other side was worse. I grabbed the Schimmel and started at his jaw and worked my way across his body and even down his legs. After I went over him once, I did a second pass, dusting off any missed mud. Within five minutes, all of the mud from his right side was gone, and he was clean enough to saddle. He wasn't show clean, but he was about as good as he was going to get without using soap and water and all with just having used the Schimmel.
I've always liked the Schimmel for Speedy's polar bear coat, but it is now my go-to brush for Izzy this winter. If you need a good stiff brush for mud on a thick coat, this brush might be what you need. I don't usually like stiff brushes as they make my horses flinch, but this one doesn't. The coconut fibers must give just enough to not poke the horses' skin. While we desperately need the rain here in California, I wish we could do without so much mud.
To those of you who have winter every year, how do you keep your horses clean?
When I ask for advice, I usually take at least part of it. This is particularly true at work. If I ask a colleague for a suggestion, I am well known for taking the advice and reworking it to make it my own. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my ideas tweaked and improved because I reap the benefits. That's what Cassandra Rabini, owner and trainer at First Gem Dressage, did for me in the Tips From a Pro post I wrote the other day - she gave me a seedling of an idea. (I always give my colleagues credit for their ideas, especially if I eventually make them my own.)
While I already do many of the things that Cassandra recommended, she had some other ideas that I want to try, but new habits only work for me if they are easy to do. With that, I decided a pampering station might be the answer. See, reworking an idea. What I have in mind will take a little time (and money) to create. Just to get the ball rolling, I dug out a hanging basket that goes with a portable saddle rack I own. While the idea was good in theory, this particular basket won't work.
Besides all of the safety issues with this basket - see the two hooks in the front? Those things will grab a halter and create a giant vet bill along with ruining everything in the basket; Izzy immediately began poking around inside grabbing things. On top of all of that, this basket is collapsible, so the instant anyone/any horse shifts the front panel of the basket, it collapses, spilling everything to the ground. It's a good idea in theory, but this basket won't work.
After thinking about it for a while, I grabbed a small bucket and a two-sided snap and hung that from the fence. While it was much safer, the bucket hung awkwardly, so I swapped it out for a flat-sided bucket which hung much better. I am not loving the bucket idea though because it won't drain. I could punch holes in the bottom, but I am going to continue to look for a better container.
In the meantime, I am gathering the things that I want to keep at the ready: hoof conditioner, hoof pick with a brush, cleansing shampoo, soft cloth, rubber scrubby brush, and so on. While I already have some products that I love, I hate leaving them outside because the pampering station will be in full sun for a good part of the day. Many products have a tendency to leak when they get hot. Fly spray comes to mind.
While I prefer Knotty Horse over Show Sheen or Mane and Tail, both are much cheaper, so I'll buy one of them to leave outside to use for a quick conditioning. I am also going to add some Ivory soap and witch hazel, both of which are cheap and available at the grocery store. While I have a hoof conditioner, the can is less than half full, so I will be ordering something new as it runs out. While I have a half-full bottle of Mane and Tail shampoo, I'll be adding another grocery store purchase recommended by Cassandra - Dove shampoo. For showing, I prefer Ultra Cruz Equine Foaming Shampoo by San Juan. It smells divine, rinses off cleanly, and leaves the coat feeling soft and clean, but I don't want to use it every day. The Dove shampoo is a cheaper and easier for frequent use.
I do all of my grooming at the barn, so the pampering station will be out on the lawn where I give quick showers. If my pampering bucket is easily accessible, I can start some new habits - cleaning hooves of all dirt and manure, conditioning hooves, cleaning tail docks, and more frequently shampooing and conditioning tails.
Let's see if I can start some new habits. I'll keep you posted.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: