Dr Rebecca Hamilton-Fletcher MRCVS investigates the science behind horses’ coats
An equine coat is socially significant, with a lustrous, glossy appearance indicating the health, virility and genetic fitness necessary for herd dominance. The coat also has other physiological roles that are important for a horse’s survival and can be manipulated through adaptation and management.
Hair is classified in three types: permanent, such as the mane, tail and feathers; tactile, such as the hairs on the muzzle and inside the ears; and temporary, referring to everything else. Each hair originates from a follicle under the skin’s surface, which is supported by a sweat-producing sebaceous gland plus a vascular, sensory and muscular system.