taking care of feathers

Grooming your horse’s feathers!


Long feathers can be challenging


  • Feathered legs require some extra care, but it’s not too complicated. The most important things to consider involve how to monitor all of the things that feathers hide: tendons and ligaments, lower leg skin, the coronary band.


  • When there is a lot of feathering on your horse’s legs, it’s more challenging to do a daily leg inspection. Heat and swelling from a tendon injury can be hidden, and you might not see new wind puffs.


  • You may also face a bit of a challenge delivering ice therapy to your horse’s legs, in which case I suggest wetting the leg and feathers to help the cold goodness reach its target.


feathered legs on gypsy vanner horse



  • The hair around the pasterns and fetlocks is also a great way for scratches to remain partially hidden. The extra feather hair can retain moisture on the skin, making skin issues more likely. It’s also harder to apply medications through all of that hair.


  • The top of your horse’s hoof is also covered a bit. Be sure to lift the hair and inspect the coronary band and heel bulbs daily. This is areas are the first to show cuts, scrapes, and quarter cracks. You can sometimes prevent some quarter cracks from traveling down the hoof if you can catch it when it’s just on top of the coronary band.


clipped feathers on horse in England

This horse, standing guard at Buckingham Palace, has his feathers trimmed. This makes grooming a little easier. If it’s good enough for the Queen…


Tips for grooming feathers


  • Your horse should be on a well-balanced diet to maintain some healthy hair-growing habits.


  • Clean and protect the hair with a gentle shampoo and your choice of detanglers. This will help to repel stains and keep knots out of the feathers. You may be experimenting with some products, as residues can be irritating and attractive to dirt.


  • Feathered legs tend to have lots of extraneous, elephant-hair stragglers that grow up the legs and over the knees and hocks, front and back. These spikey hairs can be trimmed with your clippers used in the SAME direction as the hair growth to tidy up the legs. This presents a much nicer and cleaner show picture. ***Don’t clip the feathers – just remove the errant hairs above the knees and hocks.***


  • If you do want to tidy up smaller feathers and the fetlock in general, the video below has some tips for you. You can tidy a little, or a lot. It’s absolutely up to you!


  • You may need to comb your horse’s feathers daily to prevent and address tangles. Any bad tangles or burrs or stickers in the feathers can be removed by adding a grooming oil and working the knots out gently.


thick feathers on a freisian horse

This Friesian has thick feathers that cover part of his hoof and most of his fetlock and tendons.