Inner health is reflected in the coat. Your goal should be to achieve a new richly coloured and glossy coat in Spring. Why? Glossiness of coat hair is important in reflecting solar radiation.
Common reasons why coats become dull or brittle
- Unbalanced mineral uptake (minerals are co dependent on other minerals so need to be fed alongside their dependent mineral for optimal absorption)
- Deficiencies or excesses of certain vitamins, minerals, protein & amino acids
- Copper and Zinc deficiencies (causes bleaching, as there are two pigments in the hair eumelanin & pheomelanin that are dependent on sufficient copper and zinc intake)
- Incorrect dose rate of vitamin & mineral supplement
- Hormonal imbalances
- Endocrine disorders
- Systemic disease or illness – other than dull coat, symptoms may not present until later (uterine or urine infection are 2 examples)
- Worm burden (several courses of strong worm medication may be required to shift)
- Poor gut function
- Imbalance of microbial species (feed potent pro-biotic formulation)
- Gut Ulcers
- High grain diet (try copra, lupins, beet-pulp with chaff)
- Polyunsaturated oil in feeds
- Imbalance of Omega 6 to Omega 3 (should be 4:1 over the entire diet. Grass is 4:1)
Healthy shiny hair growth usually occurs when dietary needs are met adequately, supplying the necessary building blocks for the natural biological processes to occur according to genetic makeup.
Hair follicles are metabolically active tissues that require nutrients to support both structural and functional activities (Galbraith, 1998). Nutritional factors that influence hair growth are very complex and can be interrelated. Nutrition has a profound effect on both hair quality and quantity. Poor nutrition is often reflected by a dull, dry, brittle or thin hair coat. Colour disturbances including bleaching may also occur when dietary mineral needs are not met.
The most important requirement for hair keratin synthesis is the amino acid cysteine, as it is ultimately oxidized to form the stable disulphide bonds that give keratin its structure, strength, and stability. Horses, like non-ruminants are unable to absorb inorganic sulphur and must meet their sulphur requirements through organic forms such as methionine. (Lewis,1995). Methionine can be converted to cysteine in the liver. A feed supplement high in Methionine for added growth rates can be added.
Zinc is an essential element to many metalloenzymes and metabolic processes including keratogenesis. Zinc and copper impact heavily on melanin production. The purpose of the melanin pigments is to protect the hair from protein damage caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Sourcing bioavailable forms such as organic and chelated zinc clinically shows better absorption rates. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.2903/j.efsa.2008.694/
Copper. This element is essential in various enzyme systems including those involved in melanin synthesis, keratin synthesis, and disulphide bond linkage (Jarrett, 1977; Underwood, 1977). Copper deficiency results in fibre depigmentation and loss of hair tensile strength and elasticity leading to breakage. Copper is essential for the enzymes that produce eumelanin, and both copper and zinc are needed to manufacture pheomelanin.
Selenium performs several roles pertaining to cellular function and is a necessary constituent of the diet for healthy hair growth. Feeding too much can result in hair loss, not enough leads to a dull dry coat.
Nutrients commonly associated with poor hair quality and hair loss have been summarized by Lewis (1995). They comprise dietary deficiencies of protein, phosphorus, iodine, zinc, and vitamins A and E, as well as dietary excesses of selenium, iodine and vitamin A. Other possible nutritional imbalances that can affect hair growth include B-vitamin and vitamin C deficiencies, copper and cobalt deficiencies and molybdenum toxicoses (Scott, 1988).
If supplementing the diet with a quality ratio balanced and organic chelated mineral supplement and still not achieving a glossy coat, ask your vet for a health check-up and blood work. In addition, testing your soil, grass and horse’s hair to see where your horse’s mineral uptake is at may assist finding underlying dietary failures. Bench marking via professional laboratory is advisable to be well informed to make the necessary improvements to your property and horse’s intakes. An excellent laboratory is EAL – for soil, plant and hair.
Check labels of feeds you regularly feed your horse, to make sure you are not doubling up in minerals content. More is not better, balance is key. Switch to an industry proven equine feed supplement to fill the nutritional gaps and add to a base feed you can control.