A horse’s coat not only protects him against external influences, but it can also tell us a lot about his general health. A smooth, shiny and flush coat is the picture of a healthy horse. This is not always the case with all horses, but what can you do to make it so?
A horse’s entire body is covered with hair. It is a coat of small, thin hairs that grow out of the skin. Each hair is attached to the skin with a hair follicle. There are also sebaceous glands in these follicles, which ensure the production of sebum (tallow). Tallow gives the hair a greasy layer, which lends the coat an insulating effect. If the horse is cold, a tiny muscle attached to the hair follicle ensures that the hair is set upright. This creates an additional insulating layer of air in the coat.
Underlying condition – There can be several reasons why a coat is not smooth and shiny. It could, for example, indicate an underlying condition or (chronic) disease. You may see the coat become dull, rough or curly. This is the case for example with PPID (Cushing’s disease), where the horse has excessive hair growth and the hair starts to curl. This is caused by a disruption of hormone secretion in the brain. There are also conditions where the coat becomes scabby or flaky, for example due to a fungal infection. Any underlying condition or illness should be treated to get a healthy coat back.
Nutrition – A dull coat can also be related to feeding and grooming. In the case of a severely underweight horse, chances are his coat is not a picture of health. In addition, a lack of essential nutrients can result in a dull, poor coat. Vitamin A, biotin, zinc, sulfur and copper in particular are important vitamins and minerals that contribute to healthy skin and fur. It is therefore important to take a good look at your feeding regimen and whether this covers all your horse’s nutritional needs.
Tip: You can add linseed oil or sunflower oil to your horse’s feed to get a nice, shiny coat.
Grooming – Daily grooming ensures that the horse’s coat stays healthy. Brushing helps remove dirt, but it also stimulates blood flow to the skin and the production of sebum. It is better not to wash the horse too frequently, as this will compromise the natural greasy layer of the coat and your horse may no longer be able to keep itself warm. If, due to circumstances (such as a skin condition or competition), you have to wash your horse, make sure you use suitable shampoo. The shampoo must easily wash out, and not degrease or irritate the skin.
Tip: Did your horse sweat? Do not let it dry in the sun, but first rinse off the sweat stains. Dried sweat can damage the hair. In winter you can let your horse dry up under a cooler and then use a soft brush to brush away the sweat stains.
Stable management can also influence the condition of a horse’s coat. For example, if horses are in a dark stable, they will shed less easily in the spring. This is because shedding is stimulated by, among other things, increasing daylight hours and warmer temperatures. If horses are turned out to a pasture or paddock every day, they will partly manage their own grooming by rolling extensively in the sand.
Is your horse’s coat not smooth, shiny and flush, but you are caring for your horse properly every day? First find out what could be the causing this. Ask your vet to check for any underlying condition or illness. If this is not the case, you could take a closer look at your feeding regimen. With the help of a nutritionist and possibly a blood test you can determine which supplements you could add to your horse’s ration.