Mother Nature provides our horses with a dense coat to protect them in winter, but getting rid of it in the Spring is a hassle. Shedding is triggered by changes in day length. There are several factors that may either delay or enhance the process.
Exercise increases blood flow to the skin as well as the flow of sweat and sebum. Horses being exercised will shed out quicker. A brisk 15 to 20-minute lunge session followed by turning the horse out to roll before grooming will cut the time it takes to get rid of all that hair. Rolling is the horse's way of auto grooming.
Low thyroid function, parasitism, PPID (Cushing's Disease) and poor health in general will delay shedding. As the coat becomes older and disconnected from its nutrient supply it will get progressively drier, coarser and lighter in color. Darker horses can turn a stark mustard-like color.
Sebum is the oily secretion of sebaceous glands that is secreted directly into the hair follicle. Sebum coats and protects the hair, preventing dryness and imparting shine. Sebum also makes shedding easier. Dried forages have only half the fat content of fresh grass. That's a deficit of over 200 grams of fat (7+ ounces) for a horse eating 10 kg (22 lbs) of hay a day.
Vitamin A is low in preserved forages and rapidly progresses to become deficient. Vitamin A is a critical nutrient for normal function of the skin and associated structures, including the hair follicles and sebaceous glands. Supplementation of 20,000 to 40,000 IU/day supports those tissues in late winter.
Production of the summer coat is critically dependent on adequate protein and essential amino acid intake. Hair is 95% protein. One of the most striking differences between hay and spring growths of grass is the high grass protein level. Supplementation of the three most important essential amino acids - lysine, methionine and threonine - may be helpful during shedding. A ratio of 10-5-2 for lysine-methionine-threonine works well.
We are most familiar with the B vitamin biotin in connection with hoof quality, but skin and hair follicles, like hoof horn, are also epithelial tissues. While the intestinal bacteria produce abundant supplies of most B vitamins, biotin has been identified as one where supplies may be borderline. Supplementation with 20 to 25 mg/day during the high demand shedding period may be wise.
Last, but not least, is the trace mineral zinc. Zinc is the most commonly deficient mineral in forages worldwide. Zinc (along with copper) is required for production of adequate levels of the pigment melanin in dark coats, which protects those gorgeous spring coats from rapid fading.
Zinc is also necessary for the rapid cell division needed to produce the new coat. Zinc is also in high concentration in the skin where it supports normal cell production and immune system protections. A dose of 250 mg/day is reasonable.
That's a lot of bases to cover in enhancing shedding, but the good news is that if shedding needs some assistance, there's a good chance nutrition can help.
Uckele Health & Nutrition, maker of CocoSoya®, offers formulas that promote a healthy shedding process.
Vitamin A provides 5000 IU of Vitamin A to promote healthy skin and coat and eye health. Also promotes healthy bone formation, immune function, fetal development, gum health, and gene activity.
Tri-Amino supports the protein deficient diet with essential amino acids. Lysine aids in bone health and immune function. Methionine plays a role in the synthesis of structural proteins, especially hooves and connective tissues, and hair and mane coat. Threonine aids in healthy immune function.
CocoSoya promotes a healthy skin, a glossy coat and excellent body condition. Also provides a healthy fat and cool-calorie energy source to build and maintain healthy weight while supporting healthy blood sugar levels. Helps to keep hooves nourished and moisturized by supporting the waterproof barrier.
Hoof Biotin supports the health and growth of keratin and other connective tissue. Methionine promotes the growth of healthy hooves. Zinc maintains the proper production of proteins in skin, hair, and hooves.
Poly Zinc supports healthy skin, coat, and hoof quality. Also promotes connective tissue formation and immune function. Coated with polysaccharide to protect it from being released until it reaches the site where it is most effectively absorbed.
About Dr. Kellon
Dr. Eleanor Kellon, staff veterinary specialist for Uckele Health & Nutrition, is an established authority in the field of equine nutrition for over 30 years, and a founding member and leader of the Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance (ECIR) group, whose mission is to improve the welfare of horses with metabolic disorders via integration of research and real-life clinical experience. Prevention of laminitis is the ultimate goal. www.ecirhorse.org
Uckele Health & Nutrition, maker of CocoSoya, is an innovation-driven health company committed to making people and their animals healthier. On the leading edge of nutritional science and technology for over 50 years, Uckele formulates and manufactures a full spectrum of quality nutritional supplements incorporating the latest nutritional advances. www.uckele.com.
Press release by Susan Libby