Horses Feathers: Everything You Need To Know

Some may be curious as to whether or not horses have feathers. It’s a strange thing to hear because horses are mammals, and mammals have fur, not feathers. However, feathers are actually a term used for horses.

Feathering or feathers is a term coined for the long hairs on a horse’s lower legs. These are not actual feathers that birds have. These are present in big draft breeds because these types of horses usually come from cold places where winter occurs most of the time. It serves as a protection to their feet as well.

Feathers can be kept long or short and it all depends on the preference of the owner.

What Are Feathers On A Horse?

The feathers on a horse are the long hairs located on their lower legs, fetlocks (ankles), and pasterns. These may extend to a horse’s hooves depending on the horse’s breed.

It’s important to note that these long hairs are not literal feathers that you see on birds. These serve as a protective covering to their leg areas against the cold, and thorny brambles and nettles.

horses feathers

What Are The Horses With Furry Feet Called?

Horses with furry feet are often referred to as draft horses. They may also be called according to their own breeds such as Clydesdale, Shire, Friesian, Gypsies, and ponies.

There are also other horses that only have light feathering or hairs on the legs that aren’t that long and these breeds include draft breeds such as the Belgian, Brabant, and Percheron.

How Do You Look After Horse Feathers?

You can look after a horse’s feathers by helping the horse maintain a healthy diet for healthy hair growth, use grooming oils, make use of gentle shampoos and detanglers, and lastly trim spiky hairs with the use of clippers.

Here’s an example of how to wash white feathers:

Take Note:

  • Use white oil (also known as pig oil) to keep the white feathers supple and maintain its color. This oil also helps with preventing mud fever and other skin problems. Generously and gently rub the oil onto the heels and feather.
  • To make application easier for the owner, utilize the use of sponges, paintbrushes, or an empty bottle for washing. It is recommended for the owner to wear gloves while applying the oil.

Products Used:

  • Washing Up Liquid
  • Soft soap
  • Soap flakes

Procedure:

  • Damp the feathers of your horse and grab the soap and work up a lather. Proceed to clean the feathers and focus on cleaning the areas around the heels.
  • Take a look at the feathers and check if they are clean and free of dirt and oil. Once the feathers are free from those, proceed to rinse the feathers and towel dry them in order to remove excess water.
  • Use wood flour or sawdust to dry the feathers.
  • Grab a large tub and place one hoof in it at a time. Make sure to dry the feathers thoroughly with wood flour using your fingers. In addition, wood flour helps in maintaining the white color of the horse’s feathers.
  • Finish off the whole process by rubbing Talc onto the feathers.

How Do You Keep Horse Feathers Clean?

Keep horse feathers clean by grooming them daily. This will save you time in the long run and help prevent skin issues from occurring. Also, make daily inspections on the feathers a habit, there is a big possibility that scratches may come unnoticed if not checked because it’s hidden beneath the feathers around the pasterns and fetlocks.

How Do You Trim A Horse’s Feathers?

Trim the feathers of a horse using tools like scissors and comb, or you can opt for clippers for a quick, safe, and convenient trim. When it comes to trimming with a clipper, trim with the direction of the hair growth and do this in a light manner.

Refrain from clipping the feathers on a horse during winter since these will protect their heels during the cold season. When it comes to wet or rainy seasons, it’s advised for owners to trim the feathers of a horse in order to prevent the slow process of healing when they get scratches.

Horses can easily get scratches when their legs are damp or wet, especially when there’s a lot of mud in pastures. Therefore, horses that have furry feet are at risk of infections and other skin issues because their long feathers are home to a lot of dirt.

Do Horse Feathers Grow Back?

Horse feathers do grow back and the time it takes for these feathers to grow back depends on the horse and the frequency of grooming. Some horses take six months before their feathers completely grow back again while others take longer than that. Then there are other instances where the feathers grow so quickly to the point that it’ll only take a few weeks.

Are Horses With Furry Feet Being Shoed?

Horses with furry feet are being shoed especially if they’re being used for pulling wagons and carts, dressage, trail riding, and other equine events. However, if horses with furry feet are not participating in any of these, then it’s not necessary for them to be shoed.

