Spring is in the Hair!

Ah, springtime. A time for flowers, birds, and sunshine. The time of year when you learn just how much hair a horse produces to keep warm in the winter. If you’re not a horseowner, you may not be as familiar with this last one. Rest a sheared, I’m hear to inform you on all things horse hair. 

A Horse is a Horse… Of Course

I was sitting next to a fellow chorister in black slacks when she commented that she had forgotten to use her roller for her cat’s hair attached to her clothing. She picked at the few stray hairs. A few hours earlier, I had been covered in horse hair. Completely covered in horse hair. I had hair all over my shirt, on my face, in my mouth. I flailed to dislodge as much from me as possible. As you can see in the photos, merely touching the horse, releases the shedding hair. Using a brush or grooming tools allows an enormous amount of winter hair to come off. Usually, the hair collects around our feet, creating a canopy of keratin.

Two images: one depicts a small amount of hair shedding from a horse, the second is the same horse with a lot of hair shed after a brushing.

When I am brushing, I hope for a nice breeze to blow the clumps away. Away, blowing away, not toward me! 

I envision nesting birds collecting the tuffs of hair to line their nests. However, way too much hair is produced for even the biggest flocks of birds to use. I have to throw away a few gallons worth in volume of hair each time I groom my horse. This goes on for several days.

Piles of horse hair on the floor of a stable.

This is after a light brushing.

My mare is unable to shed her winter coat by herself. She grows a warm coat worthy of the Missouri winters of her heritage. However, due to Cushing’s Disease, she is unable to rid herself of it. So, she must be sheared like a sheep, called clipping. Of course, her groomer can’t flip her on her back and shear her like they do sheep. That would make it so much easier to do her underside. By the time she had been relieved of her dense coat, the hair filled a garbage can!

Button the horse mid-sheer, half her thick winter coat is still on.

Reuse, Recycle, Rehair!

All this loose hair made me wonder what it could be used for. A few birds would use a little, but could the mass of hair be useful to people? I’d heard about horsehair stuffing in upholstery and pillows. What a great use for this natural resource. But how was the hair cleaned? When it comes off the horse, the hair is filled with dirt, oil and other debris. So, I researched horse hair for stuffing.

That’s when I discovered, the body hair is not used for stuffing! Actually, only tail and mane hair were used. It would take a lot of tail hair to provide as much material as the body.

Horse hair was routinely used until the 19th century, because it was strong durable and didn’t compress. This type of hair was also used in weavings, strings for musical instruments, pottery, baskets and jewelry. 

But surely, there is some use for all that body hair. There is! A company called Matter of Trust uses hair to create booms and mats to soak up spilled oil. The reason we shampoo our hair is because our body oils build up on it. This characteristic works with other oils as well, such as crude oil. What a wonderful use of this “renewable” resource.

In the future, instead of being annoyed by the shedding hair, I’ll collect it and offer it for additional uses. We all must recycle and do our part for the environment! Interested in learning more about conservation? Check out my other books on the subject. 

CURTIS CURLY-TAIL COMES ALIVE ON YOU TUBE!a curly tail lizard on a bahamian beach with blue sky and ocean, sand and green plants
Elaine A Powers Author Conservationalist Biologist
Click Image to Hear “Don’t Call Me Turtle!”image of woman reading book at tucson botanical gardens
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