A few weeks ago, when I collected Prince from the field for a workout, I noticed something which should’ve been apparent before: his hooves had disappeared. As an Irish cob, Prince is always going to be a hairy horse, but as he hasn’t been clipped, ridden or, really properly groomed this winter and lives out full-time without a rug… well, things have got a little out of control. Prince’s feathers resembled tentacles, I described him as part-horse part-Kraken, and decided that something had to be done – particularly because the podiatrist was due to visit.
Then the outside tap broke, which meant that we had no outdoor water supply at the yard for a week or so, meaning that I couldn’t wash Prince’s legs, so the trim got put on hold, and I found myself upside down, scissors in hand just an hour prior to the podiatrist’s arrival. Prince was stabled overnight the previous day, so that his legs would dry… except there was so much matted hair that the underneath didn’t quite dry. There I was, trying to dry, brush and figure out how to trim some serious dreadlocks, but it had to be done.
I’ve never given a horse a hair cut before: when I had a pony on loan, he wasn’t clipped, and if any trimming needed doing, my instructor did it (I don’t think I was deemed quite responsible enough at the age of ten). I asked my friend for some rough guidance as to how far I should go, seeing as I couldn’t remember what Prince should look like, but we ultimately decided that whatever had to go had to go, and if I went too far or messed it up, the hair would grow back.
I set to work, dearly wishing we’d got our act together and built a podium already, so that I could stand Prince on it and not be pretty much upside down with a pair of kitchen scissors in hand trying to do a rush job. I was, however, finding a new level of gratitude for horsemanship training meaning that Prince and his friends generally don’t care where you put yourself in relation to them, as long as you tell them first. I pretty much broke the BHS rules on this one: I still didn’t sit or kneel on the floor, but I did put a mounting block right by Prince’s hooves and sat exactly in the firing line whilst I painstakingly trimmed his feathers.
It wasn’t easy, because the hair was so thick and damp, and it doesn’t look pretty – I decided it’s a very good job that I have no designs on being a groom – but I managed to reveal Prince’s hooves in time for the podiatrist’s arrival. Part way round, I figured out a semi-decent technique for trimming layers in, so that it looked a little less like I’d used a bowl to guide my cutting, but by the time I got to hoof number four, I was a bit tired, suffering from blood rushing to my head and clock-watching with time ticking away. Prince was blissfully unaware, munching on a haynet and without too much of a care that he now looks like a horse who’s been given the kind of hair cut a three-year old child might give to one of their dolls.
The finer points of grooming are clearly on the long list of skills I need to improve… I suspect there are a few more dodgy equine hair cuts in my future, but hopefully not at a critical point, such as prior to a competition or social engagement. Sorry, Prince – I’ll try better next time!