Many horse owners can tell that spring is on the way not just because of the lighter, longer days and the rolling green pastures, but because of the amount of hair lying around their horse’s stable! Horses moult twice a year but it is most noticeable in spring as the winter coat is so much thicker and so there’s more to come out! Shedding all that hair and pushing new hair through uses a lot of nutrients and so there are ways that you can help your horse in the spring. Nutrition is key, so choosing horse feeds that provide the necessary nutrients is essential. We’ll discuss this in more detail below.
Moulting in spring
In contrast to what we may believe, and what is true with other animals, a horse does not shed its coat with the warmer temperature that spring brings. This function in horses is actually triggered by longer days and more hours of sunlight. Being exposed to sunlight for longer periods of time encourages hormone production that then results in the shedding of hair. Usually, shedding occurs over 6-8 weeks, and it can even start as early as December, but spring is when you’ll notice it most.
Regularly grooming and brushing your horse is important all year round but may be needed more frequently when they are moulting Typically, you’ll notice that your horse’s shedding pattern will remain consistent year on year although some diseases such as PPID also known as Cushing’s Syndrome can interfere with this process. –
Issues that may come with Spring moulting
Whilst moulting is a completely healthy and normal spring process for your horse to go through, keeping an eye out for any issues that might occur during the shedding season is important, and can help you to identify if there are any additional problems that need to be addressed. For example:
- Itching – If your horse is displaying signs of excessive itching check that it isn’t due to annoying, unwanted parasites rather than just the moulting process. These tiny visitors can be extremely annoying for your horse, but identifying the issue quickly means you treat them and kill them off so they don’t cause significant harm.
- Slower or later shedding – If you’ve noticed that your horse isn’t shedding at the same time as they have in the past, or it’s taking them a lot longer than usual, talk to your vet in case it is a sign of PPID. It is more typical in older horses but can affect some younger horses too so it is important to discuss it with your vet.
- Failing to moult – If your horse is not shedding at all or their shedding is incomplete, this can also point to PPID. Failure to shed can also mean a problem with your horse’s nutrition. If your horse is cleared of PPID by your vet, looking at how their nutrition can be adapted to help with their spring moult is the next step.
How nutrition can help your horse with shedding
A balanced diet is important and trace minerals and vitamins are key. Copper and zinc help skin maintain structure and help to encourage a healthy coat colour. Vitamin A is a key nutrient in skin health and vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin which the horse converts in its skin to the form it requires.
If you are feeding a balanced diet there may be no need to add additional supplements but if you find your horse’s coat is dull or scurfy when they moult, additional oil can be added to give them a better shine. Linseed oil is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids and around 20mls can be added daily.