Trimming feathers - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 09-19-2019, 02:30 PM Thread Starter
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Trimming feathers

Is there any reason NOT to trim feathers? Teddy gets a little feathered in the winter. Even in the summer, with no feathers, he got pretty bad scratches. I'm thinking the feathers would make it worse.

Do they serve any real purpose? I want to trim them, but part of me feels like horses wouldn't have them if there weren't some reason for it...
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post #2 of 14 Old 09-19-2019, 02:47 PM
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I'll be interested if anyone has a reason to not trim.

My friends who have horses like this (cobs and large drafts) do trim and haven't reported negative effects
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post #3 of 14 Old 09-19-2019, 03:17 PM
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The purpose is to protect lower legs. Many breeds, such as the Mountain and Moorlands, evolved in areas where they needed thicker coats against the cold and wet, and protection from extremely rough vegetation; others were bred to have thicker feathers for protection when working in the furrows and around the farm.

Problems arise when we breed for extra feathers as it looks flashy and/or they're kept in warm, humid countries.

I've worked with feathered breeds including Highlands, Clydesdales and Vanners as well as crosses, and very rarely did they have their feathers removed, usually for competing and hunting, but I don't remember having problems with mites or mud fever.
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post #4 of 14 Old 09-19-2019, 03:20 PM
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I have Walking Horses and what little feathers they get, is trimmed back to almost the skin in the warm months. When I cut the fetlock hair, then I have to cut the ergots off because I can now see them, lollol

And I'll raise you one on trimming feathers:)

In the warm/humid months, I take the small clippers to their hooves and shave the hair down to almost to the skin. I will start at the heel bulb and shave clear up to the ergot.

I also keep the hair around the coronary bands clipped. Partly for neatness, partly so the farrier can have an accurate eye as to what she is looking at:)

We have mild winters and thankfully very rarely see mud so I mostly let everything grow during the winter. I have been known to take a charge on the fetlock hair in the winter, on the scratches prone horse:)
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post #5 of 14 Old 09-19-2019, 03:21 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Caledonian View Post
The purpose is to protect lower legs. Many breeds, such as the Mountain and Moorlands, evolved in areas where they needed thicker coats against the cold and wet, and protection from extremely rough vegetation; others were bred to have thicker feathers for protection when working in the furrows and around the farm.
OK, so that makes sense to me, but... even feathers that totally cover the hooves? Teddy's aren't that extreme, but I've seen a lot of horses like that. Surely THOSE aren't doing any additional protecting?

I may end up playing it by ear. He got scratches during the spring / summer, but I don't remember him being too bad last year. But their pasture situation has changed for the worse and it's going to be really muddy if it ever rains. He is a mud magnet.
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post #6 of 14 Old 09-19-2019, 03:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ACinATX View Post
OK, so that makes sense to me, but... even feathers that totally cover the hooves? Teddy's aren't that extreme, but I've seen a lot of horses like that. Surely THOSE aren't doing any additional protecting?

I may end up playing it by ear. He got scratches during the spring / summer, but I don't remember him being too bad last year. But their pasture situation has changed for the worse and it's going to be really muddy if it ever rains. He is a mud magnet.

Feathers over hoofs was added protection against knocks or getting rid of water running down their legs. Most today are excessive and for show.

I used to wait and see as well with those who had very light feathering.
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Last edited by Caledonian; 09-19-2019 at 03:45 PM.
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post #7 of 14 Old 09-19-2019, 07:23 PM
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My mare is half Shire, and gets really feathery. I've never seen a reason to -not- trim. But I don't trim them often - only once in a while so that I can see her whole hoof for a trim and make sure there's no flaring. (Obviously I'm not just counting 'feathers' as what's on the back of the lower leg and pastern, but all the way around the leg.) One thing I like about feathers in the wintertime is that they are thick enough to keep her hooves dryer - they keep moisture and mud from reaching the skin. If I wipe the mud away and brush them, the underlying layers of hair are dry, and I can clearly see clean skin underneath. Even the cuticle stays fairly dry, where it might otherwise have gotten crumbly/squishy/mushy.

