Last Updated on February 22, 2023
Have you ever wondered why some horses get a lighter coat during the summer months? A sun bleached horse is a common problem, making the horse’s coat dull and faded. However, this can be worse in some horses than others, and there are ways we can help prevent this damage.
What Is A Sun Bleached Horse?
When a horse grows its summer coat, it normally comes through with a vibrantly bright, and shiny appearance. However, if you live in a region with high levels of sunshine you might notice that the color fades over time, and the coat becomes dull. When this happens, it is very likely that you have a sun bleached horse.
The reason this happens is that ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight act on the coat, reducing the brightness of the color. The color of a horse’s coat is created by a substance called melanin. UV light can break down melanin and will result in a lighter coat and damaged hair.
Darker colored horses, such as blacks and bays, are most affected by sun bleaching. However, other lighter shades such as chestnut and buckskin can also fade in the sun. All hair colors will be affected by UV rays, but you will not see the same lightning effect on paler-colored coats.
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Is Sun Bleaching A Problem?
The melanin in a horse’s coat also has another role, to protect proteins within the hair from damage. When the melanin itself is destroyed, proteins within the hair are more susceptible to damage. Sun bleached hair will become damaged and weak, which is why it normally looks dull and loses its shine.
This is not necessarily a huge problem for your horse, and when the coat is shed the hairs will be replaced with new, strong hairs. But a dry and damaged coat is not able to perform its role as effectively and may lead to skin irritation for your horse. You may also find that the hairs of the mane and tail break easily, causing your horse to lose its main fly-fighting tools.
If you have noticed that your horse’s coat is changing color in the sun, there are steps you can take to slow the progress of the sun bleaching. This can help your horse’s coat to stay healthy and shiny, all summer long.
How To Prevent Sun Bleaching In Horses
One of the main causes of sun bleaching in horses is a mineral deficiency, leading to reduced production of melanin. Feeding a complete feed or balancer at the manufacturer’s recommended rate will ensure that your horse gets all the minerals he needs to grow a healthy coat.
You can also protect your horse’s coat from UV rays by using a summer sheet. This is a lightweight rug that protects the horse from sunlight and is also useful to ward off flies.
Many horse owners notice that the saddle and bridle areas become sun bleached first. This is thought to be due to sweat drying on the coat, which exacerbates the effects of UV rays. To prevent this from happening, rinse the sweat from the horse’s coat after riding, and allow him to dry in the shade before turning out into the paddock.
What To Put On Sun Bleached Leather Horse Tack
It is not just your horse that can get sun bleached! Leather horse tack can also fade in the sun, turning from a lustrous dark brown to a dull tan color. Direct light can also weaken the fibers deep inside the leather, resulting in dry, brittle tack that is prone to breaking.
To prevent this, make sure that your tack is stored out of direct sunlight, preferably in a dark room. If this isn’t possible, then use a saddle cover and bridle bag to protect your tack from light.
If you’re a fan of long sunny trail rides, it is inevitable that your leather horse tack will become sun bleached. However, you can restore it to its former glory with a few simple tricks.
The best way to keep leather tack in the best possible condition is to treat it regularly with a good quality leather conditioner. This will help to keep it moisturized and supple, reducing the damage caused by light. If you want to darken the leather, treat it with neatsfoot oil to restore the color.
Sun Bleached Horse Summary
So, as we have learned, a sun bleached horse has a dull and faded coat that has been damaged by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. This is much more likely to occur in horses with mineral deficiencies, resulting in lower amounts of melanin in the coat. To prevent sun bleaching in horses, a rug can be used to screen out UV rays, or a good-quality feed balancer can be fed to correct mineral imbalances in the diet.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on why some horses get sun bleached! Do you think that a sun bleached horse is a problem? Or maybe you like your horse’s lighter summer coat? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
Do Horses Get Sun Bleached?
The coat, mane, and tail of a horse can all suffer from sun bleaching. The natural hair color of the horse can become bleached by the sun, turning it a lighter shade. The coat of the horse will lose its bright shine and become dull and faded.
Why Do Horses Get Sun Bleached?
Sun bleaching of the horses coat is completely natural, but there are some reasons why one horse may be more sun bleached than another.
The health of a horse's coat will directly affect how much it becomes sun bleached. A horse with a healthy coat will be more resistant to fading in direct sunlight. A poor and unhealthy coat is much more susceptible to damage from the sun.
How Do You Fix A Sun Bleached Horse?
If your horse is already sun bleached, there is little you can do to fix it until their new coat grows through. However, by making some minor changes to the diet, you can strengthen the hair and prevent any further sun bleaching from occurring.
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE