Thursday, December 3, 2009

If I had $5 for every time...


*Brego's feather, dragging the ground by 2 inches before I trimmed it level with the ground so he wouldn't step on it*

If I had $5 for every time someone says it must take me a lot of time, effort and/or money to keep up Brego's feather i would have enough money to buy myself a nice wooden Meadowbrook cart. It's horse people, usually, saying how they don't understand why anyone would want a feathered horse because they would rather DO something with their horse than spend all their time wasting it on grooming.

So I thought I would make a post explaining the expensive and time consuming process of caring for feather that I go through daily.

First: Product! My "expensive" products that I use to keep his feather and the skin under it healthy? All but one item I purchase at the dollar store for.... A DOLLAR. A bottle of the dollar store version of Listerine, tube of triple antibiotic, tube of athletes foot meds, bottle of hair conditioner. Do the math, that is $4. FOUR DOLLARS! Wow! How DO I manage to swing that kind of expense?? lol. Then I buy a gallon of mineral oil from Tractor Supply, $14. But I could just get dollar store baby oil... if I didn't hate having my horse smell like baby. Ick. The mineral oil lasts me a LONG time, though.

Next: Most days my routine is... nothing special. I run a slicker brush over his short hair to knock off mud clumps (much to his disgust) and a hair brush over any place that has long hair. Mane, tail and feather. It takes me about 4 minutes longer to do my daily groom on Brego than it takes me to do Sparrow or Mary. Dead serious. I run my hands over all three of them, head to toe. It takes longer on Brego because he is physically bigger, not because he has that feather.

If the weather is wet I use the Mouth Wash more often, just on his heels where he tends to get scurfy in wet weather. Then once the mouth wash is dry I squirt some mineral oil under the feather to protect the skin from the wet. This takes me maybe 2 minutes a foot. "SQUIRT! RUB RUB RUB! DONE! next foot!" It probably took longer to type that than it takes to do it. Then I do my normal daily grooming. Cleaning the oil off of my hands takes me longer than the actual application, lol.

Now the only time it gets to be time consuming is the rare occasion he shows signs of scratches or starts to get a little scurfy under his hair. Which, because I take the 10 minutes or less each day to check under his feather and do the wet weather treatment as needed, has only happened ONCE (and that was after i was in the hospital having a sudden unplanned gall bladder removal so was unable to do my usual care). When that happens I mix equal parts of the dollar store antibiotic cream and athletes foot cream, with about 6 parts mineral oil, and I shake it until it is fairly well blended. I make sure his skin is dry, then use a cheap dollar store mustard bottle like you would use on a picnic to squirt it under his feather onto the skin. THAT is not the time consuming part, the rubbing it in is what takes time because I am trying to make sure i didn't miss any skin AND gently work loose the crusties so the meds get all the way to the skin. Plus I do it as often as the skin loses the oily feel, which can be daily or sometimes twice a day. This lengthy process takes about 5 minutes a leg instead of 2.

Here is the thing though... I do the SAME thing with the legs of the mini horses!! I've used baby oil on them for YEARS because it keeps them from getting snowball or mud buildup on their little tiny tufts of fluff they have on the back of their legs.

Oh, the conditioner. You may have noticed i never mentioned what I do with that. I mix it half and half with the mineral oil and use it as a mane/tail/feather detangler. Especially on the ends of the tail hair during winter. To prevent snowballing.

Now sure, if you only really groom your horses once a week this daily care that I do (which, BTW, not all feathered horse owners do or need to do, even I don;t REALLY need to do this much) probably seems like I waste a lot of time on crap that is a chore instead of doing fun stuff. And if this is the way you feel than it's pretty clear a feathered breed... not for you! And that is FINE!

But i would be doing this ANYWAY, and I enjoy it. Here is a secret, sometimes I go out and run my fingers through his feather just because i like the way it feels. His front feather is as soft and silky as baby hair, his back feather is thicker and wavey. I play with Sparrows little tiny "feathers" too... because I like them. they delight me. For me caring for my horses is FUN. usually even more fun than *gasp* riding! yes, i admit it! I am more interested in hanging out with my ponies than i am in actually DOING something with them! THE HORROR!!! I DO want to be able to "do something" with them. But that is just a bonus side benefit for me. If Brego were, heaven forbid, to come up as only pasture sound and not riding sound would I be disappointed? OF COURSE! But would it prevent me from enjoying him just as much as i do now? Absolutely not! For me chilling with my ponies IS doing something.

I just spent a week mourning a pony that died three years ago who was NEVER actually sound enough for work in the entire time I owned him. When i was living here I fussed with him as much daily as i do with the ones i have now. When i wasn't living here he did just fine getting a good grooming once every two weeks (if that) instead of every day.

So yeah, it does take more time and effort to make sure the feather and the skin under it is kept in good condition, but not nearly as much as many people think... and I enjoy the care it takes. And as long as I keep shopping at the dollar store it doesn't cost me much of anything.


  1. Great Horse Blog! Please feel free to share your story on

  2. Good thoughts! I like you scratches remedies - I've used Listerine, but haven't tried the mineral oil - my mare with four white feet gets scratches from time to time.

    I'm with you about the grooming and hanging out - I actually like it better than the riding - it seems like more fun and less work.