September 23, 2020 3 min read

You may find that your horses coat has already started shedding, this is triggered by the longer daylight hours and marks the start of the long winter coat loss!

This process will continue over the next few months and it's important to provide adequate nutritional support during this time to encourage a healthy and shiny new summer coat.

Some nutrients that can help to bring in a healthy summer coat include:

Zinc & Copper

These two trace minerals are essential for the production of Melanin, the protein in hair responsible for pigmentation. Melanin gives skin and hair its colour and protects the coat against UV radiation and chemical damage.

Make sure levels of Zinc and Copper in the diet are adequate, keeping in mind that high levels of Iron and Manganese can interfere with their absorption. Zinc and Copper are also needed to form the hair structure on a cellular level.

Fat & Oils

Important for hair and skin health, fats and oils help to protect the hair and keep the coat from drying out. If the diet is deficient in fats, then the coat may have a dry and dull appearance and be more susceptible to damage. If the horse is on a hay only diet, you will need to consider supplementing because the the fatty acids in green grass are lost quickly when grass is dried to form hay.

Choose a fat supplement that is higher in Omega 3 than 6, flax or linseeds are an affordable way to achieve a good supplementary omega balance.

Feed 120-170g/day of fresh ground linseeds daily.

Biotin 

Biotin, often supplemented for hoof health, it’s also important for skin and hair! Some baseline supplementation of around 20-25mg/day can support the new coat coming in.

Vitamin A 

Vitamin A is important for skin and hair health and can be deficient in hay only diets. If your horse is on restricted pasture during springtime, it may be wise to supplement between 15,000-25,000IU/day

Protein

Hair is primarily made up of the protein Keratin, being around 90-95%. If protein and essential Amino Acids are deficient, the new hair growth could be affected. To support quick shedding and healthy new growth, ensure the diet has adequate protein and supplement the three most commonly deficient Amino Acids - Lysine, Methionine and Threonine.

FAILURE TO SHED & SLOW SHEDDING

One of the most consistent signs of Cushing’s disease, or PPID, is failure to shed out the winter coat coming into summer.

Cushing’s disease is a common cause of laminitis in horses and is caused by an enlargement or adenoma (benign tumour) in the portion of the pituitary gland called the pars intermedia. The more accurate term is pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID). It is estimated that over 20% of horses aged 15 or over have PPID. A horse with Cushing’s disease will need to be medicated with Pergolide to control the disease.

If you notice a delay in shedding or longer hairs growing from the chin, lower parts of the neck or on the back of the legs, it is time to call the vet and get your horse tested for Cushing’s disease.

Inadequate deworming and high parasitic loads can also lead to shedding issues, so make sure your horses worming schedule is up to date.

HOW TO SPEED UP THE PROCESS

Aside from nutritional support, there are a few extra things you can do to encourage the coat change:

  1. Daily grooming with a curry comb or similar will obviously help the old winter coat come out, however it can be a hard slog! It’s thought that increasing the blood flow to the skin with exercise can also help, so brushing well after a 20-minute workout, can help loosen the hair.

  2. An occasional bath and good scrub with a gentle shampoo may help. You can even use a vacuum to help pull that hair out. Some desensitising training may be needed here!

  3. Also let your horse have a good roll with rugs off and try and allow as much rug free time as possible.

The winter coat shed can be challenging however, putting in a few extra nutritional supports in place will pay off with a rich, shiny and sleek summer coat!



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