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Michael Dym, V.M.D.
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Dr. Michael Dym
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Winter Skin & Coat Care For Horses

With winter in full force, your horse’s skin and coat care is more important than ever. Your horse’s healthy winter coat helps them stay warm, while their skin acts as a barrier that protects them from infection. Dry, cracked skin or a matted coat can make it more difficult for them to thrive in cold weather.

Your Horse’s Winter Coat
Your horse’s winter coat starts to grow in as the days start to get shorter and their exposure to daylight diminishes. In some regions this process begins as soon as early September. By the time winter solstice rolls around on December 22nd or so, your horse’s winter coat will have fully grown in and will begin to shed.
This winter coat is thicker and longer than your horse’s summer coat. When your horse is cold, they experience piloerection, just like people. Piloerection is when small muscles at the base of the hair follicles contract, causing the hair to stand up. In horses, this creates a fluffy barrier against the cold that helps your horse retain body heat.
Blanketing your horse before December 22nd can impede the growth of their winter coat. However, you may still decide to blanket before then if you live in a very cold climate, if your horse does not have access to shelter, or if they otherwise will be too cold without it.
That thick winter coat can get matted or collect mud, build-up, and debris, especially during the coldest months in which it may be too cold to wash your horse. To help keep your horse’s coat clean and free of mats, you should brush them daily with a curry comb.
Going over your horse’s coat with a curry comb frees up dirt and debris, loosens tangles, and also works as a massage that increases circulation to their muscles.

Winter Skin Care For Horses
In the winter, the humidity levels in the air drop and moisture on your horse’s skin evaporates more quickly, leaving them vulnerable to dryness. You may notice dandruff in your horse’s coat, and they may be more itchy in the winter.
On the other hand, your horse’s fuzzy winter coat can retain moisture that can lead to infections. Muddy conditions can rain rot, and excess moisture can create a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus. Lice and mites can also affect your horse in the winter.
Brushing your horse can help air out trapped moisture and debris, as well as distribute the skin’s natural oils. QuikClean Waterless Shampoo can come in handy when it’s too cold for a bath. For skin irritation you can use a soothing, conditioning spray like EQyss Micro-Tek Equine Spray.
To nourish your horse’s skin and coat in the winter from the inside out, consider adding an omega-3 fatty acid supplement.