Winter is a time that most fussy horse owners and riders hate, especially on the Highveld where our once sleek and shiny horses turn into raggedy, fluffy dust monsters. It sometimes seems as though we’ll never see them sleek and shiny again.
Has your horse emerged from winter looking like a woolly mammoth? Here are a few tips to get some shine for the show ring.
Nothing beats good old-fashioned elbow grease for improving a horse’s coat. Grooming itself has a massaging effect which promotes blood supply, lifts dead skin cells and hair and encourages shine via the natural oil content of your horse’s skin.
There are products available on the market such as special grooming blocks and brushes that help to strip a winter coat out when used correctly; most tack shops now stock them for their clientele.
Spit and polish
Never underestimate the power of being hands-on (yes, bare hands) when polishing your horse. If you don’t enjoy that, a sheepskin mitt also works really well. Skin-on-skin contact is the best way of encouraging oil production and removing fine, loose hairs that haven’t shifted with grooming. After grooming, use your hands or sheepskin to polish your horse, all over his body. Run your hands firmly in the direction of the hair and you will be amazed at how much hair and dirt you still pick up. You and your horse can enjoy this personal time and you have the added benefit of literally seeing him start to shine right in front of your eyes.
Good nutrition is often underestimated and yet is the single most important factor in providing a healthy coat from the inside out. A balanced diet, including all vitamins and minerals, helps to maintain healthy skin, muscles and coat. Including an oil supplement in their diet helps to keep a decent shine on their coats; many showing riders believe that it also helps a summer coat to come through quicker.
A good bath to strip your horse of the dirt and dust accumulated over winter is a good start. For a horse with a very dry coat, conditioning his entire body can help the coat get a head start.
Many showing riders rinse their horses off after bathing in a weak aqueous oil and water mix for the same reason: it helps promote shine, it replaces the natural oils that you have stripped out by washing, and the oil on the coat helps keep your horse warmer, thereby promoting shedding.
Clipping and trimming
You can make your horse appear a lot neater than he is by tidying up the worst of the long wispy hairs on his legs and his beard. Using clippers or scissors, carefully trim in the direction of the hair growth and remove all the long hairs that show on your horse’s legs and under his face. This immediately creates the impression of a sleeker, smarter horse.
Work in progress
We also underestimate the power of sweat in promoting a healthy skin and coat. A good work programme keeps your horse fit and healthy, which in turn encourages the best visible sign of health – a shiny coat. Always be sure that your horse is properly dried off and cool after work, before rugging him up again. Always sponge and groom off any sweat marks to prevent bleaching and staining of the coat.
It is really important in winter that you keep your horse’s coat lying as flat as possible. Never pull blankets forward towards the neck, it roughs up the coat and is uncomfortable for the horse.
Text: Mandy Schröder
The full article appears in the September issue of HQ.