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During the grazing season, many horse owners tend not to dwell too much on their beloved equine’s feeding regimen. With the horse out in the pasture, it might seem that all its needs are met, creating a sense of contentment. However, when the autumn moult arrives, and the switch from a gnawed pasture with short grass back to paddock and hay consumption occurs, concerns often arise about whether the horse is receiving adequate nutrition.

Each change of coat places a significant demand on the detoxification systems, namely the liver and kidneys. Essentially, the entire protein metabolism undergoes a transformation. In this process, substantial quantities of the body’s own waste products are generated, necessitating elimination through the detoxification pathways.

Furthermore, minerals essential for new hair growth are temporarily depleted from the organism. Notably, sulphur is crucial for the synthesis of keratin, providing hair with essential strength. Additionally, zinc is used more intensively during this phase. Alongside a well-balanced mineral feed, such as Pure Minerals G from OKAPI, a vigilant focus on these two minerals during the coat change is advised. Zinc levels can be gauged through a blood count, forming part of the trace element profile. If it lies comfortably within the normal range, then the supply through mineral feed suffices even in taxing periods. However, should it teeter on the lower threshold or dip below it, supplementary zinc should be provided alongside the mineral feed, particularly during this phase. Opting for zinc chelate, delivered in organic form (e.g. Zinc Chelate Plus from OKAPI), is recommended for swiftly and efficiently replenishing depleted stores in case of verified zinc deficiency. Organic minerals employ a clever mechanism to enhance intestinal absorption, resulting in quicker and more substantial assimilation compared to inorganic minerals, which are typically found in standard mineral feeds.

In contrast to zinc, detecting sulphur deficiency is not achieved through bloodwork. Instead, it is often identified symptomatically, as sulphur plays a pivotal role in the development of horn structures, encompassing skin, hair, and hooves. Horses with latent sulphur insufficiency may grapple with subpar hoof horn quality or stunted hoof growth. They might encounter dermatological problems like sweet itch or mud fever. Additionally, long hair, such as manes and tails, might progressively thin. Consequently, they could struggle to grow a resilient winter coat or shed their dense winter fluff effectively during spring. Many horses grappling with chronic respiratory issues often classified as “hay allergies” may, in fact, exhibit latent sulphur deficiency among their array of symptoms. Horses naturally assimilate sulphur predominantly from the presence of sulphur-containing amino acids in their diet. However, an excessive intake of amino acids or protein can readily place strain on the kidneys. Consequently, a prudent approach involves circumventing this issue by providing sulphur in organic form, such as through MSM (methylsulphonylmethane).

Frequently, when a confirmed zinc deficiency is identified, an unnoticed sulphur deficiency might coexist. This interconnectedness prompts the administration of both minerals concurrently as a regimen during the coat change phase, generally spanning 6-8 weeks. Since both minerals do not possess a particularly palatable taste, it’s advisable to blend them into a handful of soaked hay cobs to conceal the flavour, thereby ensuring their consumption. This regimen effectively replenishes the body’s mineral reserves, rendering them available to counteract added stresses, like the coat shed.

Even with the provision of zinc and sulphur, the horse’s mineral feed remains essential to maintain equilibrium among other minerals, a crucial consideration throughout this period. Moreover, the presence of a salt lick should always be ensured. Especially when horses are already developing a warm undercoat, but the daytime temperature still surges beyond 30°C, they excrete sodium chloride through perspiration. Licking the salt stone serves as a means to restore these essential electrolytes.