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?!