Horse haircuts get creative

Winter is not for the faint of heart for horse owners living in wind chill swept prairies as I did during my teen years. Cold is cold anywhere, but if the temperature is below 0 for a month at a time, riding and caring for horses gets complicated.

I was fortunate to board my horse on a farm with pastures stretching miles and with a pleasant herd. No one rode in the winter unless the temperature cracked twenty degrees Fahrenheit. We rode bareback to keep warm. Plowing through snowdrifts, the horses’ breath freezing for a moment in the air, taught us to live with winter.

Our horses loved winter. Why? Horses got to be horses. Wooly coats insulated the herd from the elements. Barefoot hooves galloped through snowy pastures with miles to run. Mini-Matterhorns of hay stacked by the road fenceline ensured warm bellies. Ice-encrusted water troughs broke into pieces with a little elbow grease.

Living in Santa Fe, New Mexico taught me another way to live with a horse in winter.

An indoor arena where I board my current horse means that I can ride most winter days. Snowstorms scuttle some intentions, but the snow doesn’t last for months like an unwelcome guest in northern New Mexico.

Because we keep the horses in my barn working through the winter, most horses are body clipped. Work equals body heat in need of an escape, and clipping prevents a horse from becoming too sweaty and chilled after a ride. Long, wooly coats don’t cool and stay wet, making a horse more prone to colic.

My twenty-two-year-old Irish Sport Horse is pre-Cushings; I am planning for spring and summer. Last spring, he didn’t shed his coat properly, which led to the blood test for Cushing’s. Last month, unseasonably warm days caused my horse to sweat too much, especially at night in his stall. Clipping, for me, will likely be a year-round activity to keep my horse comfortable.

Clipping doesn’t have only to be a practical activity, though. Our accomplished clipper, Emily, not only arrives with masks, blades, and instruments in tow – she brings a dose of creativity! Each year, Emily asks horse owners if they want a design clipped into their horses’ flank. The diversity of clip prints often match the horses’ personalities or breeds. I never waver from the shamrock for my horse!¬†Take a look at this year’s art gallery, and if there is a design you like, please post a comment!

Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay horsey!