Whether you show competitively or just want to have the shiniest horse on the weekend trail ride, a show coat is attainable to any horse, regardless of pedigree. While conformation, athletic ability and general appearance are in a large part due to genetics, a healthy, shiny coat is a goal that can be reached by any horseman. There are basically four components to a show coat: grooming, diet, health and exercise.
Grooming is the number one thing that you can do to increase the quality of your horse’s coat. A little elbow grease will go a long way in creating that illusive shine. Spend at least 20 minutes a day vigorously using the curry comb on your horse and you will see a difference in a matter of weeks.
On the weekends, or any time that you have a few extra minutes, add extra grooming time and finish by rubbing the horse down all over with a damp towel or sponge, rinsed out repeatedly. This helps lift the dry, dusty skin off the horse and bring the natural oils to the surface.
If your horse has access to unlimited, high quality pasture, he may not need supplemental feedings. Most horses, however, will require grain and hay for at least part of the year. When choosing a feeding program for your horse keep in mind that his diet should be based on high quality forage, either hay or grass. Grain and other forms of concentrates should not make up the bulk of a horse’s diet.
While a detailed nutrition plan is beyond the scope of one article, the most important factor is to purchase good quality hay and grain. The cheapest bag of grain at the feed store is not much of a bargain if you have to feed twice as much as you would a premium feed and your horse still does not look thrifty.
If you already have your horse on a quality feed and want to supplement him with a coat enhancer, there a variety of commercial products available. You can also add oil, such as corn or soybean, flax or even black oil sunflower seeds to enhance the coat condition. It is the high fat content of these products that create the shine.
Exercise is another important component of a healthy coat. The increased blood flow that occurs with regular exercise, as well as the increased muscle definition are necessary to develop a healthy coat.
On days that you cannot ride, try to lunge, hand walk, or even pony your horse for 20 minutes or so. Although the sun can bleach out the coat, large amounts of turn-out time also increase muscle tone, and help your horse hold up to a solid conditioning program.
The last area of concern in developing a gleaming coat on your horse is the most vital, his health. It goes without saying that an unhealthy horse is not going to look as good as a healthy one, but it is not as simple as that.
Anemia, Cushing’s Disease and a variety other diseases can play havoc with your horse’s coat. Even a seemingly healthy horse that is affected by internal parasites will have a dull or lack-luster coat.
Another common health concern is the teeth. You may be providing the best quality feed and supplements to your horse, but if he is unable to utilize them, you might as well pour your money down the drain. Having the vet out to check your horse’s teeth at least annually is money well spent.
If you follow these four steps, you should start to see improvements in your horses coat withing 4 weeks. Keep it up and after 90 days you may just need sunglasses when you are looking at him.