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Everyone wants to see a horse coat that is sleek and glowing, not only for aesthetic reasons, but also because the quality of a horse’s coat is directly related to his overall health. Providing the horse with plenty of roughage and a balanced diet along with an effective parasite control regime, sufficient exercise and grooming is imperative when striving for a healthy horse coat. Horse owners are frequently asking “what can I feed to darken my horses coat or make him shinier”? In order to answer this we must first understand the basics of hair structure and the genetics of coat colour.
Hair is a filamentous biomaterial that grows from follicles found in the dermis layer of the skin. Hair is primarily composed of protein, notably keratin. Hair growth begins inside the hair follicle. The only "living" portion of the hair is found in the follicle. The hair that is visible is the hair shaft, which exhibits no biochemical activity and is considered "dead". The base of the root is called the bulb, which contains the cells that produce the hair shaft. Other structures of the hair follicle include the oil producing sebaceous gland which lubricates the hair and the arrector pili muscles, which are responsible for causing hairs to stand up.
Firstly it should be noted that the coat colour of a horse cannot be changed, unless it is chemically dyed or bleached by the sun and for any nutrients to have an effect on the integrity of the hair, it has to be implemented prior to the new coat starting to grow in.
With that being said there are several nutrients that are known to be involved in the synthesis of the protein found in hair. Copper, Zinc, biotin, fatty acids and protein (specifically the amino acid methionine) are necessary for hair growth and structure. Copper and zinc are required for the manufacture of the melanocytes that give bays, blacks and chestnuts their colour. Most people have heard about using biotin to improve hoof quality, but this also applies to the coat, insufficient biotin can lead to thin and brittle hair. Hair is primarily composed of protein once the water is removed. Insufficient protein intake can result in horse coats that do not lie smoothly, as well as brittle, slow growing coats. HYGAIN® GLEAM® will supply these nutrients to your horse and help with general health and condition of horse coats, manes, tails and skin.
Adding oil to the diet such as HYGAIN® RBO® will supply essential fatty acids that are required by the hair follicle to lubricate the hair which gives it a 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, however, by feeding a higher fat diet there is more oil available to coat the hairs resulting in a shinier, darker coat for longer.
Exercise improves the delivery of blood and therefore oxygen and nutrients to the skin. In time, the number of blood vessels and density of the capillaries supplying the skin actually increase so that nutrient flow is improved even when the horse isn't exercising. Exercise is also beneficial by stimulating 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, preventing excess moisture loss and drying. Deworming your horse is also important as parasites can rob the body of nutrients, and the horse's coat and skin are often the first areas to show it. Also groom your horse regularly as brushing will remove dirt, dead hair and dead skin. It will also stimulate blood flow to the hair follicles and feed new hair growth.
Library | 08.08.23
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