Horseshoes are being used to alleviate the pain that’s being felt from worn-out hooves. Horseshoes also slow down the process of the hooves wearing down. The other benefit of having your horse shoed is providing shock absorbency and traction. The added traction helps horses walk, run, and work. 

Since horse breeds with furry feet like the Clydesdales are being used for pulling wagons and carts, shoeing them will be necessary.

How Do Horses Get White Feathers?

Horses get and maintain white feathers when it’s being frequently washed and applied with wood flour and talc.

Horses With Feathers

Background

Almost all horses with feathers fall under the classification of draft horses. Draft horses have been heavily relied on by humans during the 19th and 20th centuries. Draft horses have been mainly used for agriculture, mining, logging, railway building, and large-scale excavations.

Needless to say, draft horses have dominated at least 90% of all labor in terms of agriculture and resource industries. Apart from labor, draft horses also competed in state fairs, international competitions, and championships from 1910 to 1930.

Almost, if not all, draft horses were imported to the United States, then there are some other breeds that originated in places like Scotland and England. One thing’s for sure, these breeds came from cold environments and this is exactly why they have long hairs or feathers on their legs. This is to protect them from the harsh winters and muddy pastures.

Types

Clydesdales

This breed originated from Scotland and is the only breed of draft horse that the locals ever liked. During the 1870s, the Clydesdales were imported to the United States and Canada in large numbers and that continued on for several years.

This breed doesn’t weigh as much as the other draft breeds such as the Belgian, Shire, and Percheron. Clydesdale stallions weigh at 1,700 to 1,900 pounds, an average height of 16 ¾ hands. The mares on the other hand weigh 1,600 to 1,800 pounds and have an average height of 16 hands.

The well-known characteristic that this horse has is its white markings and truth be told, not a lot of farmers liked this trait. On top of that, Clydesdales have too many feathers and they lack body size. To some, a horse having too many feathers is too bothersome to own due to the extra care that has to be done.

Shire

This breed originated from England and was actually bred from mixed breeding, then after some time, the Shires were bred to be pure. Shires were introduced and bred in the United States during the 1800s. The Shire is a gigantic horse with a deep, wide, and long body.

Shire stallions weigh 2,000 pounds and have a massive height of 17 hands. Mature Shire mares on the other hand are about 16 ¼ hands tall and weigh around 1,800 pounds. The characteristics of the Shire horse are having heavy bones and feathers. This breed is actually less active compared to other draft horses.

There are a few things that people seem to dislike about the horse and these are its sluggish temperament, a large amount of white that covers the entire body, and the abundance of feathers.

Clydesdales and Shires look very similar to one another but the thing that makes them clearly distinct from each other is the Shire is much more massive in size. Shires are also heavier bodied and have longer, abundant, and coarser feathers compared to Clydesdales.

Friesians

This breed originated from Friesland which is located in the northwest of Europe. These horses were already being used as early as the 1251 and the 16th century. In the past, armored knights favored and praised Friesian horses due to their strength that can carry heavy weights and quick maneuvering skills.

During the 15th and 16th centuries, they were being sought after by Paris and Spain because of their superb agility. In 1625, Friesian horses were being imported to the United States.

Friesian horses will always be black because white markings aren’t allowed to be seen in this breed. They have gorgeous, thick, long manes, tails, and feathers. The docking of its tail and trimming of the mane, legs, or tail is actually something that’s being frowned upon.

Friesian mares weigh 1,300 pounds while stallions weigh more than that. Mares are measured at 14.3 hands while stallions are measured at 15.3 hands.

Why Do They Have Feathers?

These horses have feathers because it protects them from the cold and shields them from muddy pastures, and rough brambles, nettles, and the like. Mostly all breeds that have an abundance of feathers originated from cold environments and that’s the reason why these horses have feathers in the first place.

Resources:

https://www.shire-horse.org.uk/download/Washing-Feathers_3.pdf

https://www.equus.co.uk/blogs/community/trimming-101

https://www.canr.msu.edu/ans/overview/history/draft-horses

https://extension.umd.edu/sites/extension.umd.edu/files/_docs/programs/4-H/AnimalSciences/WSU_draft_horse_handbook.pdf

https://www.pval.org/cms/lib/NY19000481/Centricity/Domain/86/horse%20book%20chapter.pdf

http://imh.org/exhibits/online/breeds-of-the-world/europe/friesian-horse/