I haven't been able to visit with you guys and it will be awhile again. So I thought I'd share my article for the equine page at my paper....you can see some of the stuff I write.
I'll talk to you soon!
I Have a Hairy Horse
By Janet Huntington
If a woman grew her armpit hair long enough to blow in the breeze she would cause quite a stir when she threw her arms in the air to catch a Frisbee.
This is the thought which crossed my mind as I looked at the long hair on my mare’s fetlocks.
She’s not a draft horse, she’s my very pretty, but decidedly hairy, show horse.
My mare has a cottony mane with no bridle path to stop her thick wavy forelock from spreading willy-nilly all over the place.
Her tail is as thick and long as an ungroomed, unplucked tail can get.
The hair on her fetlocks curls to the ground in soft, silky coils.
She has a whiskery nose that tickles when she nuzzles my hand.
She is called Madonna and she is definitely well-named.
She has an extremely high opinion of herself, a rock-star attitude and is quite comfortable with her tousled, bad-girl image.
Her mussed style gradually evolved between the two of us. I have no interest in grooming my horse for show. Don’t get me wrong, I keep my horses clean and groomed, it’s just the show stuff that bores me.
Bridle paths, pulled manes, clipped ears and whiskers, fake tails, show sheen, it’s an awful bunch of work.
It’s a little bit too much like little girls playing hair salon. When I was a kid I left that stuff for the sissies. I would go play horses.
My mare is a well trained, well behaved horse. She has a few quirks though. She hates having her ears handled.
She has never been eared down, mistreated, beaten about the head or anything else that could give her an excuse for hating having her ears handled. It’s just how she is.
She also hates sweat trickling down her face, flanks, or inside her protective boots. She hates mud in the cutting pen.
Obviously I have had to make my horse get over herself. But I also believe in picking my battles.
Ear hair has to be there for a reason, doesn’t it? The hair inside the ear helps to prevent dirt and insects getting into the ear. In other words, it keeps the ear clean.
The hair also helps keep horses from losing their delicate ears to frostbite in the winter. If I clip my horse’s ears then I am now responsible for keeping the cold, the bugs and the dirt out of her ears. I also have to worry about dirt and hair falling in the ear canal and risk infection just from the act of clipping itself.
I participate in a sport where my horse turns a cow on the fence at up to 35 mph or so. The dirt flies, in her face, my face and the cows. I don’t want a big old dirt clod to go down her ear.
It would be hard to finish our run with my horse shaking her head so hard we were see-sawing all over the arena.
So I let her keep her ear hair.
Then we get to the muzzle. One of the first book series I read as a kid was the Misty of Chincoteague books. Marguerite Henry always described the “whiskery ponies.” Wesley Dennis showed every whisker and lash in his beautiful illustrations.
To my mind a horse should have whiskers.
A horse can see almost 360 degrees with her big beautiful eyes. She has only one blind spot. It is right between her eyes. She cannot see directly in front of her face. So her whiskers provide an essential service, feelers to help tell her what’s in front of her.
She got to keep the whiskers.
Horse feathers is not only fun to say, but it’s another area we’re supposed to keep clean and clipped.
A horse has hair on the back of the fetlocks for a reason. The hair acts as a funnel for water and helps keep the back of the hoof dry.
I’ve also noticed it’s a handy buffer against the ground when I slide stop.
If my horse accidently clips herself the hair might prevent a cut. I still consistently boot up my horse front and back to protect her, but I think it’s safer if she keeps her feathers.
When I was first learning to prepare my horses for the show pen I learned three different ways to grow the long, luxuriant tails so popular in the show pen.
The first was to braid the tail with rags and the keep it rolled into a sock.
The second was to take little sections of the tail, tie them in a little a square knot, and wrap the knot in vet wrap.
The third was to completely leave the tail alone (no brushing!) until a few days before show day.
I would finger or hoof pick the worst of the knots out, pull out any sticks and then load the tail with conditioner. I didn’t get conditioner on the tail bone, sometimes it will make the horse itchy.
Any kind of conditioner works, I’m a fan of Suave.
I’d leave the conditioner on overnight and then finger pick the Rastafarian coils and knots out again. Then I would wash the tail.
I would let it dry and then brush it out, top to bottom.
I tried all three methods. All of them worked. Guess which one I used? Yep, I just quit touching the tails until it was time to show. It was really easy. They looked great.
It was a natural progression to start ignoring manes too. I pull the tangles out with my fingers, but that’s it.
I realized I like the wild and wooly look, so I decided to leave it.
My horses haven’t argued. In my sport the judges sit in a chair on the side of the arena. They can’t see whether my horse is clipped or not. I like to think they wouldn’t care if they could.
To my mind, if they can tell my horse is hairy, I’m not hustling fast enough.