Reading time 5 minutes

As soon as the days get warmer, the horses get “spring fever” and you can see horses shedding their winter coats everywhere. It often kicks off as early as February, and by mid-March at the latest, everyone is in the game.

Very young and very old horses always take much longer to start shedding their coat. They have less energy to generate heat, so they need to keep their ‘winter jacket’ on for longer. This is initially a normal process and not an immediate cause for concern regarding Cushing’s disease.

At the same time as shedding their winter coat, horses develop their summer coat, enabling them to thermoregulate in the summer. This process not only deprives the metabolism of minerals for hair formation but also stresses the protein metabolism, affecting the liver and kidneys.

© Adobe Stock / Petra Fischer

Additionally, the metabolism of most horses is considerably less fit during the long winter compared to when they change their coat in autumn. Less exercise on winter paddocks slows the removal of metabolic waste products from the connective tissue. Many horses, therefore, tend to have swollen legs in spring, especially in the morning. Minor skin and hoof problems can also be observed in many horses, such as mud fever, itching, and slight thrush. None of these are dramatic problems, but they are the first indications that the metabolism is quite busy.

Using herbs purposefully

Herbal support during this time has proven effective for horses. In nature, this is the time when the first plants begin to grow their sprouts. Many of these plants are eagerly consumed by the horses.
The first birch leaves are a favourite for stimulating kidney function. The first dandelion is also enjoyed. Traditional medicine describes it as a ‘blood-cleansing’ plant, known for supporting the liver. The bitter substances it contains stimulate peristalsis, helping the intestines, that have become somewhat sluggish during winter, get moving again. If there is still some yarrow left in the pasture, the horses will eat it, and the final rose hips will be carefully plucked from the bushes. Yarrow supports the liver, and rose hip seeds provide high-quality fatty acids beneficial for the skin. Observing horses with pasture access during this time reveals their enthusiasm for this ‘natural pharmacy.’

Horses benefit from wild seeds during the shedding period

Not all stables have the luxury of large year-round pastures with diverse plant populations. As a horse owner, you can provide what a wild horse seeks in nature.
During the shedding period in spring, horses benefit from being offered a moderate amount of oily seeds on a daily basis. Besides popular options like 2-3 tablespoons of linseed and a handful of sunflower seeds with the shell daily, other oil-containing seeds, often found in wild seed mixtures, are beneficial. Rosehips offer high-quality fatty acids in their seeds and also have a mild anti-arthritis effect, particularly effective for horses feeling stiff after cold nights. Black cumin seeds offer high-quality oils and support against the cold infections inevitable in spring.

OKAPI offers special wild seeds

To stimulate metabolism, you should provide the right herbs. Observations show that horses fare better through the shedding phase with a selected herbal diet. This includes herbs that stimulate the function of the liver and kidneys. Herbs with high levels of bitterness and tannins, known as ‘bitter herbs,’ are especially beneficial for the liver. They also promote intestinal peristalsis, which can be sluggish after winter. Detoxifying herbal blends are beneficial for the kidneys. If the horse has organ-related issues, concentrated and therapeutically effective herbal mixtures should be used, ideally in consultation with the treating therapist. For preventive herbal use to avoid problems, milder mixtures like the OKAPI Four Seasons Feeds are more suitable.

Even a short-term treatment with minerals can help

If a horse has coat growth issues and a tendency to poor hoof horn, a course of zinc and sulphur may be appropriate during the coat change. These two minerals are essential for the formation of horn structures (skin, hair, hooves) and are therefore needed to a greater extent during the coat change. In this case, OKAPI Zinc Chelate Plus and OKAPI Sulphur Plus can be alternately given daily, for example mixed into soaked sainfoin pellets.

Sainfoin, with its high content of special tannins, has been shown to reduce worm infestations in various animal species. With the onset of warm and stable weather, strongylid migration typically begins in horses. Therefore, a supportive ‘worm-repellent’ feed, along with regular fecal samples and, if necessary, deworming measures, is advisable.

With these simple feeding measures, horses will navigate the shedding season more easily and be in better shape, ready to embrace the summer season!

Team Sanoanimal
Latest posts by Team Sanoanimal (see all)