Feathering is the long hair on the lower legs of some breeds of horses and ponies. On some horses, especially draft breeds, the hair can almost cover the hooves. While nearly all horses will grow longer hair on the lower legs and back of the fetlocks at times, particularly in the winter, "feather" refers to the particularly long, luxuriant growth that is characteristic of certain breeds.
Feathering is not to be confused with fetlocks, which are small amounts of hair only at the back of the leg, right above the hoof. Feathering can usually be seen completely surrounding the hoof. They appear to be coarse like the mane or tail, but are actually soft and silky.
Feathers are only found on Draft Breeds, and even then only a few horse breeds have feathers. Feathers come in all colours, but the Clydesdale is the most common horse breed with feathers, and Clydesdales typically have white feathers.
Feathering is a characteristic trait of the Clydesdale, Shire, Friesian, and Gypsy Vanner horse breeds, as well as the Dales and Fell pony breeds. The trait may appear in crossbreds of these breeds, though to date there has been little scientific study of the trait.
The Horse Conformation Handbook by Heather Smith
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