Five Top Tips for A Healthy Coat This Spring

Five Top Tips for A Healthy Coat This Spring

Spring is here, winter coats are suddenly being visibly shed and owners are looking forward to the season of primping and preening.  There are so many amazing grooming products on the shelves these days, with impressive claims made about hair growth, shine and even ‘horse make-up’ to cover any blemishes.  Yet you can invest in all the fancy sprays and treatments that money will buy, but they won’t do much good if the basics aren’t in place.  And a simple yet thorough daily grooming routine is one of the essential requirements for healthy horse skin and hair.

So what are the five key elements of a good Spring groom (in our humble opinion)?

1. Remove the dead hair

It may sound obvious, but all that dead hair really needs to come out.  We have so many messages from horse owners at this time of year, worrying that their equines are starting with sweet itch because they’re scratching away. But it’s easy to forget how incredibly itchy the coat change is for our equine - and that the process actually starts long before we see the evidence i.e. the full ‘fluff’ being shed.

itchy pony being groomed in spring

Why is the process of losing hair so itchy?  The hair cells step up their activity and their nerve supplies can become overstimulated. There’s not a lot can be done about that but it’s good to know in advance that it’s a natural process that doesn’t require treatment.

All that dead hair sitting on top of the new coat creates an extra layer of insulation – creating warmth and in turn moisture – unfortunately this is the ideal breeding ground for microbes including fungus. And if your horse is still in a heavy rug on the warmer days, he will feel prickled by all that dead hair and sweat sticking to the rug,

We like to use a hair stripper such as Groomi tool now and then to get some serious hair off, but you do have to be a bit careful not to overdo it in case you scratch the skin.

The rest of the time we go traditional …. a rubber curry comb with flexible teeth is great at loosening the hairs and massaging the skin.  Finish with a dandy brush + elbow grease to dislodge loose hairs and general grime.

And Biteback’s Sweatbuster spray will quickly dissolve sweat from those hot sweaty spots (such as under the mane and in the ‘arm’ and leg pits) sweeping away any microbes before they can start being troublesome.

Biteback's Sweatbuster being applied under horse's mane

2. The importance of massaging the skin

This cannot be overstated.  It’s best done with a rubber curry comb which gently massages the skin - increasing the blood flow to the working cells. A firm dandy brush will also loosen and remove any dead cell build-up which can result in quite a bit of visible dandruff appearing – which may or may not bother you.  If it does, move on to Step 3. Don’t use brushes on the lower legs at this time as any little scratch can develop into mud fever.

Using a curry comb to remove hair and massage skin

3. Remove any physical irritants

As soon as the weather is warm enough, you may consider washing the worst scurfy and sweaty areas every couple of weeks using a very mild shampoo that has been specially matched to animal skin pH (human shampoo tends to be too harsh and could cause some real irritation).   Clearly the weather is a big factor here – don’t wash if it’s under 15 degrees or breezy…..

horse dandruff and scurf

4. Nip any potential issues in the bud

The coat change puts a lot of pressure on the horse’s immune system and the chances of developing skin conditions such as mud fever, rain scald etc developing are heightened at this time of year. If you can feel tiny lumps, bumps and scabs emerging, an anti-microbial cleansing product (such as Sweet Relief Quick-Silver) is recommended.  Simply spray on to the target area and massage in with fingers or a rubber curry comb.  A dusting of antiseptic drying powder such as Flowers & Zinc afterwards represents a ‘belt and braces’ approach.

Applying Quick-Silver to lumps and bumps

5. Let the air get to it

Try not to rug unless your horse is old, ill, lame or underweight as rugs can encourage the warm, moist conditions that can so often lead to a skin infection.  They can also be abrasive and damage mane and tail hairs so they rub out more easily. Letting the air flow through the coat and get to the skin gives it the best possible chance of staying dry and healthy. If the weather turns colder, your horse will use its natural responses for protection – raising its body hairs to trap air and finding the most sheltered positions in the field.

After this good groundwork is done you can move on to the plaiting, glossing and shining, safe in the knowledge that your horse’s coat is in best possible condition.

We always try to help horses where we can with our safe, largely natural products but if you are concerned about your horse and any condition is not improving as fast as you hoped, contact your vet for the latest advice.

Kath Shaw © 2022


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