As sure as a crocus or a daffodil poking its head through a ground hard with winter, once your horse starts shedding, spring is just around the corner.
Zelda is shedding voluminous amounts of hair. No matter how many times I run my favorite shedding tool over her, more hair appears. It makes me wonder why I bothered to blanket her at all during the colder months. She has hair to spare.
Horses start to shed when light receptors in their eyes relay the change in daylight hours to their
pituitary gland. In the fall, as daylight decreases, melatonin levels increase, which triggers coat growth. As days get longer, your horse’s winter coat starts to loosen and shed.
The shortest day of the year is December 21st, so it takes a couple of weeks for the changes in photoperiods to take effect. Most horses shed in the same pattern each year. While many start with their necks, Zelda definitely sheds out first on her back and her butt first. Freedom, on the other hand, hasn’t started to shed at all. He’s hanging on to his hair with real determination.
How your horse sheds can also serve as an indicator of their health. When Curly failed to shed one year, it turned out that she had Cushings — a disorder of the pituitary gland that results in hormonal imbalances. Horses with Cushings tend to “hold onto” the long hairs under their bellies and chins, something that was harder to notice in Curly because she is, well, curly. But when she hadnt shed out by April, it was cause for concern. (There will be a full post on Cushings later, and Curly’s is under control with the help of medication).