The Importance of a Healthy Equine Skin and Coat

As spring arrives, we tend to focus on our horse’s hair coat as they begin to lose their woolly winter coats. And, show season is just around the corner. We put a substantial amount of importance on the outward appearance of our horse, and rightfully so, but your horse’s outward appearance says more about your horse than you may know. Your horse’s beautiful coat is more than a bragging right. The quality of your horse’s hair coat reveals a lot about the overall state of your horse’s health. In fact, a decline in hair coat quality can be one of the first signs of a health-related issue, improper nutrition or poor maintenance.

Brushing Horse with Winter Coat

The Function of the Horse’s Coat

We can’t refer to equine hair without also discussing the equine skin. The horse’s hair coat, mane, tail and skin are all made of dermal tissue. Dermal tissue is the largest organ of the equine body. The hair coat and skin perform functions that contribute to the overall wellbeing and performance of your horse. A healthy hair coat and skin:

  • Helps protect from insects and micro-organisms
  • Insulates the body in colder weather
  • Produces natural oils to reflect sunlight and repel water
  • Cools the horse in warmer weather through sweat production
  • Provides natural beauty

Factors that Affect Equine Skin and Coat Quality

The development and management of a healthy hair coat does not happen overnight. There are several factors that can affect quality. Below are a few examples.

Genetics

  • Genetics is a factor over which we have no control. The genes your horse inherited can be the deciding difference between a beautiful versus a less than perfect hair coat. The goal is to give your horse the best hair coat that genetics can provide.

Nutrition

  • Nutritional deficiencies and/or excesses often contribute to the development of dull, thin, brittle or rough hair coats.
  • Selenium over supplementation will directly affect the quality of not only the skin and coat, but also the hooves. If your horse has poor hoof quality and brittle thin hair, you may want to investigate the amount of selenium in your horse’s diet and have the whole blood selenium levels tested.
  • Utilizing a high-quality hoof supplement, like Farrier’s Formula®, will benefit ALL dermal tissue in the horse including the hooves, hair coat, skin, mane and tail. Farrier’s Formula® will provide the nutrients important for a quality skin and hair coat.

Environment

  • Parasites and microorganisms can interfere with hair growth, causing patchy and brittle hair. Fortunately, with advancements in equine medicine treatment options are available.
  • Insect bites can create itchy irritable skin. This can cause horses to bite or rub the afflicted area, resulting in patchy hair loss. Limited pasture time and sprays can help reduce exposure to insects. Healthy skin is more resilient to irritation from insect bites.
  • Long exposure to the sun may dull the color of your horse’s coat.
  • Long exposure to wet and muddy environments can cause the development of sores, hair loss, microbial infections and parasites.
Horse biting itchy skin

Disease and Equine Conditions

  • Different equine illnesses, diseases, and skin conditions can directly affect hair growth or even cause hair to fall out. A dull or brittle hair coat is not an uncommon side effect caused from an illness.
  • Some medications may also cause hair loss or a patchy coat. Check with your veterinarian if you begin to see this side effect.

Improper Maintenance

  • Neglecting your horse’s hygiene could negatively impact your horse’s hair coat and skin. A good grooming regimen is essential to a wonderful hair coat.
  • Excessive bathing, shampooing and conditioning can also strip the horse’s coat of important natural oils. This can result in a duller hair coat. It’s important to follow label instructions and leave the “deep cleaning” to important events or extreme dirt.
  • Lastly, consider the tools you are using in your grooming regimen and their purpose. For example, currycombs massage the skin which stimulates the production of the skin’s natural oils, whereas softer brushes are more effective at helping distribute those oils across the body of the horse. Using these combs in tandem, even during the winter when the coat is thickest, can help bring out the coat’s natural shine.  

Although many factors can negatively impact your horse’s skin and hair coat; balanced nutrition, environmental control and proper maintenance can help develop a coat that is truly breath-taking. Utilizing these factors to their fullest takes hard work and time but can create a coat worth remembering.

If your horse is losing hair or has developed a skin condition, consult with your veterinarian to ensure there is no underlying problem. Contact us at 1-800-624-1843 if you have any questions on utilizing a hoof and coat supplement, such as Farrier’s Formula®, to improve your horse’s hair coat.