Grooming Tip: Horse Leg “Feathers”

Chances are, your horse either has “feathers” year-round, or only during the coldest winters (depending on the breed).

The fact that I left these “hairy heels” unclipped used to send my trainer over the edge. And with a little Irish draft in her blood, my mare sports perennial leg-hair. But feathers do serve a purpose.

First, they provide protection for the sensitive tendons and ligaments that run along the backside of the cannon bone.

And second, these long hairs (when kept clean) wick moisture away from delicate skin to prevent fungal infections including scratches and rain rot.

That said, “feathers” tend to trap grime. It’s unwise to take a curry to these sinewy and sensitive soft tissues of the leg. I’ve discovered a great trick that comes in especially handy during prime shedding and mud season (horse people call this “Spring”). And it doesn’t even require stepping foot in a tack shop.


  • Flea comb (Yes, for a dog!)

First, angle down toward the hoof and comb. Then flip the comb so that the tines face the horse’s armpit and repeat like so:


Add this to your daily grooming routine and you will be rewarded with beautifully clean, dry, fungus-free horse legs. What spring-cleaning practices have you adopted?


20 thoughts on “Grooming Tip: Horse Leg “Feathers”

  1. When we got are Cob Skye her feathers where in a right mess she had mites and sores and her feathers where matted and full of scabs, we had to remove most of them to clean and treat her, which for a completely un handled horse was a bit traumatic for her, but I’m glad to say after 6 months they are looking good, I use a metal comb and a soft brush and finish them with a bit of pig oil to condition and protect, nothing looks better than feathers flying when she is cantering 🙂

    • Oh wow, Skye is a lucky girl to have happened upon you! (And she is a beautiful girl, I might add!) I haven’t tried pig oil, but Murmer gets a spritz of marigold oil. Thanks for sharing the tips.

      • We are lucky to have found Skye, she is such a quick learner and so eager to please lol Jack on the other hand is very intouch with his inner donkey, I think any oil is good keeps the knots out and the mud loose

  2. Great tip. My lease horse has more feathers than I’ve seen on many Arabians. He’s got that thicker, curly type hair. Looks like a yak all winter! Great tip. I have a little plastic brush sort of thing that works well on his feathers. I saw a metal comb at Target that was thicker, with slightly wider placed tines. Thinking of getting that.

  3. You wouldn’t believe the trouble I have with people complaining when I left the feathers on the riding school cobs last autumn. None of them had problems with mud fever etc, but now the weathers better they all need a tidy up! People just didn’t understand that feathers served the purpose of protecting the leg

  4. I think feathers are adorable. Mud dreadlocked feathers are not! I will have to give this a try. I usually just trim and tidy them a bit with scissors/clippers but your way sounds better 🙂

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  6. Finally someone speaking in favour of feathers! Thank you so much! As I ride an Icelandichorse I have to deal with a lot of feathers (and a lot of horse friends thinking I’m not taking good care of my horsie…) – I also use a flea comb, and on warmer days Rán gets her feathers soaked in. She is living in an open stable and especially in spring tends to look like a pig sometimes 😉 But with a little bit of effort everything works just fine and perfect! 🙂

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