Keeping a healthy shiny coat start with health and nutrition, they are the foundation to a good shiny coat. There’s no way your pony can grow a shiny coat if he’s missing essential nutrients or isn’t dewormed regularly. You should always groom from the inside out.
Let’s take a look at the nutrients needed for a healthy coat. Nutrients such as zinc, biotin, fatty acids and protein, specifically amino acid methionine, are necessary for hair growth and structure. Ponies turned out on abundant spring pastures often have beautiful shiny coats, without the hours of grooming and expensive supplements or coat conditioners. The “magical” ingredients in pasture are therefore a good place to start.
Essential Fatty Acids: Are fats that your horse is not able to manufacturer inside his own body. They must come from the diet. All foods and oils have some essential fatty acids, but most in very small amounts. Fresh grass is 3% to 5% fat, most of it in the form of omega-3 essential fatty acids. The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats is at least 4:1. Unfortunately, when grass is cut and baled, these fragile fats are destroyed.
The only common feed ingredient that matches this and supplies generous amounts is linseed. Fat does more than just coat the skin and hair. The omega-6 fats are most important for maintaining healthy immune responses for resistance to skin infections, while the omega-3s guard against allergies and exaggerated inflammatory reactions.
Protein: Skin and hair are primarily composed of protein once the water is removed. Amino acid Lysine and methionine are needed to produce all proteins in the body, including keratin. Methionine is a sulfur containing amino acid critical for skin and connective tissue health. Sulfur-containing amino acids are important for hair production. Insufficient protein intake may be related to poor resistance to skin infections, coats that do not lie smoothly, and brittle, slow growing coats. A simple and natural way to improve the amino acid profile of a diet is to offer a variety of hay types. Adding a legume, such as Lucerne, offers an excellent amino acid profile.
Copper and Zinc: Are required for normal activity of antioxidant enzymes that protect from exaggerated inflammatory reactions. They are also required for the manufacture of the pigments that give bays, blacks and chestnuts their colour. Deficiencies of these trace minerals are extremely common in many areas of the country. The most frequent symptom is a lacklustre coat that is prone to “bleaching,” and reddish discoloration of the ends of dark manes. These pigments protect the skin and hair from damage caused by ultraviolet radiation in sunlight. Deficiency of zinc can also cause excessive flaking.
Vitamin A: Is an important vitamin for maintaining skin health. Deficiencies result in dry skin with a tendency to crack in the cold, and poor resistance to infections. Hair may be brittle and break easily. Although not commonly deficient in the equine diet, Vitamin A may need to be supplemented if a horse does not have access to pasture and is fed poor quality grass hay.
Vitamin E and Selenium: Although best known for their important roles in helping to prevent muscle soreness and damage, these two nutrients are also important for the skin. Vitamin E and Selenium play pivotal roles in immune system function and deficiencies may predispose to skin infections. Their antioxidant effects protect from sun damage, and deficiencies may result in increased sensitivity to chemicals on the skin and exaggerated inflammatory reactions.
Biotin: Is one of the B family of vitamins. Most people have heard about using biotin to improve hoof quality, but this also applies to the coat and skin. Insufficient biotin contributes to scaling, drying, susceptibility to fungal infections, thin and brittle hair, even areas of hair loss. Other B vitamins important to skin health are riboflavin, pyridoxine and pantothenic acid.
All the above nutrients all play an import role in achieving a healthy shiny coat. It is important to ensure each pony is being fed a well-balanced diet that meets the specific needs for the individual’s stage of life and workload. When a pony feels good, he looks good.