Summer Coat to Winter Coat: Facts about the Coat Change in Autumn

Islandpferd im Sommerfell

At the end of August, beginning of September, the hair just trickles off the horse when grooming: the airy summer coat is exchanged for thick winter plush. We have put together a few tips and useful information for you on the subject of the change of coat from summer coat to winter coat.

Daylight and the hormone melatonin control the change of coat

Autorin: Karolina Kardel, 360 Grad Pferd

The change of coat depends on the daylight and, strictly speaking, the change of coat from summer coat to winter coat already starts in June, because on the 21st is the summer solstice and from then on the days become shorter again.

Not all horses are top-fit when changing their coat - so always listen to your horse!

The hormone melatonin is primarily responsible for the change of coat. This hormone is responsible for the biorhythm and controls not only the coat change but also the horse's sleep-wake rhythm. When the days become shorter (or longer with regard to the summer coat), the horse's body produces more melatonin and thus triggers the change of coat. Temperature plays only a subordinate role in the change of coat. That's why it's not surprising that our Icelandics are already wearing a lot of plush on hot late summer days.

Difference betweensummer coat and winter coat

A horse's coat consists of woolly hair, top coat, long hair (mane and tail) and tactile hair. The woolly and top hairs form the coat and they are the only hairs affected by the shedding process.

While the summer coat consists only of short, fine outer hairs, the winter coat is multi-layered because it consists of outer hair and undercoat.

For this reason, the coat change also consists of two phases: The hair that directly follows the fine summer coat is not yet the complete winter coat. The long and firm top coat that makes up the typical plush, as well as the fine and soft undercoat, only develops in the second phase.

Increased need for minerals

Contrary to what one might think, the change of coat does not begin with the loss of hair, but much earlier. When the first old hairs fall, the new hairs have already been formed. The production of the thick teddy coat costs the organism of our horses a lot of energy. And although they are otherwise quite frugal, they have an increased need for minerals and trace elements, especially during this time. Therefore, our tip for you is to support your horse's nutritional needs during this time.

The horse's hair consists of proteins and for this reason there is also an increased need for proteins during the time of the coat change. In addition, vitamins and trace elements such as zinc, copper, selenium as well as B vitamins, vitamin C and vitamin E are increasingly needed. If there is a lack of these, the coat is often dull and brittle.

But: Since the coat change is already underway when the first fur falls, support should ideally start early so that the nutrient reserves do not have to be completely used up. And at the latest when you notice that your horse is limp than usual and the immune system is perhaps a little weaker and your horse is more susceptible to illnesses, you should think about a need-based support. You can find more tips on the coat changing here.

Keep a cooler rug handy

Zwei Isländer tragen Woll Abschwitzdecken

The combination of thick fur and warm temperatures during the day make our Icelandic horses sweat more during exercise to cool down.

If you ride more often in the evening, you should always have your Cooler Rug handy, because as soon as the sun goes down, it cools down quite quickly. When you take your saddle off your horse's warm and sweaty back, the muscles can quickly become tense as the temperature drops. Here we have more about it written. If you're interested in sweating and thermoregulation we recommend our article in which we have dealt with this in more detail.

Rug care during the coat change or: How do I get the hair out again?

Speaking of sweat blankets: While the long winter coat is relatively easy to remove from the blankets, the short summer hairs are stuck in the fabric like little bristles. That is why it is especially important to groom the horse thoroughly before putting on the blanket.
One way to get the hair out of the blanket is to brush it with a clean (!) brush. To do this, it is helpful to hang up the blanket. A lint brush can also help.

Another way to remove the short fur from the fleece is to use a tumble dryer with a cold setting: put the blanket in, let it swirl around for a few minutes and the horse hair will have migrated from the blanket into the lint filter. Read more about care tips for your Sportsfreund blanket.

Worth Reading

All about our sweet itch blanket

Everything you need to know about our sweet itch rug. Fabric, cut and fit. The blanket is designed for the highest protection and comfort of the horse.

Abschwitzdecken von Sportsfreund Studios
Sportsfreund Studios

The Sportsfreund Studios blog contains numerous tips on dealing with horses. From fitness training to the learning behaviour of horses - you can read it all here. The blog is written by Karolina Kardel from 360 Grad Pferd.

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