Granted, Salem doesn't look too shabby in the first pic, but he is positively glowing in the second one. They were taken approximately four months apart. Interestingly enough, before the first pic was taken, he had just had a bath and been sprayed with Show Sheen (two things I hardly ever do) in preparation for a body clip. In the second pic, he had only had a quick brush-down before he got on the trailer.
As previously noted, I am a bit curry-comb-obsessed, so Salem was thoroughly curried from head to toe on a daily basis. One thing that can make a big difference in how shiny it makes your horse's coat is when you curry -- if you start rubbing and scrubbing while your horse is still slightly warm from a workout, it will greatly increase the effectiveness. This is because your horse's pores are still open, so your efforts will really bring out the coat's natural oils. Even if you are planning on hosing your horse off, a quick once-over with the curry or even a thorough rub-down with a rag will help improve his coat. And your horse will appreciate the mini-massage, as well!
And now on to Secret Weapon #1: Hot toweling. Apparently, this method has been around for ages, but I have only learned of it recently. While it may not be the best time of year to implement this particular method, I highly recommend including it in your regular routine once the weather cools off a bit. It made a huge improvement in Salem's coat in a very short time.
Here's how: start with a reasonably clean horse. Get a small (8-quart works well) bucket and fill it with the hottest water you can comfortably stand (keep in mind that it will cool off quickly -- I always use the hottest water I can get from the tap). You can add a few drops of scented oil (I always use either Calm Coat or DermaCalm) just to make the water smell nice & to add a tiny bit of extra oil to the coat, but this step is not necessary. If you do add some oil, remember to use only a small amount, as you do not want to coat the hair with an oil slick. Next, grab a small rag, dunk it into the water, and wring out as much water as you can. You do not want to get the horse very wet -- the goal here is to steam-cleaning the horse, not to actually bathe it. Starting up by the horse's ears, work your rub-rag in small circles, making sure to put a little muscle into it. The heat will open the horse's pores, and the scrubbing will distribute the natural oils that are released. As soon as your rag gets cool, dunk it back in the water and repeat, working steadily over the horse's whole body. Work quickly, as your water will cool rapidly! I find that, after I have finished one side, the water has cooled down significantly so I dump the water and get a fresh batch for the other side. After you have finished hot-toweling the horse's whole body, grab your soft brush and give your horse a quick once-over to get the hair lying in the proper direction. I now swear by this method, as it truly transformed Salem's coat after only a few quick sessions.
Secret Weapon #2:
You can find this Olive Oil Sheen Spray in the ethnic hair-care section of your local grocery store. It is awesome! I'm not a big fan of using ShowSheen or other silicone products (except for at shows or to detangle a dreadlocked mane or tail), but I do like using moisturizing and conditioning sprays. I particularly like EQyss Rehydrant Spray, but it's a bit pricey so I went hunting for a good alternative. I had read on COTH that many people use Pink Oil for growing out tails, so I gave that a shot; I wasn't too thrilled, as it made Salem's tail a tangled, dirty mess. It would probably work well if the tail was bagged, although I have not tried it. Well, since I had just discovered that the ethnic hair section was a good choice for horsey haircare products, I went back in and found the Olive Oil Sheen Spray. It's light, smells nice, does not attract dirt, and leaves the coat nicely moisturized and shiny. It definitely meets my approval! (ETA: Please note that this is an aerosol spray, so you will have to slowly introduce it to your horse if he/she is not already familiar with aerosols; it took Salem quite some time and quite a few peppermints before he could fully relax while being sprayed with this product.)
I hope this has given you an idea or two on how to improve your own horse's coat. Does anyone have additional tips or methods? Please share. :-) In the meantime, get out to the barn and curry that pony!