Watching this year’s olympics, you may have been left dazzled by the beauty of some of the horses competing. Gleaming coats and perfect manes, do you wonder how on earth they manage it?
Many of us use a selection of the many excellent, topical products available to help develop equine coat sheen.
But it is also important to develop a healthy coat from the inside; think of these topical products as being the icing on the cake, but true ‘bloom’ coming from within. The horse’s diet can influence all areas of equine health, and the coat is no exception. Here are some of the key areas of nutrition that affect equine coat and skin health:
Essential fatty acids (EFAs): These fats must come from the diet, as the horse cannot produce them; fresh grass has a good fat content of 3% to 5% fat, with sixty per cent of the fatty acids in grass being omega-3s. Omega-3s help boost immunity to allergies, while omega-6 fats help fight resistance to skin infections; both help improve the condition of the coat. Flax seed oil is a good example of a feedstuff high in EFAs, and feed products containing oil are also popular. (If you are supplementing your horse’s feed with pure oil, unprocessed corn or soya oil is said to be best for coat health.)
Protein: Protein is a key element of all body tissue, which of course includes skin, hooves and cartilage. Protein helps boost skin condition and elasticity. Older horses in particular may have an extra need for protein, due to factors including their diet. Particular amino-acids (the building blocks of protein) are required to boost tissue health and help the horse utilise its dietary protein; however, animals can only make about half of these compounds naturally. The amino-acids methionine and lysine are often added to equine supplementary products.
Lecithin: Another key ingredient to look out for is Lecithin, which supplies phospholipids, major components of cell membranes within the body. Lecithin is an important ingredient for helping maintain healthy skin and coat colour, and incidentally, is said to help reduce levels of equine excitability and anxiety.
Digestive aids: A healthy equine gut promotes overall health, so make sure your horse’s diet is fibre-rich. Compounds such as yeasts and microbial feed supplements with probiotics are often used to help balance gut micro-flora, and help keep the large intestine functioning effectively. This in turn helps the horse break down food, and perform tasks such as producing vitamins and fighting immune challenges.
Vitamins and minerals: These compounds play a major part in coat health – for example, zinc deficiency may cause delayed hair growth, while copper helps maintain ‘bloom’ in a dark coat by aiding pigment production. Certain vitamins are specifically known to help boost coat health, particularly Biotin, and Vitamins A and B6. A well-balanced equine diet should include sufficient vitamins and minerals, although feed additives are widely available for horses requiring extra supplementation.
Once you have got your horse’s diet right, you will quickly see an improvement in his coat and skin health – it can take as little as a few weeks. Now your grooming will make a real difference!
Here are our top products from Horze to achieve coat bloom:
- Pharma Silky Shine. Product ID: 25622. Pharma Silky Shine is a non-silicon based, leave-in scented conditioner for tail detangling and a shiny coat. It gives moisture and a shiny look to the hair. Contains a UV-filter.
- Horze Wooden Mane & Tail Brush. Product ID: 26045. A sturdy brush perfect for the careful brushing of both the mane and tail. With a wooden back.
- Horze Wooden Grooming Set. Product ID: 26240. If you want a whole set of wooden brushes, this stylish grooming set in a nylon carry bag is for you. Includes: body brush (large), body brush (medium), dandy brush, mane and tail brush, sisal glove and towel. Pop your towel in the washing machine frequently to keep it clean.
- Washing Sponge. Product ID: 26140. Perfect for bathing your horse – a quality sponge that’s soft to the touch. Cut into smaller pieces for use around the eyes and muzzle.
- Pharma Shampoo. Product ID: 25605. 100% organic and ecological horse shampoo. Rich in protein and non-ionic tensides. Anti-static effect. Enhances the softness, volume and shine of the coat. Does not contain any perfume, colour or other artificial additives. Also suitable for grey and white horses.
Top grooming tips:
- Keep different sized sponges for different duties (eyes, muzzle, dock) and mark each one with a marker pen.
- Use a non-silicon based, leave-in conditioner for tail detangling and use your fingers to work it through the mane or tail.
- Sweat in the horse’s coat accelerates the fade, so rinse a sweaty horse before allowing him to dry off.
- Bath your horse when he needs it, but don’t overdo it – frequent shampooing may actually dull his coat and create itchiness.
- Choose an organic shampoo without perfume, colour or artificial additives, as this is kindest to skin health.
- Use sunscreen on pink equine noses – human barrier sun creams are fine.
- Keep brushes clean as you go; after every few strokes with your body brush, clean the bristles on a curry comb.