Even the most ambitious grooming regimen can’t make up for shortcomin­gs in a horse’s diet. Brushes can only bring out the bloom that comes from a well-balanced feed ration. That means providing good quality feed and forage with the amounts of protein, fat, iodine, copper, zinc and vitamins A, E and C appropriat­e for your horse’s age and activity level.

Keep in mind, too, that when it comes to nutrition, more is not always better. In fact, it can sometimes be worse—as in the case of selenium, which is toxic when ingested in excess; or too much fat, which can cause digestive upset, surplus energy and weight gain, depending on the individual. When in doubt, consider enlisting the aid of an equine nutritioni­st or your local cooperativ­e extension to develop a diet that will keep your horse’s coat soft and shiny, his skin healthy and his hooves strong—without unwanted side effects.

Anything beyond the basic diet is “gravy” if you’ve done your homework and your horse is responding well to his regular rations. That said, some grooms supplement their charges’ diets with flaxseed or other sources of essential fatty acids (EFA)—often in the form of oils—to promote a glossy coat. However, each horse is an individual with a health profile that is subject to change. Therefore, it pays to educate yourself about basic equine nutrition. As always, though, consult with your veterinari­an or equine nutritioni­st before adding supplement­s or making changes to your horse’s diet.

Keep in mind that even the best diet won’t guarantee a healthy skin and coat unless your horse has consistent veterinary care, so make sure you’re keeping up with those appointmen­ts as well.

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