First impressions are important in the horse industry whether you show, train or board horses. When potential clients enter your barn or when a judge sees a horse in your care enter the ring, a glossy coat and sparkling white markings stand out and show that you pay attention to details.
Although there are hundreds of products promising to create shiny coats, good nutrition creates a glow from within. But this isn’t a “quick fix” for a coat that’s dull, as it may take several months for good nutrition to result in healthy hair. If you have a horse come into your barn with dull or coarse hair, start a good feeding program right away. The trickiest problem may be getting the correct balance of vitamins, minerals and calories, especially for an easy keeper, says Dr. Ilka Wagner of Hearne, Tex. “This type of horse may get very limited grain and may not get a correct balance. In this situation I recommend a nutritional supplement that provides a daily supply of the vitamins, minerals and amino acids the horse needs with few additional calories.”
Another consideration when building healthy coats from within is the amount of fat in the diet. Dr. Wagner comments, “Sometimes diets higher in fat can improve hair coat in horses with coarse or dull coats, so this might be a consideration as well.” Some feeds have high fat content. For those that don’t, flax seed or corn oil added to the diet can increase the amount of fat.
Granger Durdin’s family owns Magic Moments Stable in Houston, Tex., and she shows Arabians and half-Arabians across the country. She adds that a good deworming program is essential. Her veterinarian recommends a blood deworming regimen for all new horses she acquires. She gives the horse two tubes of anthelside a day for five days (discuss any deworming regimen with your veterinarian before administering). Granger feels that “nothing you put in their feed or on their coat will work all that well if they have worms.”
Elbow grease is another essential ingredient for a great coat, but like good nutrition, it takes months to pay off. Leah Williams, a professional groom in Paramount, Calif., curries horses in her care daily. It creates a healthy shine by removing dirt and bringing natural oils to the surface. Although it may be tempting to use a metal shedding blade during the spring to quickly remove excess hair, pick up a rubber curry comb instead. The metal blade causes damage to hair that the rubber curry does not.
Williams also cautions against over-bathing. Hosing a hot horse off after a ride helps him cool down and removes sweat that can dull the coat, but frequent baths with shampoo can break down the natural oils in the coat and leave the skin dry and flaky.
Protecting the Coat
Once you’ve created a healthy coat from within, you want to protect that coat from damage. While horses need turnout time to blow off steam and stretch their legs, the summer sun can be one of the biggest enemies of a healthy coat. Not only does it bleach hair, but the sun also dries out the coat and leaves it brittle and coarse. But instead of keeping show horses locked inside, turning out horses at night offers a great solution. Another option is to use hoods and lightweight sheets to protect their hair during daytime turnout.