You know, that time of year when you studiously hold your mouth closed and squint behind your sunglasses while raking mounds of hair off your horse. And have to examine your clothing as you leave the barn to decide whether you’re likely to disgust the people in line behind you if you stop for groceries on the way home.
In theory, horses start to lose their coats as soon as their endocrine systems react to an increase in the number of daylight hours. Due to other factors, including nutrition and temperature, every horse seems to have a personalized shedding schedule.
My senior citizen Ichobod grows a longish coat and always, always starts shedding in January, right after the solstice tips the balance to give us a few more seconds of daylight each day. I always worry he’ll shed off too much hair before the last cold snap, which usually hits in our desert home in mid- to late February. (Back in Colorado it seemed like he shed from January through to June; he should have been bald by then, but he never was.)
Sport, on the other hand, grows a short but very dense winter coat, which he proceeds to shed off in a couple of weeks. In Colorado he’d hold his coat until May and then slick off in what seemed like a matter of days.
Junior, whose winter nickname is “yak boy,” seems to fall in the middle. He grows a long coat –including an impressive goatlike beard – and sheds for several weeks. Which pretty much means I have shedding beasts from New Year’s to April Fools.
I know horse owners tend to moan and complain about the inconvenience of the annual hair fest. I’ve done my share of grumbling – especially on a breezy spring day when it seems no matter where I stand while grooming, I’m downwind. (And just put on sunscreen or lip balm in time for a big gust to paste fur to my face.)
But as my horses have aged, I have to say I’ve come to think of shedding as something to celebrate. As in, “Yay! The 20-something-year-old gelding is shedding this spring! No Cushings worries this year!”
So, in honor of Ichobod’s 31st spring as a fuzzy four-legged shedder, I’ll be happy to get a face-full of fur or feel itchy because my clothes have sprouted horse hair.