Top tips for nutrition and coat shine
Danielle Nielsen | 27.09.21
You’re not just feeding a healthy coat
For starters, broaden your view beyond the coat. All those perfect hair follicles are growing from healthy skin. Healthy skin indicates good overall health, so wind your focus back to the basics of a balanced diet, an effective worming routine, exercise and grooming.
Once those building blocks are down you can zoom in on horse coat supplements that provide specific nutrients for both skin and hair.
Nutrition and the horse’s coat
Hair is primarily composed of a protein called keratin once the water is removed. Insufficient protein intake can result in coats that do not lie smoothly, as well as brittle, slow growing coats.
There are several nutrients that are involved in making the protein (keratin) found in hair. Zinc, biotin, fatty acids and protein (specifically the amino acid methionine) are necessary for hair growth and structure.
Biotin: A vital co-enzyme to assist in the forming of Keratin from key amino acids. Insufficient biotin can lead to thin and brittle hair.
Methionine: A primary sulphur bearing amino acid that along with cysteine (which Methionine can synthesize) are essential ingredients in Keratin. Methionine must be provided in increased levels where hoof growth is desired.
Zinc: Key mineral in hoof and coat health. Hoof quality will often suffer where Zinc supply is marginal. Zinc is required for the manufacture of the melanocytes that give bays, blacks and chestnuts their colour.
Vitamin A: One of the carotenoids essential to all keratinized tissue. Supplementation is particularly essential for horses not on high quality fresh pasture.
Vitamin E: Benefits of Vitamin E as an antioxidant are well documented. It is also an essential nutrient for renewal of keratin.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Essential nutrient in the formation of supple and strong membranes including hoof wall microtubules and laminae.
Iodine: Deficiency in this mineral often causes poor coat and hoof quality.
Horse coat supplementss and ingredients
Horse coat supplements can provide nutrients to your horse and help with general health and condition of coats, manes, tails and skin.
Adding oil to the diet supplies essential fatty acids that are required by the hair follicle to lubricate the hair. This gives hair its shiny appearance. When hair is newly grown the hair shaft has a good coating of oil (sebum), which gives a high refractive index. This means light is captured and reflected inside the shaft giving the hairs a darker and shinier appearance. As the hair ages the natural oils wear off. But by feeding a higher fat diet there is more oil available to coat the hairs, resulting in a shinier, darker coat.
Protecting your horse’s shiny coat from the sun
UV light is bad news for your horse’s glossy coat. Why? It comes down to melanin; the pigment in hair cells that gives hair its colour. The UV in sunlight bleaches and destroys melanin, making it appear lighter. Since hair is dead, the hair will stay that colour until new hair comes in. UV oxidizes melanin into a colourless compound. This is why hair gets lighter.
You can help protect your horse’s coat from UV light bleaching by using a thin sheet/rug on your horse during the sunniest parts of the day.
Why it’s not just about horse coat supplements – Exercise counts too!
Nutrition and horse coat supplements are one of the primary factors of the shine your horse has, but you may be surprised to know that exercise is a contributing factor to coat health and shine. Exercise improves the delivery of blood and therefore oxygen and nutrients to the skin. In time, the number of blood vessels supplying the skin increases. So does the density of the capillaries. This improves nutrient flow even when the horse isn't exercising.
Exercise also stimulates the flow of sweat and sebum. Sebum is the oily material secreted from the hair follicles that helps give the hair its shine and forms a protective layer over the skin. This prevents excess moisture loss and drying.
Exercise is a win-win all round for your horse. -Now you know it is also a part of their beauty routine!
Groom from dull to dazzling
Regular brushing stimulates blood flow to the hair follicles and helps promote new hair growth. In addition, brushing has the immediate effect of ridding the coat of dirt, dead hair and dead skin. It doesn’t matter how shiny a coat is if there’s a thick layer of mud on top! Dead hair will also add to a dull, rough appearance.
For show days there are countless sprays and polish agents that can be topically applied for a temporary sheen.
The final word on horse coat supplements for health
Remember, the skin and coat are the windows to your horse's overall nutrition and health. If your horse has a dull, rough appearance (despite the foundations for a healthy coat being in place) then it’s worth checking in with your veterinarian to rule out an underlying health concern and determine if a horse coat supplement could be a good fit for them.
Happily, most horses produce a ribbon-worthy coat when provided with a balanced diet that includes the vitamins and minerals necessary for coat health. If you have any further concerns about your horse’s diet, please reach out to our nutrition team. We welcome your enquiries and offer a free diet analysis service.
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