When it’s cold out, there are few things as snuggly as a horse’s thick, furry winter coat. But, once the days start getting longer, those horse hairs start flying everywhere, and they’re more itchy than snuggly.
One of the best bets for surviving shedding season is a portable horse vacuum. These machines are surprisingly quiet, and most horses adjust to their use easily. While a vacuum won’t replace normal grooming — especially a good, old-fashioned rubber oval curry to stimulate the skin — it will do a super job lifting hair off the horse and directly into the vacuum bag.
During early shedding season, we use a curry first to loosen more of the hair. As we reach the state where the hair is coming out in bunches, we go right to the vacuum.
Use the vacuum-like nozzle (as opposed to the curry-shaped attachments that come with the machines), and run it over all non-bony parts of the horse’s body. This nozzle does a much better job than a curry attachment. We found the curry pieces are made of hard plastic, bulky and difficult to hold.
Most portable vacuums come with a shoulder strap, but we think they’re too awkward to use that way. It’s easier to set the vacuum on the ground. Note: You do need to introduce your horse slowly to the noise, vacuum moving on the floor and feel of the suction and nozzle on his coat.
Our favorite portable vacuums are the Rapid Groom (www.electriccleaner.com, 800-456-9821, $365) and the MetroVac Pro 3AG (www.metrovacworld.com, 800-822-1602, $249).
The Rapid Groom has a two-speed motor, steel body, wheels and a shoulder strap. It has a 10’ hose and a 20’ power code and comes with disposable dirt bags (which we find easier than dumping a vacuum full of dirt and hair). It also includes a two-prong outlet on the machine itself, in case you need to plug in a pair of clippers as well. It’s simple to use, and sucks dirt out of the coat in one easy pass, using its serrated nozzle on high.
The MetroVac Pro 3AG comes with two 6.5’ flexible hoses. It vacuums and blows, in case you want it to double as a blower for cleaning barn aisles. It has wheels, a shoulder strap and a steel body. It also uses disposable dirt bags. We used both hoses hooked together and the small, flared nozzle. This vacuum also sucked dirt from deep down on the horse’s skin in one easy pass.
Vacuums are great tools all year round getting down deep under the horse’s hair and lifting out that stubborn dirt and dust. We also use them to clean off blankets (increasing the time between launderings), get down cobwebs, and clean up little barn messes like spilled grain that might attract rodents. With maintenance, these devices can last a decade or more.