Horses are majestic creatures with enviable features. After all, there’s a reason why women wear ‘ponytails’! But a horse’s healthy hair doesn’t happen by accident. It requires daily attention and maintenance.
Whether you’re preparing for a show or just want to show off, these five steps will provide your horse with a high quality coat.
1. Brushing Basics
Even during winter months, horses can work up a sweat. When they do, dirt and debris are likely to get stuck to their fur. It’s part of the reason a daily brushing is so important. Not only does it keep the skin free of irritants, it also keeps them from scratching or rubbing. Both of which can tangle and damage hair.
Start by applying a light detangling spray to the mane and tail. This will help prevent mats and easily remove anything that may have gotten trapped during the day. As you brush, keep an eye out for rashes, scrapes and bites. They may require treatment to prevent infection. You should also be sure to designate specific brushes for each of your horses. These brushes should be cleaned after each use so you’re not simply spreading dirt from the previous day.
2. Horse Hygiene
Prepare to bathe your horse by collecting the essentials like a stepstool, multiple sponges (designate one specific for the groin region), a gentle shampoo and a wooden scraper. Set aside a few large towels and some talc powder or lotion for after. Lather up your mare section by section and be sure to rinse thoroughly, as even mild soap can irritate if left on the skin. Next, treat the mane and tail with a leave in conditioner, brush out once more and apply your moisturizer of choice once the skin dries.
Note that horses produce natural oils that help protect their skin from damage, and bathing any more than once a week can strip their skin and dry them out.
3. Healthy hair starts from the inside out
You can brush and you can wash until your arms are weak, but if your horse’s coat remains brittle and dull, diet could be to blame. Truth is, all the external upkeep in the world won’t make a difference if your horse isn’t getting the right nutrients. It takes a well-balanced diet of the three f’s: fiber, forage and healthy fats. They need a healthy balance of all the Omega fatty acids or you won’t see the results you dreamt of. For example, too much of Omega 6 can cause inflammation without Omega 3 to equalize it.
As a general rule, the stronger your horse’s immune system, the stronger their hair will be. Save on conditioners by loading them up with a high quality horse feed and giving them plenty of access to forage. This will supply them with the vitamins, proteins and amino acids needed for a lustrous mane and tail. It is also worthy to note that exercising your horse daily will help bring those natural oils through the skin which helps give that show quality edge.
4. Deworm on the regular
Your horse’s tail is arguably their best feature. You can protect it by keeping their rear ends worm-free. Not only are they unhealthy, their presence also causes horses to scratch. Many end up rubbing their behinds on foreign objects to relieve the itch. As they do, it’s not uncommon for their tail to get snagged or for strands to get ripped out completely. At best, you’re looking at a tangled tail. At worst, you could be looking at no tail at all.
5. Sun Protection
Just like humans, horses must protect their skin from the sun in order to stay healthy. UV rays can penetrate their coat and damage skin without a shield like zinc or horse sunscreen. You can also use a flysheet or veil.
If you decide to rug your horse, just make sure to remove it for 60-90 minutes each day (preferably when the sun is less strong). This will help keep their vitamin D levels healthy.
When you take pride in your horse’s appearance (or don’t!) it shows. A small labor of love is all it takes to keep your horse’s coat, mane and tail in tip top shape.