Most of the time, we associate a shiny coat with certain coat colors, especially black, bay, or chestnut. There is nothing like the glow of a dark bay or coppery chestnut horse! But what about our white or grey horses? Can grey or white horses shine?
What Makes a Horse's Coat Shine?
There are several factors to consider:
- Grooming technique and level of cleanliness
My horse Paladin – a dark bay – seems to have the ‘shiny gene’. So there must be certain factors that make dark hair shine.
The University of Delaware on (human) hair color:
“Hair color is determined by the amount of eumelanin (which is dark brown) and pheomelanin (which is reddish). The amount of eumelanin ranges continuously from very little, producing light-blonde hair, to large amounts, producing black hair. People with large amounts of pheomelanin have red hair, which can range from pale red ("strawberry blond") to bright red to reddish brown.”
People and horses are mammals, so genetically and as it pertains to hair, the biochemistry is basically the same. The article further explains that certain genetic aspects seem to be associated with one hair color or another, which explains the whole ‘method in the madness’ of breeding.
But does the hair of dark horses actually have a component that creates ‘shine’?
No. The simple fact is that smooth, dark surfaces play with light in a different way than smooth light surfaces. Think of a white car and a black car, both equally clean and polished. Which one will seem more shiny?
Grooming Technique and Cleanliness
And here comes the deciding factor: Smoothness and cleanliness. If the surface is smooth (again think of a car) versus textured (think of a wooden picnic table), there will be more light reflection. So the key is to create a SMOOTH & CLEAN surface.
Adding ‘polish’ (car) just makes the surface smoother and thus more shiny! Where is the polish on the horse? It doesn’t come from a can. Our horses have the polish built right in! It is produced by little oil glands attached to each hair root.
3 Keys to a Shiny Coat
- Cleaning the coat
- Distributing the ‘polish’ (body oils) over the hair and
- Smoothening the coat.
(More on “How to Groom Your Horse to Shine Naturally” right here.)
For step 3 - Smoothening - We love the Haas Diva brush with real Mattes® lambskin!
Just like in us humans, only a healthy horse will have a healthy coat. Feeding the right amount of essential nutrients and healthy oils will be the precondition for a smooth, healthy, vibrant, and shiny looking coat!
Be sure to feed in a way that considers your horse's breed-specific needs and your regional requirements (hay quality) and choose ration balancers accordingly.
Shiny White and Grey Horses
Shine on your white or grey horse will not be as obvious. It will be a healthy glow and glisten when the light falls in just right. Just because light surfaces reflect light different than dark.
The challenge with white and grey horses is that manure and grass stains show up more than in their darker herd mates, which immediately distracts from an overall good-looking, healthy and clean coat. We will talk more about how to tackle stains in white and grey horses in a different post. But if you are looking to remove stains, it is good to keep a brush for white horses (stiff coco fiber brush) at hand.
So, can grey and white horses shine? Yes! But their shine will not be as obvious as that of a darker horse since dark surfaces reflect light differently than light surfaces (again, use the car example).
The key to a vibrant looking white or grey horse: Good feed, cleanliness, and proper grooming techniques!
Enjoy your Horse!
Sources: Light and the law of reflection http://wimedialab.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/lsps07.sci.phys.energy.lightreflect/light-and-the-law-of-reflection/