It’s that glorious time of year when horses have finished shedding out, and coats are still dark and shiny. But it only takes a few weeks of strong sunlight to turn your black horses into bays and your bays into buckskins. How do you keep your horse’s coat from becoming a faded out shadow of its former glory? Liv Gude of Pro Equine Grooms has some suggestions.
Manes, tails and hair coats can all suffer from sun bleaching. There are lots of things that you can do to prevent this from happening, and depending where you live this may be a yearlong endeavor.
It seems that darker coats are more susceptible to sun bleaching, but I have seen some chestnuts and palominos that also show signs of fading. Your lines of defense should come from proper nutrition, special care after exercise, products, horse clothes and even some creative barn management.
Let’s start with nutrition. There are many ingredients that contribute to a healthy, sun-resistant coat, including omega fatty acids, copper, zinc and iodine as well as high quality proteins. Work with your veterinarian or equine nutritionist to determine if the quantities of these nutrients are present in the proper amounts in your horse’s diet. Combine a great diet with major grooming efforts to bring out those natural oils, and you have great sun protection.
Sweat Is Your Enemy
You may notice that the saddle and bridle areas show sun bleaching first. You can prevent this by creating a post exercise routine that concentrates on removing sweat. You may hose your horse or use a sponge and bucket of water to be most effective at removing that sweat. Using shampoos daily or even a few times a week may seem like a good idea to remove all of the salty sweat, but you’re also stripping your horse’s oils that act as a shiny shield.
If you can, allow your horse to dry fully in the shade before he goes back into the sun. If your horse is a roller, maybe consider leaving him dirty (oh my!) as the sand or mud will also be a sun barrier.
Block The Sun
Consider using as much summer-friendly horse clothing as you can. Fly sheets, especially ones in light colors, reflect the sun, ward off flies, and create a sun shield for your horse. I really like flysheets with high necks and tail covering flaps. Add a fly mask with ears and even a nose cover, and you should be set.
For those exposed areas, look for leave in products that have a sunscreen. I like the spray sunscreens; they can be moisturizing, and you can spot treat areas that seem to bleach more.
For tails that tend to bleach at the ends, keep them covered in a sunscreen and plan on banging the tail before a show or clinic. This will cut off the super damaged ends and create a tail that really shows off your horse’s hind end.
Using a tail bag may also be an option for your horse. Be sure to attach it below the tailbone and check it daily. This is a great opportunity to deep condition the tail, put it in a loose braid, and secure it in a tail bag. Talk about a silky tail with no sunburned ends!
You can also think about ways to keep your horse out of the sun, even if he’s in turnout 24/7. Think of it as “Operation lure your horse to the shade.” If he has a shed or shelter, consider feeding him hay and rations in the shade of the shelter. Make sure his water supply is in the shade, and if you use a slow feeder or have fixed toys, put those in the shade also. You can consider turning out at night if your horse spends only part time outside in the turnout.
Do you have any grooming questions or mysteries you'd like answered? Email them to us, and Liv will address them next month!