Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Feeding for Shine

Everyone wants their horse to look so good that he/she turns heads. Good breeding, correct conformation, and a strong topline are important, but the traditional hallmark of a beautiful horse is a shiny coat. Even horses without perfect confirmation are eye-catching when they have a shiny coat. A good example is my own horse Roman pictured below….he is an aged 15.3 OTTB with a club foot and a Roman nose, but in spite of all that I think he looks gorgeous (OK, I may be a tiny bit biased, but he does have a very shiny coat).

My horse Roman (photo credit Eve Wheeler)

Even though we can’t control confirmation flaws, we do have some level of control over the appearance of a horse’s coat. Good nutrition shows on the outside, and feeding a balanced diet that meets nutrient requirements is an essential first step to having a horse with a shiny coat.
A deficiency in almost any nutrient has the potential to negatively affect the coat’s appearance. The most commonly observed deficiencies affecting skin and hair are protein (i.e. amino acids) and zinc. An amino acid deficiency can cause poor growth and dull appearance of the hair. Skin cells contain a moderate amount of zinc, and a zinc deficiency can lead to hair loss and even a condition called “parakeratosis”, which is characterized by severely thickened and cracked skin.

The second step to a shiny coat is feeding fat. Although an essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiency has never been documented in the horse (forages contain plenty of EFAs), horseman have recognized for years that supplementing fat to the horse’s diet has a positive effect on the hair coat. Hair itself is made up of protein, minerals and fatty acids, and feeding fat has been shown to alter the fatty acid composition of hair. Fatty acids are also a component of skin oils (sebum) that coat each strand of hair, giving the coat an oily protective barrier and a shiny appearance. Dietary fat facilitates the absorption of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K which will also contribute to the appearance of a healthier hair coat.

The specific amount of dietary fat that will improve the appearance of the hair coat is not currently known, but a good place to start is with at least 60 grams of fat (~ 2 oz) per day. The best results are seen when the supplemental fat contains a high proportion of EFAs, from sources such as vegetable oils (i.e. corn, soybean), flaxseed, and rice bran. Purina horse feeds containing at least 4 – 6% fat have enough added oil to easily meet those fatty acid requirements. Another option is to feed a fat supplement, and one of the simplest and most effective ways to do this is with Purina Amplify. Amplify is a 30% fat extruded nugget that contains a blend of fats from vegetable oil, flaxseed, and rice bran with added protein, vitamins, and minerals, making it an ideal supplement to feed for shine. We recommend feeding at least ½ lb/day for shine, but it can be fed at a rate of up to ~4 lbs/day. In fact, my horse Roman was getting 1 lb/day of Amplify when the above photo was taken. Other ways to add fat would be with vegetable oil (at least 1/4 cup/day), flaxseed (at least ½ lb/day), or rice bran (at least 2/3 lb/day). Depending on the amount you feed, some horses won’t eat feed top-dressed with oil, and straight flaxseed or rice bran tend to be less palatable and may throw off the overall nutritional balance of the diet (they have an inverse Ca:P ratio).

Purina Amplify

Finally, the third step to achieving a shiny coat is good, old-fashioned elbow grease. There is nothing like a thorough grooming session to maximize the shine on a horse’s coat. But if you feed for a shine that comes from the inside out, there will definitely be less elbow grease required, leaving you with more time to stop and admire that gleaming coat on your beautiful horse!

1 comment:

  1. what would you say makes a good grooming routine?