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  • March 21, 2024 3 min read

    Feeding Horses to Enhance Coat Colour

    A horse’s coat colour and quality is one of the few indicators of its overall health. Hence, there is no wonder why every horse owner pays particular attention to the gleam of their horse’s coat! However, even if your horse is in perfect health, there are ways in which nutrition can play a role to enhance the coat colour, making it richer and vibrant. Whilst there is no doubt that genetics primarily determines coat colour, nutrition can play a pivotal role in enhancing the natural hue, vibrancy, and shine of a horse's coat. In this article, we'll explore various feeds and supplements that can highlight or darken coat colours, along with specific recommendations for horses of different colours like bays, palominos, chestnuts, and more.

    The Foundation: Balanced Diet for a Shiny Coat

    A well-balanced diet is the foundation of a healthy, shiny coat. A diet rich in essential nutrients, including proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals, supports overall health and coat quality. High-quality forage, along with a balanced feed tailored to your horse's age, workload, and health status, should form the basis of their diet.

    Enhancing Coat Color Through Nutrition

    Omega-3 Fatty Acids

    Omega-3 fatty acids are renowned for enhancing coat shine and color depth. They support skin health, leading to a glossy coat. Flaxseed (linseed), chia and hemp seeds, are excellent sources of omega-3s and can be added to a horse's diet to promote a vibrant, healthy coat.

    Copper and Zinc

    Copper and zinc play important roles in pigment development and coat health. These minerals can enhance the richness and depth of coat colours. Copper is particularly crucial for black, bay, and chestnut horses as it supports the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for dark colours. Zinc supports skin health and can help in maintaining the coat's luster. It's important to balance these minerals carefully, as excess or deficiency can lead to coat and skin issues.

    Beta-Carotene and Vitamin A

    Beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, can influence coat color, especially in red-toned horses like chestnuts and palominos. It supports the maintenance of healthy skin and coat. Carrots, sweet potatoes, and commercially prepared feeds fortified with beta-carotene or vitamin A are beneficial for enhancing coat color and overall health.

    Specific Feeds for Different Coat Colours

    Bays and Blacks

    For bays and black horses, feeds high in copper and supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids can help maintain their rich, dark colours. Incorporating feeds like alfalfa, which is naturally higher in copper, can be beneficial. Adding a copper supplement or using a commercial feed formulated for dark-colored horses can also help enhance their coat color. Just remember, the diet needs to maintain an appropriate zinc-copper balance, as too much of one mineral can cause toxicity.

    There is also a theory that molasses can help darken bay and black horses. If you want to test the theory, try feeding a small amount of molasses (about ¼ cup) daily to your horse. However, if your horse requires a low sugar and starch diet, it is best not to try this!


    Chestnuts, with their red hues, can benefit from feeds high in beta-carotene. This nutrient can help intensify their coat's red tones. Carrot slices as treats or beta-carotene supplements can be added to their diet. Additionally, ensuring an adequate supply of omega-3 fatty acids can help these coats shine brightly.

    Greys and Whites

    While greys and white horses may not have the same concerns about enhancing color depth, keeping their coat bright and clean is often a challenge. For these horses, a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and ensuring an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals is key to maintaining a healthy, shiny coat. Special attention to grooming and external coat care is also essential for these colours.

    Palominos, Dilutes and Duns

    Horses with dilute colours, such as palominos, duns, buckskins, and cremellos, can benefit from a balanced diet that includes copper and zinc to enhance their unique coat colours. It is also best to feed a “white” diet including hay, grain and concentrate feeds to avoid smutting, or going darker in patches. The addition of omega-3 fatty acids can also help in keeping their coats glossy and healthy.

    At Oakford Stockfeeds we have a great range of feeds and supplements that can aid you in enhancing your horse’s coat colour. To view our range, simply visit us in-store or online. We look forward to welcoming you soon. 

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