It is THAT time of year. Hair shedding season. There is often more hair on you than on your horse, and your days are spent picking loose hairs off ‘non horse clothes’ as they have somehow infiltrated all aspects of your daily existence.
With the shedding season, comes the dreaded rubs. Rubs on the shoulders, rubs from your riding boots on your horse’s sides, rubs from the reins, rubs from your saddlepad. And the worst of all – a rubbed mane. All too familiar at this time of the year are the sights of horses with plaits ending halfway down their mane, or a row of lovely plaits and then a few teeny-tiny plaits toward the withers. It’s positively devastating.
Paddy has always had a lovely thick mane year-round, but suffers from rubs on his shoulders and sides around this time of year – while Willow on the other hand has started to lose quite a bit of her mane where the rug sits. I’ve been taking some steps to prevent further hair loss, and encourage regrowth as fast as possible on both horses, and thought I would share my tips with you all:
1. Keep the mane & coat clean
Rubs, particularly on the mane, are often as a result of friction, where the rug cannot easily glide over the surface area as the horse moves naturally. I bet if you looked at the inside of the neck of your rug you’d see it is pretty greasy (guilty)! The best way to limit friction is to keep the mane and coat clean and shiny – wash the mane and sensitive coat areas as often as the cold weather will allow, and if you don’t have to plait for a show, consider spraying in some detangler to keep the mane sleek and thus limit friction.
To wash manes, I use the LeMieux Lava Burst Shampoo which smells DELICIOUS – you can read my review here – and to keep manes and tails sleek and shiny you can use any detangler – I use the LeMieux Time to Shine Finishing Spray.
2. Watch the girth area
This applies all year round, but pay particular attention at this time of year – sweat is a big culprit for causing rubs around the girth area! Combined with dirt (see point 1) it can cause girth galls and sores, so it’s important to brush or sponge down any sweat that has built up after riding. Many of us will we bringing our horses back into work at this time of year, or ramping up their fitness work, so increased sweat and friction from the girth as the horse moves is something to watch out for.
For extra sensitive horses, consider using a sheepskin girth cover during this time – I used one year-round on my last horse as she was particularly sensitive, and just at this time of year for Paddy as a preventative measure. Also, they look so pretty!
3. Bibs – not just for babies!
For horse’s who are particularly sensitive or whose manes point blank REFUSE to stay attached to their neck, a hood or bib is a great option to consider to create the ‘friction free’ effect. Depending on the severity of the rubbing, you may choose to use a full neck hood which covers the horse’s entire neck, or a bib which goes halfway up the neck.
As Paddy mostly gets rubs around his withers and shoulders, I chose to go for a bib. I use the LeMieux Anti-Rub Bib which is very different to any other bib I have used before, as it goes halfway up the horse’s neck and has LeMieux’s trademark fleece wither protector – protecting the critical area around the withers that is most susceptible to rubs. To prove its effectiveness, I gave it to a friend whose horse without fail lost his mane every winter, and who had exhausted all options and bibs trying to stop this from happening – his mane stayed intact and she ended up looking to purchase one herself! You can read the full review here.
4. Choose the right saddlepad
A big complaint I hear around this time of year is how many horses are being rubbed by their saddlepads after being ridden. You may need to be selective about the types of saddlepads you use during this awkward time, until your horse’s summer coat has grown in – try to avoid pads with piping or embroidery around the sides, and just have a general feel of the material on the pads – sticking with softer materials and avoiding pads with materials that feel coarse.
For extra-sensitive horses, or for that extra bit of luxury for your horse, I highly recommend the LeMieux Merino+ Sensitive pads – I was lucky enough to be given one by LeMieux to try on Paddy last year at just the right time, and I wouldn’t be without it now. You can read our review here.
5. Apply a conditioner to speed up regrowth
Step one is to stop the hair loss or rubbing from escalating. Step two is to get the hair to grow back, if some has already been lost! There are lots of solutions out there to aid hair re-growth, from home remedies to products specifically manufactured for the job, but the two most widely known products are Shapleys M-T-G and Eqyss Mega-Tek Rebuilder. I personally have used Mega-Tek for the last few years as it is easy to apply, the smell is divine, and can be used on coats, manes, tails and even hooves!
Shapleys gets fantastic reviews, however historically it had a very strong smell so I avoided it – I am told the new ‘Plus’ version leaves a much nicer smell, and the product is useful for not just hair loss, but a range of bacterial and fungal issues such as rain scald, mud fever, sweet itch and lots more. A very versatile product!
So there you have it, my top five tips for preventing (and saving) hair loss in the wrong places on your horse this winter/spring! I hope you find them useful. I just cannot wait until the summer, when my horses have a beautiful summer coat and a nice full mane – and NO MUD! But then I suppose, we get the flies…
Do you have any other tips to share on preventing hair loss or rubbing that you have picked up over the years?
The products featured in this post are a mixture of those I have received from LeMieux to review in the past and continue to use, as well as products I have purchased myself.