Thursday, July 29, 2010

Slick, Glistening, & Gleaming

We all know the basics to a shiny horse -- good nutrition, extra fat, regular de-worming/tooth care, and lots of elbow grease. Recently, I've come up with my own "recipe" for a glistening coat and thought I'd share; it includes a few of the tried-and-true methods as well as some of my recently-discovered secret weapons. It took Salem from this:

to this:

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 it's usually best to start with the insides and move out, I switched Salem to a diet that was low in non-structural carbohydrates, and high in fiber and fat. Personally, I have found that the combination of Uckele's Cocosoya Oil and whole flax seeds does an incredible job of improving coat and hoof quality, so I supplemented his diet with both. The Cocosoya is high in natural tocopherols (vitamin E) and Omega fatty acids, while the flax is a good source of thiamine, B6, folate, magnesium, zinc, copper, and Omega fatty acids. (Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to grind flax seed before feeding -- the whole seeds are perfectly safe and the horse will still reap all of the nutritional benefits.)

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!


Anonymous said...

I didn't know about the Olive Oil spray - I'll look for that. I'm a big fan of both the regular round hard rubber curry and also the small curries with soft rubber fingers. I also use a cloth to wipe off dust when I'm done. And finally, I only give my horses soap bathes rarely, as soap can remove oils, which give that nice shine.

SprinklerBandit said...

Izzy has a fabulous coat naturally, but I'm drooling on the second picture of Salem. Hm... I'll have to see what my budget can accommodate.

Carol said...

I have kind if a funny one, and it isn't really about improving the coat, but more about just cleaning them. I saw a demonstration of an equi-vac at a horse trade show. It squirted shampoo mixed water onto the horse and sucked it off again with one sweep of a hand held wand. You could see the dirt being sucked up off the horse into the machine reservoir. How satisfying is that! It could be used in the winter, because the horse is hardly wet - the water is vacuumed off as it is put on.
Of course I wanted one, but it was $2,000.00 which was out of the question. A short while later my husband (Doug)and I were in the Sears bargain center and they had carpet / upholstery shampooers on sale for $69.00. Doug said it was exactly the same thing, so we bought one and brought it home. It works like magic! We use the upholstery cleaning attachment and it sucks the dirt right out of them, summer or winter. Our horses don't mind it at all and they are sparkly clean afterwards.
Nothing beats a good old fashioned bath if the weather is warm enough, but this machine is great for quick cleaning or cold weather.
Couldn't resist sharing the story.

Frizzle said...

Kate, good point about the baths. I have to really restrain myself, as there is something so satisfying about seeing all that dirt come off with the shampoo; but, yes, bathing too often can certainly strip oils. I've been thinking about suing my sulfate-free shampoo when I do bathe, as it's supposedly less harsh (?).

Sprinkler, that's not even a good pic of Salem -- his coat literally looked wet all the time! It was so goegeous. *sigh*

Carol, that is HILARIOUS that you use a carpet shampoo-er on your ponies! But if it works and is less expensive -- hey, I won't knock it!

Frizzle said...

Opps. Meant using, not "suing," lol. Oh, and I'm missing an "r" in "gorgeous." And I'm an editor! I'll blame it on a long work week. :-)