Q: I started my horse on a new supplement in September and he isn’t looking amazing any more…… what should I do?
A. Put him back on the supplement he was on in September?
B. Ask a nutritionist for a Diet Analysis?
C. Find out more about what affects coat appearance?
Let’s look at this logically as there are many, many factors affecting the appearance of a horse’s coat.
- In September he had a fresh new summer coat.
In September the paddock was full of green grass which contains lots of omega-3 oils that make coats shine (even if the diet is mineral deficient).
- In September the temperatures were mild.
- In February he has been through months of long, hot summer, standing in the sun with sweat on his coat. The effect of sun on sweat causes coats to bleach even when the mineral balance of the diet is excellent. Did you wash the sweat off his coat everyday, perhaps multiple times every day? If you hose the salt and sweat off now (don’t use shampoo that removes the coat oils), does he look better?
- In February the paddock is dry and you’re feeding extra hay to keep roughage levels up. Are you adding linseeds, linseed oil or fish oil in adequate amounts to replace the omega-3 oils that he was getting from green grass in September?
- In February his coat is possibly beginning to shed as day length is now shortening as the globe turns and the southern hemisphere progresses towards winter. Shorter days is the body’s trigger to change to a winter coat.
- What other changes have occurred to his diet since September? Can you honestly say that the only change in diet is the change in supplement? Is your pasture identical? Have you moved agistment or changed paddocks? Is your hay coming from the same cut as the one you were feeding in September? Have these changes affected the mineral balance of the whole diet?
- Is your horse in perfect health? Is he sick, stressed or has he been in pain?
- Are mycotoxins depleting your horse’s absorption of minerals? Mycotoxin risk is increased during warm, moist conditions.
- Have you had samples of your horse’s roughage source tested for minerals so that a nutritionist can accurately check the mineral balance of the whole diet?
- Have you asked an expert equine nutritionist for help?
- Do you know which supplement is better suited to balance his diet based on understanding the minerals lacking in his roughage?
Before you blame the new supplement, please ask an expert for help and consider the myriad of factors that impact on a horse’s coat. Whilst a healthy looking coat often does indicate inner health, remember that an unbalanced, unhealthy diet high in fat can also cause a coat to shine. This does not indicate that the horse in question is feed a correctly balanced diet.
Remember that environmental factors as well as diet influence coat appearance, and a horse can still be very healthy and well nourished but with a coat that displays signs of having come through a long, hot summer. Have a nutritionist check the overall balance of the diet before making a decision based on the appearance of an end-of-summer coat. If your horse is on a well balanced diet you can expect the new coat coming through in the next month or two to be everything you were expecting.