Looking by the number of products on the market, it would be easy to assume all you need for the show ring is a good coat polish. Not so. Spraying shine over an unhealthy coat is a lot like repainting a metal table without removing the rust.
It’s what you put into the horse nutritionally that matters most to a healthy, glowing coat. Corn oil will help make your horse’s coat shiny by increasing skin secretions, but that’s about all it does. It’s got advantages, though: it’s easily available (the grocery store), inexpensive and it tastes good (apparently). But, the processing it undergoes to increase its shelf life destroys the best nutrients in it — you just end up feeding fat. An equine coat supplement may be the answer.
In June 2005, we discussed what ingedients you need in a good coat-enhancing supplement, such as what you’ll find in Omega Horseshine (www.enreco.com, 800-962-9536), a concentrated flaxseed product. The article will help you choose the best product for your horse’s diet.
Exercise is also important to your horse’s overall health and look. Turnout is not exercise. We’re talking formal, regular work in the form of driving, riding or longeing that will work the muscles.
Every horse could use a solid 15- to 20-minute thorough daily grooming, using a curry, dandy brush, soft brush and rag. Regular coat/skin stimulation and the daily removal of dead skin cells will enhance natural color and shine. (Plus, if you really get into it, you get the added benefit of a nice workout yourself.)
We paid attention to coat-polish products that did double duty on making the coat shine and keeping the tail manageable. Some tail products worked better on manes and tails than on the coats themselves, leaving the tails exceptionally soft and flowing. However, when you apply the product, be careful that you don’t get it too close to the dock or, if you use a bag, where the wrap or tail guard connects, as it may cause the bag to slip.
On show day, the cotton rub rag becomes supreme, as the soft rubbing will add gleam and luster. Pay close attention to the horse’s eyes, ears and mouth. Some competitors enhance these areas with baby oil, but it depends on your discipline.
Hooves should be washed and clean. Whether you choose to add hoof polish or not is another discipline-specific procedure, but if you do, choose a product that enhances the horse’s natural coloring. Using a black hoof color on a horse with four stockings (and white hooves) will make his hooves stick out like a sore thumb. Light-colored hooves need a clear polish that looks natural.