The skin is in constant communication with all bodily systems. Problems on the inside are reflected on the outside. And while shampoos and grooming products can help take care of coats and skin, a real glow comes from within. In this article, read more about why real health comes from within. The role of nutrition and how to keep your horse’s skin healthy.
There are four factors that add up to a healthy and radiant horse:
- Healthy gut flora
- Good nutrition
- Mental fitness
- Coat care
The skin: the body’s largest organ
The skin is a horse’s largest organ and serves to protect. Skin consists of water, proteins, fats, and minerals. The skin consists of two layers: the stratum corneum and the corium. The pH is determined by the skin’s topmost layer. Your horse’s skin is an important factor in its natural defences. It protects against heat and cold as well as against bacteria and other harmful invaders.
Our skin has a natural acidity of 4.0–5.5. The pH of equine skin is 7.0–7.4. That’s why it’s important that the pH – neutral in the case of a horse – not be unbalanced in order to avoid infections. Products with a low pH, such as shampoos made for humans, have a hydrophilic nature. They attract moisture and dehydrate the horse’s skin, causing it to become dry and flaky. Products with a high pH are hydrophobic; they affect the natural sebum layer, disrupting the skin’s microflora.
The natural microbiome
Like human skin, equine skin is not sterile. It is a breeding ground for microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. These have an important function: together with the skin barrier, they repel unwelcome substances. So they help to protect the skin naturally, and, in turn, the rest of the body. They also further prevent colonisation of pathogens, also known as bad bacteria. The microbiome plays an important development in wound healing. If the microbiome is brought out of balance, this increases the chance of skin diseases and infections. The cause can be due to an unsuitable shampoo, disinfectant, or excessive antibiotic use, for example.
Nutrition: a key partner
A well-balanced diet has more influence on a healthy coat than you might think. Deficiencies can result in poor skin and hair quality. This is because skin and hair need building materials to grow and repair. Diet changes can cause reactions in the skin.
Giving your horse a balanced ration may sound obvious. But that often looks differently in practice. When we talk about balanced nutrition, we mean:
- At least 1.25% of body weight in forage daily
- Supplement with concentrates if extra energy is needed
- If no concentrates are given, then added vitamins and minerals are necessary
- The horse should be fed forage in small portions throughout the day. Here, the magic word is regularity
A word about those vitamins and minerals. Horses do not get enough vitamins and minerals from forage alone. They need to get them via a supplement or concentrate feed. Indeed, this can have quite an impact on a horse’s skin and hair as well as its general health. The copper-to-zinc and copper-to-iron ratios affect pigment and thus coat colour. In addition, there are many more minerals and trace elements that interact with one another. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies almost always lead to health issues.
Gut flora disturbances
Gut flora disturbances can cause the coat to become dull. The microflora in the bowel interacts with many systems in the body. One of these is the immune system, a complex system that ensures the horse is (and stays) in good health. Without healthy microflora, it is virtually impossible to keep your horse healthy and radiant. Forage is key here too, due to the fibre the horse consumes. Pre- and probiotics can positively influence equine (as well as human) microflora.
Frequent travel, contact with many different, unfamiliar horses, exposure to different environments. All this affects a horse’s mental health. A certain amount of stress is not harmful for a horse; in fact, a small amount of stress is necessary for performance. But mental balance is one of the most important factors of equine health. For a healthy, radiant horse. So avoid subjecting your horse to stressful situations as much as you can, ensure adequate contact with other horses, and makes sure he gets plenty of exercise.
A healthy gut flora, a balanced feed ration and sufficient exercise are the three ingredients for a healthy horse. And a healthy horse will radiate good health!
Skin care tips from Cavalor specialists
Have a brushing routine
A good brushing stimulates blood circulation, loosens dirt and old hair, and ensures the even distribution of oil throughout the coat. There are different kinds of brushes with different purposes, so it is definitely good to use more than one kind.
Massage for circulation
Massage is often described as kneading with your hands, but did you know that you get a similar effect by brushing? Massaging releases endorphins in the body. Endorphins have a relaxing effect and are sometimes called the ‘happiness hormone’. They also stimulate blood flow, which improves the transport of nutrients and oxygen to the cells. They also facilitate the detection of sensitive areas and/or wounds. So take a moment to give your horse a massage after riding! This ensures that any waste products (after a workout, for example) are better disposed of and promotes relaxation and reduces stress.
Wash with pH-neutral products
Products with a low pH, such as shampoos made for humans, have a hydrophilic nature. They attract moisture and dehydrate the horse’s skin, which can make it dry and flaky. Bleaches and good degreasers have a high pH, and a hydrophobic nature; they will absorb natural sebum, making the coat dull and the skin dry and sensitive, opening the door for infections. Wash your horse with pH-neutral products formulated to the pH value of equine skin! All Cavalor shampoos are pH neutral.
Don’t put off treating flaky skin
A shiny coat is a healthy coat. But sometimes your horse may suffer from flaked skin, a dull coat, or a skin condition. Speed is key here! Wash your horse with a chlorhexidine-based hygienic shampoo. And preferably enriched with glycerine, like Cavalor Derma Wash. It disinfects whilst keeping the skin moisturised. Your horse’s coat will soon be back to its old shine. Does your horse suffer from a skin condition like fungus? Then don’t forget to properly disinfect your equipment, saddle cloths, and brushes.