Keeping Summer Coats Shining! by Dr Nerida Richards
Every horse owner would agree that seeing their horse with a brilliantly shiny summer coat is a satisfying feeling. And aside from looking great, a shiny coat also indicates the horse is healthy inside and out. Summer can often present some challenges to maintaining coat shine, with ‘sun bleaching’ being a common problem for many horse owners. Good news is, there are simple things you can do to keep your horse shining.
Phoenix (4 YO spelling racehorse by Umatilla/Idealina
1. Feed a balanced diet
While sun bleaching and dull, faded coats are often thought to be caused by prolonged exposure to sunlight during summer, in most cases these dull, bleached out coats are the result of a nutrient deficiency in a horse’s diet. Many nutrients including protein, copper, zinc and vitamin A have a direct impact on the health and shine of your horse’s coat. These nutrients as well as all of the other essential nutrients must be provided in your horse’s diet at levels that will meet your horse’s requirements in order for their coat to remain healthy.
If you live in an area where copper and zinc are deficient in pasture (which is most areas in Australia) you need to pay particular attention to these minerals in your horse’s diet. Likewise if you live in coastal or sub-tropical areas where the main pasture species are kikuyu and other sub-tropical pasture species, protein quality may be an issue in your horse’s diet and may cause dull, dry coats.
2. Add oils to the diet
Oils are needed by your horse for to keep their skin healthy and coat shiny and in good condition. If your horse’s diet is low in oils, and in particular, low in the essential fatty acids omega 3 and omega 6 it will probably mean your horses coat will be dull and their skin unhealthy and in severe cases, susceptible to infection. Adding as little as 1/8 to ¼ of a cup of oil to the diet will help bring shine to the coat and keep the skin healthy.
There are various ways you can add oils to the diet including:
1. Feed oilseeds such as sunflower seeds, full fat soybean, or boiled flax/linseed.
2. Add liquid oils to the diet. Almost all oils will have a positive impact on coat shine. Cold pressed canola or soybean oil or any oils that have been fortified with omega fatty acids are particularly effective. Rice bran oil and coconut oil are also good for coats.
3. If you use a complete feed, choose one that contains ingredients like full fat soybean, sunflower seeds and cold pressed oils.
3. Feed feeds known to darken coats
If you want to darken your horse’s coat, feed feeds that contain ingredients that have been observed to darken coats. It is well known that feeds containing molasses will make a palomino’s coat go ‘smutty’ or dark in colour, while it will bring a deep liver colour out in chestnuts that have the genetics to go that colour. So if you are after a darker coat, try feeding molasses (¼ to 1 cup per day). Be careful not to feed molasses to horses prone to laminitis.
Products containing a compound known as gamma oryzanol are also often reported to darken coats. Gamma oryzanol is found naturally in rice bran and can also be purchased in a purified form.
4. Worm regularly
Nothing will take the shine off a horses coat faster than a heavy worm burden so it is important that you keep your horses treated for worms. Be responsible with your worming regime, conduct faecal eggs counts to determine when your horses need worming (see http://www.wormwatch.com.au/wormwatch/Welcome.html) and follow a strict wormer rotation program to help prevent drug resistance in worms.
Brushing regularly will remove dead hair from your horses coat and will stimulate the horse’s sebaceous glands to release sebum, the oil that makes individual hairs lie flat and shine.
You don’t have to rug your horse for it to stay shiny all summer, however a rug will certainly help to keep the coat clean and will also, like brushing, provide stimulation for the sebaceous glands to release sebum. Rugging during summer also helps to protect the horse from biting insects like midges and mosquitoes which can cause allergic reactions and affect skin health during summer.
Make sure the diet is right!
It can’t be stressed enough how important a good, nutritionally balanced diet is for achieving a shiny coat. You can feed special ingredients, worm, brush and rug all you like to try and get a horse’s coat to shine, but if there is something missing from the diet doing all of those things is like trying to build a house without first laying the foundations – it just won’t work!
So the first step to a dazzling coat is making sure all of your horse’s nutrient requirements are met. If you build on this foundation, adding the extra touches for an amazing coat shine is simple.
Antaris (Arabian Warmblood Dressage Gelding by Prince Noir)
This article is sponsored by Pryde’s EasiFeeds. For a coat supplement that is effective and economical, try Pryde’s Polished. Polished contains full fat soybean for quality protein and oils, cold pressed canola oil with essential omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, as well as organic copper and zinc, methionine and biotin to improve skin health and coat shine. For more information about Polished or for help developing a diet to improve your horse’s coat shine. please contact Pryde’s Pty Ltd on 1300 732 267 or go to their website www.prydes.com.au.