Feathery Feathers

As I was driving out of the yard last week I saw a livery come back from the hack on her Mum`s Dales pony. He is jet black, and gleams like polished ebony. But what caught my eye was the fact that his feathers were as immaculate as when he left the yard; the air flowing through them as he marched into the yard.

It`s pretty incredible, I thought. That a) he comes back from the hack as clean as when he went out – I think back to my last hack where I found clumps of mud under my saddle flaps. And b) that even in winter, this pony had freshly combed feathers that were entirely mud free – I think back to the three washes Otis`s legs had to have this weekend in order to be deemed presentable at our dressage competition.

The next day I asked what her secret was…

Pig oil! This owner prefers caring for her pony than riding him, so spends a lot of time grooming him every day – which you can see by the elbow grease in his coat – but also regularly brushes pig oil into his feathers so that they don`t get so tangled up, and also mud slides straight off them. She also uses the oil in his mane and tail, and I have heard that putting it in the mane helps prevent the rugs rubbing it out. A tail brush, akin to a human hair brush, is also a useful addition to the grooming kit.

I said she was welcome to groom mine at any time, as they always have dirt behind their ears.

This made me think about feathers and horses, and how much do I actually like them. On thoroughbreds and fine horses or ponies, or even Warmbloods or Cleveland Bays, I prefer the teeny curls around the ergot to be cut off and the back of the cannon bone accentuated by cutting any long hairs. I wouldn`t clip these sorts of feathers as there is so little of them they need to be layered into the normal coat.

On native horses I much prefer to see the feather, but wouldn`t object to the hair down the cannon bone being layered too, especially in the case of Otis, who has curly sticky-out feathers from his hocks down! With the very hairy critters I love the look of the feathers swishing as they trot, like girls with long hair running into the wind. They do take a lot of looking after though, so I can see why some people clip their legs off. But then I like to see the rest of the body match the legs – clipped legs means hogged mane in my books. And of course, if you clip the legs you need to keep them clipped as stubbly, half grown back feather is just as unsightly!

Perhaps it would just be easier to have this livery owner groom my horse every day?!


10 thoughts on “Feathery Feathers

  1. Charlie Johnson (The Tack Box) March 10, 2015 / 12:27 pm

    Pig oil is my secret weapon in winter!! I clip my TB to his fetlock then apply the pig oil from the hock down for really bad days, or just from the fetlock if the weather is better. It saves me worrying about mud fever as well as making grooming far easier. He is a total mud monster and I’ve even come to using Mane & Tail for his tummy, chin and ears, so the mud just flicks off! Great stuff 🙂

  2. kshai1715 March 10, 2015 / 2:29 pm

    WOW! That pony is stunning! I have never heard of pig oil. I don’t have any feathery critters, either, though. Luckily, because they live in a mud lot.

    • therubbercurrycomb March 10, 2015 / 9:01 pm

      I think pig oil is useful for winter, regardless of feathers though for helping repel mud, so it’s probably a useful addition to the grooming kit 😉

      • kshai1715 March 11, 2015 / 4:41 pm

        I’ll have to look for it. We certainly have mud. I’ve never heard of it. I assume it’s available in the US.

  3. Melinda C March 10, 2015 / 8:58 pm

    Thanks for the tip! I’ve never heard of pig oil. Btw, the horse and his feathers are gorgeous!!

    • therubbercurrycomb March 10, 2015 / 9:00 pm

      I know, he is isn’t he! I borrowed him off google though as he best illustrated my points … Unlike my mud monsters!

  4. Becky March 11, 2015 / 5:15 pm

    Oh gosh. Don’t look at my blog tomorrow…

  5. therubbercurrycomb January 15, 2018 / 7:28 pm

    Reblogged this on The Rubber Curry Comb and commented:

    It’s the time of year when mud fever is at the top of everyone’s mind. Some people say that white legs are more prone to mud fever than dark legs. However, I know someone who’s managed to keep mud fever at bay from her coloured filly with white legs, and I know dark legged horses who are plagued by it.
    There are a number of factors which I think helps prevent the onset of mud fever.
    1) having a little bit of feathers. Yes heavy feathers can be cumbersome and difficult to keep clean, as well as playing host to mites, but I tend to feel that they are there for a reason and are nature’s way of protecting the legs. If I had a hairy legged horse I think I’d clip them in September/October and then leave them to grow over the winter before reclipping in the spring so that the legs have some protection but the hair is a manageable length.
    2) don’t over wash the legs. I like to leave the mud to dry naturally and brush it off, giving them a thorough wash once a week and drying them with a towel. Repeatedly washing the leg softens the skin and makes them more susceptible to letting bacteria enter the area and develop into mud fever.
    3) coat the legs in pig oil, or baby oil even, which will prevent mud sticking to the legs. It’s really interesting to see the effects of oil on the legs. For example, you can see on Phoenix’s legs that where the oil has been applied from the knee/hock down her cannon bones are sparkling clean and only her pasterns are muddy, but the mud is less thick and brushes off far more easily than if no oil was applied. Applying the oil every few days will cause it to build up on the legs which will help keep the legs clean and mud free.

  6. Jen January 16, 2018 / 2:36 am

    What’s mud fever?

    • therubbercurrycomb January 16, 2018 / 8:32 am

      😮 you must be from a hot country – I’m very jealous you don’t have mud fever. It’s when bacteria enter the leg through a cut or just weak skin,and causes the legs to swell and large scabs to form. The bacteria likes wet and warm conditions, hence why it’s called mud fever although it has been known to occur in mid summer too, it’s far more unlikely. It can be a nightmare to treat 😣 so prevention is better than cure, but there are lots of arguments as to the best method of prevention.

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