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How to get a Truly Shiny Coat on your Horses.

Updated on March 16, 2012

We’ve all seen them, a nice looking horse; that something is just off, something needs to be different, but what is it? Upon closer inspection, it’s the coat that is off. It is dull or rough and has no shine to it whatsoever $6. It does not matter how healthy looking a horse is, without a shiny coat, they just do not look it.

Why is the Coat not Shiny?

There are, any number of reasons that an otherwise healthy horse may not be shiny. Worms, dirt, lack of nutrients, and simple lack of elbow grease may be the culprit behind a not so shiny coat. Too many baths could also be behind it, but more on that later. So, what happens if you have groomed that horse until your arms can not handle any more grooming; and you still don’t have a shiny coat? Honestly, you need to start looking for other reasons why the horse is not as shiny as you think it should be.


Is the horse receiving all of the appropriate nutrients it requires to maintain a healthy coat, mane, tail, and hooves? Look at your pasture or hay first. Have it tested because any other dietary additions need to balance out what the forage is lacking. You will also have to take into consideration how often you ride or work the horse, and how heavy that work load is. Obviously, a racehorse will require a different feeding plan than a weekend trail horse to maintain weight and health. There are also horses that are extremely easy to make too fat, and on the opposite side of that coin horses that are extremely hard to keep weight on and looking healthy. Young horses and older horses also have different needs for nutritional support to consider.

When you do determine your horse’s nutritional needs, now you have to decide how to meet them. Will a simple ration balancer supplement do it for you, or will your horse require a feed?

If you only trail ride once or twice a month, and your horse lives out in a pasture, you may very well be able to get away with a ration balancer supplement, and the pasture alone during the spring, summer, and part of the fall. During the winter, however you will have to supplement the pasture with hay, unless you have a winter grass, and plenty of it, planted in your pasture.

If, on the other hand you ride for 2 or 3 hours a day, and ride hard when you’re riding, whether your horse lives on a pasture or in a stall, chances are even with free access to pasture or hay, you will have to feed the horse some type of feed. I personally prefer a complete feed like Purina’s Omolene line ( or the Nutrena ( complete feeds over simple grains. I’ve had great success with the Omolene 200, and I love the fact that I only have to feed a minimum of 0.35 pounds per 100 pounds of body weight. My 1,400 pound mare only gets 4.9 pounds a day, all of the vitamins and minerals are already in the feed, so I don’t have to supplement any additional nutrients.


When was the last time the horse was thoroughly wormed, and with what product was it wormed? If it’s been a while since the horse has been wormed, you may need to worm the horse. If you’re not sure what product was last used, pick something that has worked well for you in the past. Whether you determine that the horse needs worming by fecal count or by simply observing behaviors that suggest it, like rubbing their tails (which is an indication of pinworms). If the horse has worms, that can affect the horse’s coat.

A regular worming schedule is something that you should really consult your vet or equine nutritionist on. I would suggest a fecal count, so you will know for a matter of fact that the horse does have worms. It will not reveal every type of worm that your horse may or may not have, but it will reveal the two most common types of worms that infest horses. Any other worms that the horse may have will depend on if those worms are common in your area.


How often do you bathe your horse with soap or shampoo? If you are bathing him or her too often, you are stripping the natural oils required to make the horse shiny, so even if you are feeding them properly, keep them wormed, and are grooming until you can’t manage grooming any more, the horse simply will not shine. Those oils that you are washing down the drain are what make the horse shine. I can understand bathing a horse before a big event, or if the horse has a skin condition that bathing is part of the treatment for, but other than that, I see no need for regular bathing of a horse. I would not even suggest frequent washing of the mane and tail, but instead just rinse it with conditioner, and rinse that out. There is enough sulfates in conditioners that they can actually clean the hair and condition it at the same time.

After you finish riding, do you rinse the sweat and resulting salt from the horse’s coat? I mean rinse, not bathe, rinsing with water is sufficient to remove the salt from the coat, without using any type of soap or shampoo. This is something that you can do, even if you don’t have running water at your barn. A five gallon bucket full of water from home, and a large sponge. Also, make sure to rinse under the horse’s tail, as the salt can make the tail itch and result in tail rubbing, which is also a sign of pinworms.


Are you grooming in a fashion that promotes a shiny coat. If you are using products that contain silicone, like Show Sheen ( on a regular basis, the answer is no. Silicone has a drying affect on hair, so even if you have everything else right, the horse will not be shiny without the spray. It’s understandable to use the silicone spray on special occasions, or if you have a really bad knot to get out of the horse’s mane or tail, but it will need to be washed out as soon as you can manage it. Grooming can make a healthy horse truly gleam instead of only shining. It distributes the natural oils over the hair shafts, and helps create a soft, shiny, slick look. A look that will not require any type of polish to help the horse look finished.

Daily grooming is worth doing, if you are doing it correctly, if you want to know how I groom my horses, visit one of my blogs, or I spend a considerable amount of time grooming my horses to make sure that they get the best out of my grooming time.


Regardless of why you want your horse to be shiny, and let’s face it we all want that whether we’re trail riders or top level performers. You have to look at the complete horse to determine why the horse is not as shiny as you may like. I think that regardless of the horse’s use, his or her nutritional needs should be looked after as best you can, with what you have available to you in your area. The horse should be wormed for species that are common in your area, and a worming schedule determined to keep the horse as parasite free as possible. All measurements should be taken to ensure that there is no sweat or salt drying out the horse’s coat. Grooming supplies that dry out hair like silicone based polishes should be used sparingly.

Take whatever measurements you can to ensure that you get that gleaming coat that you want.

Good luck and God bless in your future endeavors.


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    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      4 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you for another hub about dealing with horses. Each provides useful insights for my fiction writing where horses are being used. ;-)


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