How to Improve Your Horse’s Coat and Skin

Last Updated on October 4, 2020 by Allison Price

A healthy and shiny coat is one of the testimonies of the horse’s general wellness. That shine comes from the inside out and depends on what the horse eats.

The nutrients meet the needs that are more critical. But the remaining nutrients will be used to fulfill those of the skin, hair and hooves.

If there is a deficiency in the diet of your horse, it will often be seen first on the coat and hooves.

These are the signs that show your horse has a lack of nutritional soundness:

  • Dry, flaking skin
  • General coat dullness
  • Bleaching
  • Scruffy or thin coat
  • Slowed rate of growth

To support skin and coat condition, make sure that your horse is being fed a well-balanced diet. It should meet the specific needs for your horse’s stage of life and workload.

All skin and coat problems usually respond well to a comprehensive diet. That includes high-quality protein. With an adequate amino acid level, balanced minerals, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.


Hair is over 90 percent protein. Keratin is a specialized protein. It provides the support and outer protective layer for hair.

A dull coat or poor hair growth can be an indicator of lack of protein. But this is not common in the modern equine diet.

A lot of people assume that general protein quantity may be an issue. But this is not the case unless the horse is fed a truly low-quality of hay diet. And fed less than 2 percent of their body weight daily.

The issue is not the lack of protein in the diet. But a shortage of key amino acids like lysine and methionine. These are needed to produce all proteins in the body, including keratin. Lysine is important because it is the one that is in the least amount in the diet. And all amino acids must be present for the body to make protein. Methionine is a sulfur that contains amino acid. It is critical for skin and connective tissue health. And sulfur-containing amino acids are important for hair production. It comes from high-quality protein sources.

To improve the amino acid profile of a diet, offer a variety of hay types. Alfalfa offers an excellent amino acid profile and complements many other forages. Also, use a high-quality, comprehensive supplement with a full amino acid profile. It can boost levels of amino acids available in the diet.


Vitamin A is important for maintaining healthy skin. If your horse does not have access to pasture and is eating poor quality grass hay that is older than 6 months… vitamin A may need to be supplemented.

The B vitamin complex plays a critical role in everything biological. This includes the skin, coat and hoof health. The B vitamins necessary for skin health are biotin and pyridoxine. Biotin is needed for the health of all skin and connective tissues. While pyridoxine is also a need for the normal metabolism of protein.

Deficiency in B vitamins is sometimes seen in older horses. This can result in balding or thinning hair or as extremely dry skin or scaling.

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant. It can be deficient in horses without access to green grass and not fed a feed fortified with E vitamin. Not enough amount of vitamin E in the diet can be a contributing factor to dry skin. Also, skin infections and allergic reactions.


All minerals are important for the whole body of the horse to function. Copper, silicon and zinc are all trace minerals. They play a significant role to the skin and coat’s health. Lack in these minerals can be seen as brittle hair, dull coat, and discoloration of coat hair or manes and tails. The skin can be less resistant to infections. And may be more prone to an exaggerated inflammatory response.

Zinc is critical to skin health. Lack of zinc can manifest as dry skin, dull coat and lowered resistance to infections. Copper is important for the normal production of skin and coat pigments. Zinc and copper must be balanced. Because high levels of copper may interfere with the absorption of zinc.

Steps for Achieving Shiny Coat

We all want our horses to look so good that he becomes a head turner. Good breeding, right conformation and a strong top line are important. But a traditional hallmark of a beautiful horse is a shiny hair coat. Even horses without perfect confirmation are catchy to the eyes when they have a shiny coat.

We can’t do much about confirmation flaws. But we can control the appearance of the horse’s coat. Good nutrition shows on the outside, like the skin and coat.

1. Feeding a balanced diet

This is an important first step for your horse to have a shiny coat. A balanced diet that meets nutrient requirements. Lack of almost any nutrient can negatively affect the coat’s appearance. The most common deficiencies affecting skin and hair are protein and zinc. So, ensure that a horse’s nutrient requirements are being met.

How to Improve Your Horse’s Coat and Skin

2. Feeding extra fat

Feeding extra fat to your horse is a second step to a shiny coat. Supplementing fat to your horse’s diet has a positive effect on the hair coat. Hair is made up of protein, minerals and fatty acids. And feeding fat has been shown to alter the fatty acid composition of hair. Fatty acids are also a component of skin oils that coat each strand of hair. It gives the coat an oily protective barrier and a shiny appearance.

3. Good, old-fashioned elbow grease

This is the third step to achieving a shiny coat. Your horse needs a thorough grooming session to maximize the shine on his coat. But if you feed for the shine that comes from the inside out, the need for elbow grease will be less. You will have more time to stop and admire the gleaming coat on your horse.

Achieving Shiny Coat


The good quality of your horse’s skin and coat is an indicator of his general health and how adequate his diet is. Daily grooming is an excellent way to improve circulation. And remove loose hair and make his coat shiny. Baby oils, coat conditioners and sprays may help for a temporary shine. But there is nothing like a beautiful, shiny bloom that comes out naturally. It happens when your horse receives a variety of nutrients… to produce a naturally sleek, high-gloss coat.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!