Come spring, a full body clip can make short work of a horse’s winter hair coat, but when that’s not practical or possible, a variety of shedding tools can be a groomer’s best friend.
The most popular tool for speeding removing a horse’s winter coat is the aptly named “shedding blade.” The long, flexible metal strip has sharp teeth on one side that, when dragged carefully across a horse’s coat, pull out the winter hairs that have been pushed nearly to the ends of the follicle by the growing summer coat. While effective, shedding blades need to be used with extreme caution. “You can tear a horse’s skin if you get overly enthusiastic,” says Susan Harris, author of Grooming to Win.
Another use for shedding blades is scraping through encrusted mud. “I have a Clydesdale cross that will come in from the field with literally an inch of dried mud just caked onto this winter coat,” says Harris. “I’ll use the shedding blade to break up the crust.” Shedding blades come in one or two-blade varieties with either leather or plastic handles.
A less common, but equally effective shedding tool for horses is the scotch comb, also known as a curling comb. Used primarily for grooming dairy cows, these metal t-shaped combs with wooden handles resemble miniature thatch rakes. “The teeth are set very closely together,” explains Harris. “You set the comb on the horse and pull it with long, smooth strokes. It pulls loose hair and debris out as it moves along. I find them particularly useful for shedding out the rump.”
Metal shedding tools cannot be used safely or comfortably on bony portions of the horse’s body, or delicate areas such as the head and legs. In these cases, a fiberglass block, often called a “slick block” can get the shedding job done safely. “The blocks are smaller, so they can easily work around tendons and joints and they tend to be easier on the skin,” says Harris. “They are also great for pulling off bot eggs.”