How to Feed for Brilliant Coat Shine

Feeding Horses for Brilliant Coat Shine

Photo: Robin Duncan Photography

By Dr. Nerida Richards, PhD

There is nothing more pleasing to a horse owner's eye than a brilliant, shiny coat. And aside from looking great, a shiny coat also indicates the horse is healthy inside and out. The question is: how do you make your horse shine? It is really quite easy if you follow these simple steps.

Step 1—Feed a balanced diet
Many nutrients, including protein, copper, zinc, and vitamin A, have a direct impact on the health and shine of your horse's coat. These nutrients as well as all of the other essential nutrients must be provided in your horse's diet at levels that will meet your horse's requirements.

If you don't keep your horse healthy on the inside you can't possibly expect the outside to shine.

Step 2 — Add oils to the diet
If your horse's diet is low in oils, and in particular, low in the essential fatty acids omega 3 and omega 6 it will probably mean your horse's coat will be dull. Adding 1/8 to 1/4 of a cup of oil to the diet will help bring shine to the coat.

Various ways you can add oils to the diet include:
•    Add oilseeds such as sunflower seeds, micronised or extruded full fat soybean, or boiled flax/linseed to the diet.
•    Add liquid oils to the diet. Almost all oils will have a positive impact on coat shine. Cold pressed canola or soybean oil or any oils that have been fortified with omega fatty acids are particularly effective. Rice bran oil and coconut oil are also good for coats.
•    If you use a complete feed, choose one that contains ingredients like full fat soybean, sunflower seeds, and cold pressed oils.

Step 3 — Feed feeds known to darken coats
It is well known that feeds containing molasses will make a palomino's coat go 'smutty' or dark in colour, while it will bring a deep liver colour out in chestnuts that have the genetics to go that colour. So if you are after a darker coat, try feeding molasses (1/4 to 1 cup per day). Don't feed molasses to horses prone to laminitis!

Products containing a compound known as gamma oryzanol are also reported to darken coats. Gamma oryzanol is found naturally in rice bran and can also be purchased in a purified form (Google gamma oryzanol and horses).

Step 4 — Worm regularly
Nothing will take the shine off a horse's coat faster than a heavy worm burden, so be sure to worm regularly and follow a good worming rotation schedule.

Step 5 — Brush!
Brushing regularly will remove dead hair from your horse's coat and stimulate the horse's sebaceous glands which release oils that cause the hair to lie flat and shine.

It nearly all comes down to a good diet
I can't stress enough how important Step 1 is. Balance the diet and make sure all of your horse's nutrient requirements are met. If you build on this foundation, adding the extra touches for an amazing coat shine is simple.

Article reprinted with kind permission from FeedXL

Dr. Nerida Richards, PhD, is the Managing Director and Principal Consultant at Equilize Horse Nutrition Pty Ltd, a company that provides independent, professional advice in all areas of equine nutrition. She is also the resident equine nutrition specialist for FeedXL. For more information, please visit

Main Article Photo: Robin Duncan Photography

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