In regard to the concern about scratches (fungal infection of lower leg skin): I don't believe that clipping or not will dictate whether your horse gets scratches or not, as it's not an issue with an aerobic vs anaerobic environment. It's an issue with what's in the soil and activation of infection in a damp/humid environment. Before the drought (~2006-2012), my pasture and the surrounding 7 acres (which used to be home to 7 to 9 different horses) always endured a wet, muddy winter. But scratches was unheard of. With the weather changes in the last 5-6 years, rainfall dropped 90-95%! So we have humidity and warmth, and I've noticed mushrooms popping up everywhere they can... even in areas that get a lot of sun. I didn't think much of it at the time, until 2 years ago. It was bone dry and hot outside, and my mare would not stop running around in her pasture about *something*. From what I can tell, she got excited about something, ran around in the hot weather, popped a blood vessel from doing that, smelled the blood and ran around more. I treated the nose, then hosed her down to cool off...decided to turn that into bath time. Dried her off well afterwards - and I know I dried her legs well, she's got feathers! - and sores were present 1 week later. You bet I was very surprised - I'd never actually seen scratches before, and when I learned what it was I said "Oh you've got to be kidding me!" It was literally 85 degrees outside in an open, dusty, sun-soaked pasture...and one bath set off infection. Apparently some fungus can live in heat up to ~104 degrees F.

So if your environmental conditions are supporting fungal spores, hair thickness seems to not matter much. Short hair likely makes it easier for infection to start, and feathers keep the environment dark and insulated if spores reach the skin. So better than clipping is this: Treating for scratches before scabs start, keeping the leg dry (wrap, etc.) if it looks like the weather will be bad, and keeping your horse out of the mud. To treat early, I'd stay away from bathing (via my story), but rather use medicated spray (Krudbuster, Vetericyn gel, or Bannix) to really soak the area, even a little bit above where scratches might set in. Then massage it in well, wrap the lower leg, and repeat daily for a few days, at least. You can also help bolster your horse's immune system through diet - Vitamin C.

When my mare got scratches, I also did this on the day I discovered it: Soaked 50-50 mixture of Triodine with warm water in a clear leg soaking bag, massaged the area where the scratches was, put hoof into a PVC Davis boot, and secured the bag with a ring of duct tape around the cannon. Waited about 5 minutes for each leg. (This soak is very good for hooves and is one method to help with thrush if the hoof has already been cleaned, as Triodine kill fungus as well as bacteria. It's easy on frog tissue too! If you use triodine, though, it stains.) With the hair and skin clean and disinfected, I dried her legs with a towel and immediately started a daily treat-and-wrap. For the wrap, I used a baby diaper with the elastic cut off (I had these around for hoof abscess treatment), pressed it to the treated pastern, wrapped with vetwrap, and then secured with duct tape. (Duct tape also helped keep everything dry when the rainy weather started.)

If you want to treat your soil to get rid of or reduce fungus, there are various methods to do this. Solarization is one, and is pretty safe. Fungus likes acidic soil - if your soil is acidic, you might choose to have a lime-sulfur treatment done. (I also read that lime kills weeds by depriving them of acidic soil, and also promotes healthier pasture grass.) This type of soil treatment can be harsh - it requires a person to wear protective clothing, and the horse cannot have access to that pasture until some time after a heavy rain. Despite that, it's still commonly used.
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post #8 of 14 Old 09-19-2019, 07:31 PM Thread Starter
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I don't think it's an acidity issue. Where we are, the soil is pretty much 100% lime. The problem that I see is that there are too many horses in this pasture, and the pasture is not at all clean, potentially creating a breeding ground for all kinds of nastiness. Add in rain and it's poop soup out there. Unfortunately I don't have a lot of control over this as they are boarded and I can't find any better place that has spots for three horses.

I got a product called Mud Guard that seems to have helped over the summer, I guess I'll keep using it in the fall and winter, at least if it looks like rain.
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post #9 of 14 Old 09-19-2019, 08:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ACinATX View Post
I don't think it's an acidity issue. Where we are, the soil is pretty much 100% lime. The problem that I see is that there are too many horses in this pasture, and the pasture is not at all clean, potentially creating a breeding ground for all kinds of nastiness. Add in rain and it's poop soup out there. Unfortunately I don't have a lot of control over this as they are boarded and I can't find any better place that has spots for three horses.

I got a product called Mud Guard that seems to have helped over the summer, I guess I'll keep using it in the fall and winter, at least if it looks like rain.
I'll second this, partly for others and partly so you know you're not totally guessing. The place I left was the same way, not clean, too many horses, muddy, and skin/hoof problems came up very often.
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post #10 of 14 Old 09-19-2019, 09:02 PM
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Agree giving the pastern area a crew cut doesn't do a lot to prevent scratches but it's a huge help in drying them out before they get out of control:)

Out of four horses that lived together on this 25 acres, only one was ever prone to scratches. He is still alive and still prone but feeding him an extra 3,000 IU daily of Vitamin E has helped immensely. The breakout are minimal and dry up in short order:)

My other remaining horse has never had an issue with scratches <knock on wood>.
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