Last Updated on February 25, 2022 by Allison Price
Get a Grooming Program to help you achieve a gleam
Ringo, Dianne Welde’s gelding looks almost like he’s about to enter the show ring. His face is blazed and his four stockings are all bright white. Welde can see his reflection in his hair and his tail are shining and tangle-free. Welde credits Ringo’s sparkle to his diet, which includes high-quality hay and good pasture. Welde also recommends quality feed that gives Ringo some calories from fat. She doesn’t forget to mention that Ringo also receives regular grooming, lots of it.
“Officially, I groom him before every ride. But even on days that I’m not riding him, I give him “a spa day”, ” said Welde, a Western- and English dressage rider from Parrish in Florida. “I just want my hands on the horse to check it out, because you never know what you might find.”
Susan L. White DVM, Dipl., agrees that Welde’s logic was spot-on. ACVIM, Josiah Meigs Emeritus Professor Emeritus at the University of Georgia’s Department of Large Animal Medicine in Athens. White said that it takes a lot of grooming to make a coat shine. The secret to shining, as with all healthy hair and skin, is caring for the underside.
Feed the Sheen
White says that a healthy and shiny coat begins with a healthy diet. This means getting fat, vitamins A, D and E.
Horses need vitaminD in order to absorb calcium and maintain strong bones. Horses also get vitamin D from the sun, just like humans. Horses, however, must get their vitamin D from the food they eat. Fortified milk is a common way for humans to obtain additional vitamin D. Vitamin A is essential for horses’ skin health and night vision. It helps them mount an immune response against infection. Vitamin E, which horses receive from fresh forage, is also an antioxidant. Both vitamins D as well as E are fat-soluble which means they can be absorbed through dietary fats in the body.
Healthy, shiny hair starts with a healthy diet. This means getting fat, vitamins A, D and E.Dr. Susan L. White “Fats help horses processes vitamins,” Lori Warren, PhD., PAS, equine nutritionist, is an associate professor at the University of Florida’s Department of Animal Sciences in Gainesville. Horses may require oil or flaxseed to supplement their diets.
Warren states that fish oil , flaxseeds , and flaxseeds contain omega-3 fatty acid which are immune-boosting and antiinflammatory. Researchers believe that corn oil is an omega-6 fat, which can cause inflammation. The addition of omega-3s to horses’ diets promotes healthy skin. It can also help boost immunity and fight a range of inflammatory conditions.
Owners who wish to promote a shiny, healthy coat should make sure their horses get enough nutrients. Owners often believe that adding nutrients to their horses’ diets is the best way to help them. This is not always true.
Warren believes supplements should be used to correct vitamin and mineral deficiencies in horses’ diets. She points out that many supplements don’t provide enough vitamins or minerals to make a significant difference.
She says, “So we see a lot supplementation because owners want to do right by their animals.” “There is a psychological component of the owners that drives them to buy a variety supplements, without necessarily confirming their need.”
Warren advises owners to look at the label to determine if the supplement is giving their horse the vitamins and minerals that he needs to have a healthy coat.
Warren states that all labels can be found online and are easy to locate. Warren says that it is important to get assistance from someone who understands the meaning of the ingredients when studying labels.
Groom with Gusto
Good nutrition is an important aspect of achieving a shiny coat.
White says, “I can show you horses that are going straight into the (horseshow) ring or a horse at trailhead that’s not getting any special (feed additives) and it’s no different; they both have shiny coats.” They both receive routine grooming.
To maintain luster, a regular grooming routine is essential. It also allows you to spot problems, much like Ringo and Welde.
White says that daily grooming allows you to inspect your horse. You can check for signs such as cuts, abrasions and minor lacerations.
