Here’s a horse health care question: What does it mean when your horse is shaggy rather than shiny in the spring?
Most horse owners expect to see their horses shed out their dull winter coats after the winter season is over, and emerge with a shiny spring bloom. A shiny horse is a healthy horse. But what if spring has sprung and your horse is shaggy rather than shiny? If so, then you may have a horse health care issue on your hands.
The quality of a horse’s spring coat is an excellent horse health indicator because it gives you a good idea of how your horse has come through the winter. The quality of the coat also predicts how well your horse will fare through the summer, since a shiny spring coat is necessary to carry the horse healthily through to fall.
What to Do About a Shaggy Spring Coat
If your horse emerges from winter as a shaggy beast and refuses to shed out his coat during the spring, you may need to consider horse health care issues like nutrition, parasite load, and chronic ailments like Cushing’s.
Horse nutrition comes at the top of the list of factors to consider because your horse is literally what he eats. If your horse has just experienced a hard dry winter, then he needs a lot of spring grasses and weeds to put the bloom on his coat. If he doesn’t get those spring greens, then he will likely remain shaggy unless you supplement his feed.
For instance, here in Texas we have had a hard dry winter followed by a dry cool spring. The spring grasses and greens simply refuse to grow in these conditions, so my equines are literally starving for nutrition, despite having plenty to eat. During spring my horses crave not only spring grasses, but also weeds like dandelion, clover, and burdock, which clear the liver and stimulate the body’s organ systems. My horses also seek the delicate seed heads on the tops of fresh grasses, which provide the necessary oils to produce a sleek shiny coat.
Since nature is not providing all of these spring greens, my horses came out of winter with shaggy coats. To put a bloom on their coats, as well as duplicate all the cleansing and stimulating actions of the spring grasses and weeds, I am supplementing my horse’s feed significantly. I feed:
- Powdered Algae and Probiotic Blend: This blue green algae is bitter and has plenty of chlorophyll to clear the liver and act as a system stimulant. This supplement also provides a wide range of minerals and trace minerals the horses need.
- Chia Seeds: These provide the essential fatty acids normally found in seed heads that contribute to a shiny coat.
- Digestive Support: To help the horses assimilate all the supplements, I support their digestive health with enzymes, acidophilus, and bifidus, or KLPP from KAM.
During dry spells like the one we are experiencing in Texas, I double the dosages of all the above supplements to really fill in the nutritional gaps. As a result I see quite a difference in my horse’s coats.
Many horse owners immediately deworm their horses at the first sign of a shaggy coat. While it is necessary to keep a regular deworming program, parasites are not necessarily the cause of poor coat quality. As discussed above, a strong nutritional program will go a long way toward promoting a healthy coat. If you do feel parasites are a problem do a fecal test for parasites before using a dewormer.
In older or constitutionally weak horses, chronic ailments like Cushing’s are always possibilities that need to be considered. If you suspect your horse may have a chronic condition like Cushing’s, get a blood test to confirm the diagnosis. Then support your horse with nutrition, homeopathy, and other holistic treatments. A Cushing’s horse will need the same kind of nutrition in the spring as described above, plus will need extras like coenzyme Q10, wheat sprouts, and other antioxidants (learn more about Cushing’s, IR, and Laminitis in our ebook). If your horse does have a chronic ailment and you are not sure what to feed, consider getting a one-on-one nutritional consult to help you build a customized feeding program.
Need Nutritional Help for Your Horse?
With all the “natural” and “organic” and “healthy” horse feeds and supplements on the market today, you may find your head spinning! You may wonder which of those hundreds of feeds and supplements you should feed your particular horse, and in what quantity. To help you clear up your confusion, check out these nutritional resources:
- Horse Harmony Feeding Guide: Feed your horse according to his temperament
- Holistic Horsekeeping: Learn the basics of holistic nutrition
- One-on-One Nutritional Consult: Get a phone consult to design a custom feeding program for your horse’s unique needs
- Online library: Read articles on nutrition and holistic horse care
- Ebooks: Download electronic copies of most of our books for immediate access