Removing the Horse's Winter Coat circa 1900
173. Artificial removal of the coat
With good grooming, good stables and the maintenance of an equable temperature, few well-bred horses, except in old age, ought to require the artificial removal of their coat. When, however, it is requisite, there are three means by which it may be effected, namely by singeing, by clipping and by shaving. Each has its own advantages, according to circumstances.
Some horses sweat much in autumn, and are worth nothing until their coats are off. Let such be singed. Singeing cannot be begun too early, whilst clipping must not be done until the coat has fully grown and set.
The only real art in singeing is to begin early enough and to remove the fresh growth every week. Gas answers best for the operation.
Other horses are the better for being worked in autumn in clothing or with their coats on, and will be more fit at the commencement of the hunting season on account of the extra sweating so caused. Let such be clipped or shaved. The horse's coat should be fully set before it is removed by clipping.
Shaving is a very neat and effectual mode of removing the coat. Some nicety however is required in hitting off the right time for the operation, namely, about a week before the coat sets. If done sooner, the coat grows again, and the horse may require to be singed afterwards. If deferred later, he may be bare all the winter. The part of the back under the saddle should not be shaved, but clipped.
177. Hair not to be removed from the legs in rough hunting countries
In rough hunting countries it is not desirable to remove the hair from the legs of hunters, from the swell of the arm of thigh downwards. (1)
Clipping Army Horses
The thick coat, which a horse grows in winter and which keeps him warm, becomes a great drawback when hard and especially fast work is required of him during the winter months. As campaigning in winter was very much the exception among European armies up to about the end of the 18th Century, cavalry were not troubled by their troop horse's extra growth of hair. The men had harder work grooming, especially in the spring when the horse began to shed the long hair of his winter coat.
Once cavalry and artillery were expected to march and fight in the winter the problem arose of how to deal with the horse's coat, which in winter became a hindrance and caused undue fatigue. It has been stated that the idea of clipping the horse originated with officers who had served in the Crimea. It was easy enough for officers to have their hunters, often used as chargers as well, clipped, just as it was for all remounts who were serving under conditions which allowed them to be stabled and rugged if desired, but on active service it is normally impossible to stable and very difficult to carry rugs for troop horses. As already stated it was found possible to carry rugs for remounts during the final stages of the South African War of 1899 to 1902. Horses imported from Europe to South Africa grew their winter coats during the South African summer, which was a further difficulty.
It has been considered that troop horses should, if possible, be clipped, either all over or, in the case of those used mainly for slow draught, as high as the line of the traces only, the upper portion being left long. The idea of leaving a patch on the back to take the saddle unclipped it not satisfactory in the case of remounts and has not been generally used.
In 1895 Major General H. Thompson, A.V.C., reported that 'we have gone a little way by clipping the bellies and the inside of the legs from the knees and hocks upwards'. This he considered satisfactory but in Northern India the legs were left unclipped, the body being clipped and rugs issued. The officer commanding the Cavalry Depot at Canterbury had all the remounts clipped in September and blanketed on the 28th December. The saddle blanket may have been used as a rug though this was not thought to give good results, as if it got dirty it could not well be folded and put under the saddle as it was meant to be. This officer reported that during the winter of 1894-5 there were no cases of pneumonia or cold among the horses, which were stabled.
In 1908 it was considered that a troop horse should be clipped at the beginning of winter, say about November, and again about New Year.
During the first three years of the War of 1914 - 1918 all horses in the Field units serving in Army Areas were clipped throughout the winter. It was finally decided that they should be clipped up to the 15th November and not afterwards. During the last World War animals were clipped once only between the 15th September and the 1st November and not again until the winter was over.
The great saving of time and work to those in charge of horses if they can be clipped is too obvious to need stressing. (5)
(1) Horses and Stables by Lieut. General Sir F Fitzwygram, BART
Published by Longmans, Green and Co. 39 Paternoster Row, London, New York and Bombay 1901.
(5) Horses and Saddlery by Major G. Tylden, published by J. A. Allen & Company, London. 1965. (A) Original Sources: Animal Management. Aldershot Lectures 1895. Army Veterinary and Remount Services, 1939-45. Fawcett, Riding and Horsemanship, published Black 1948, p162 for the introduction of clipping after the Crimea. History of the Army Veterinary Services in the Great War. Royal Service Corps Training, 1922.