White suggests that owners take the time to groom their horses. She recommends checking for signs of heat, injury and pathtern dermatitis skin inflammation, as well as scabs and scars. She suggests that owners inspect their ears for mites or gnats, and examine the whole body for any patches of hair loss. According to Liv Gude (a Virginia-based professional groom), coat condition can be a sign of deeper health issues that may not be visible to the owner. Pro Equine Grooms is a national association dedicated for the education and promotion professional horse grooms.
Gude explains that metabolic conditions like Cushing’s disease, for example, can impact hair growth, curl and thickness.
She says that a healthy horse’s coat is naturally shiny due to the oils found in his skin.
She says that oil is released by the sebaceous glands, just like in humans. When you continue to groom your hair, oils will naturally move down at the natural ends of the hair.
Because she can feel the horse’s back and neck while giving him a massage, she likes to use a curry mitt to remove the dirt.
If your curry comb has gentle nubs that are densely spaced, avoid using it on horses’ sensitive areas, such as their legs and heads.
Use a stiff Dandy to massage the hair shafts with oils.
White says, “Brush in an arched motion and flick your wrist like you’re rubbing dirt off.”
Similar to the curry comb you should start at the horse’s neck, and work your way across his body. Use a soft brush to gently scrub sensitive areas, such as the horse’s legs and face.
To keep your grooming brushes in good condition and prevent accidental transmission of pathogens, wash them regularly.
First, use a comb to remove any accumulated hairs from the bristles and base. Next, wash the bristles in water with dish soap. Then you can separate the bristles and scrub them to get rid of body oil and dead skin. White also suggests that you could put them in the (otherwise empty!) dishwasher.
To make the horse’s skin shine, you must apply fake oil to it after you have overbathed. It’s not about bathing; it’s all about elbow grease.Professional Groom Liv Gude
A bathing and/or clipping is another way to maintain a healthy coat and keep horses comfortable.
Gude claims that horses shed their hair differently depending on how much daylight they have.
Gude states that many people believe horses’ hair growth is dependent on the weather. That is, if the temperature is cold, the horse will grow hair. The amount of sunlight is what determines how much hair grows. It takes 16 hours for this cycle to occur.
Horses with thick coats may need to be clipped so that they don’t get too hot when being worked. Gude says that although some owners feel that their horse’s coat is dulled by clipping, this effect is temporary.
The dead ends of the horse’s hair can be removed just like a haircut. The natural living ends of a horse’s hair can be exposed by cutting their hair from 1 to 2 mm.
Gude states that he will look dull. “But oils will decrease in their natural ends when you groom them.” The sun is another source of dullness.
It can be difficult to keep a horse clean, especially if they spend a lot of time in a paddock. Most horses will need to be bathed sooner or later.
She recommends rinsing horses that are sweating in warm weather, and sponging them or toweling them when they’re cold. However, she cautions against excessive bathing.
Gude says that over-bathing can cause the horse’s skin to become shiny. To make it shine, you need to apply fake oil to its skin. It’s not about bathing; it’s about elbow grease.
White suggests that owners use shampoos, conditioners and detangling products with a pH balance for horses when a full-blown bath would be appropriate.
She says that there are many on the market. “And if your horse is suffering from an infection like rainrot or ringsworm, you will need to wash the area with mild soap like baby shampoo.
White advises that shampoo should not be applied directly to the horse’s skin. Make the shampoo sudsy by diluting it with warm water. Then wash your horse with a sponge, cloth or bathing mitt. Rinse well.
White states, “You don’t want to leave any residue.” This can cause skin irritation and itching for the horse. The best sheen and “bloom” can be prevented by residue.
Most owners give their horses a quick grooming prior to riding. White believes that a longer grooming session will yield the best results.
She says, “You should take your time and do it when you aren’t in a rush.” “Horses are creatures that have a habit of grooming so if it’s pleasant they will enjoy it.”
Welde agrees. She says that Ringo enjoys “spa days” and is a true pleasure. He clearly enjoys the attention.”
Your horse’s coat will envy any barn if you give him proper nutrition and pay attention to his health.
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!