Horses completely change their coat twice a year. For us it is an almost endless ritual of brushing and collecting the loose coat but for our horses it is far more energy-sapping than expected. However, we can support our horses well with appropriate additional feed and coat change aids.
Light is more important than Temperature
Horses also change their coat twice a year from summer to winter coat and back. However, their rhythm seems to differ quite a lot from other animal's; the change of coat begins as early as January and July. For horses, it is not the temperature that is decisive for the change of coat, but the amount of daylight. As a result, the change of coat is already complete on the shortest day of the year in December. The change in sunny hours is registered in the pineal gland, a endocrine gland attached to the brain and responsible for, among other things, the production of melatonin, the sleep-wake cycle, reproduction and moulting. Temperatures only play a secondary role, but still have an impact on the process of changing the coat: Extreme drops or increases in temperature accelerate or slow down the change of coat and influence the coat structure, which depends on one hand on breed, age and state of health, but on the other hand also the attitude. For example, the coat of open stable horses differs in density and length from the coat of box horses. The animals owe this adaptation to the sophisticated mechanisms of thermoregulation, which means that they are particularly well adapted to a wide variety of climatic weather conditions.
- Regulatory Mechanisms as a Marvel of Nature
The thermoregulation mechanisms primarily include the structural components consisting of skin thickness, coat of hair and sweat glands. The coat adapts to the conditions of the environment and the habitat. It is also developed differently in foals, old and adult animals and in certain metabolic diseases (Cushing's). By standing up the hair, the insulation function is strengthened at low temperatures by the additional layer of air and the arrangement of the hair works together with the sebum glands of the skin to drain water. The skin (thickness) also assumes a special function. It can be observed that horses eat more in the annual cycle towards winter in order to increase the thickness of the skin or the layer of fat. In addition to the weather, there are other factors that reduce or even limit the function of natural thermoregulation. Metabolic processes naturally generate a great deal of heat and thus make a decisive contribution as a component of the regulatory mechanisms.- Change of Coat as a High-Performance Sport
The energy requirement during the change of coat is enormous, but is often underestimated. The change to the summer fur is much faster and the amount of fur that is shed only gives an idea of the additional energy that the metabolism has to expend. In old horses, however, these processes are greatly slowed down, which means that the horses have to expend more energy to keep their core body temperature stable. Even chronically or seriously ill horses cannot always keep up with the seasonal adjustment. Partial clipping can help if the coat does not fall out in spring and the horse sweats excessively. The immune system and metabolism are enormously challenged. But the strain on healthy and energetic horses should not be underestimated either. During this time, the energy requirement generally increases and can manifest itself in a drop of performance, exhaustion or a lack of motivation. It is important to adjust the feed ration accordingly and to support the horse with additional feed. An increased need is particularly evident for the minerals biotin and zinc. Feeding brewer's yeast and high-quality oils with a high proportion of omega-3 fatty acids also support the horses' coat change. Oils in particular provide readily available energy during this time without unnecessarily burdening the metabolism. Zinc is crucial for the formation of keratin, the main component of hair. It is very important that every horse reacts differently to the change of coat and that action should always be taken according to the actual needs. A blood count provides quick and easy information about any deficiencies, which means that the horse can be given targeted support.
- Change of Coat - A quick Overview
- Adjust feed ration, especially for older horses
- Supplementation with minerals such as brewer's yeast, zinc and biotin
- Intensive cleaning
- Do not demand a maximum Performance
- Strengthen the immune system through juice feed, exercise, air and light
- No unnecessary additional burdens such as vaccinations