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Why Your Horse’s Winter Coat Won’t Grow: Solving the Mystery

Last updated: February 23, 2024

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

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Did you know a horse’s winter coat is a natural barometer of its health and care? If your horse isn’t growing a thick winter coat, it’s a puzzle that needs solving. Drawing on my years of experience with horses, I’ve encountered this issue firsthand and learned that various factors, from environmental conditions to dietary needs, play a crucial role.

In this article, I’ll guide you through understanding why your horse’s winter coat may not be growing and share insights on addressing these challenges, ensuring your horse stays warm and healthy through the winter months.

Picture of horses with healthy winter coats.
Horses with healthy winter coats

The Mystery Behind Your Horse’s Winter Coat Growth

Many horse owners look forward to their horses developing a thick, insulating winter coat to withstand the cold. Yet, sometimes, a horse may not grow its winter coat as expected, leading to concerns and questions. Here are some common factors that might prevent your horse from growing a winter coat and how to address them. Learn more about horse winter coats.

Insufficient Cold Weather Exposure

The primary trigger for winter coat growth is the horse’s exposure to decreasing daylight hours and colder temperatures, stimulating hormonal responses that promote hair growth.

If your horse spends too much time indoors, it might not receive the necessary signals to grow a winter coat. Increasing outdoor time during colder months can help trigger the natural growth process.

Picture of a horse with a patchy winter coat.
Rain rot

Health Factors Impacting Coat Growth

Several health issues can hinder a horse’s ability to grow a full winter coat:

  1. Anemia reduces the body’s oxygen supply, affecting coat quality.
  2. Hormonal Imbalances, such as Cushing’s disease, can disrupt hair growth.
  3. Skin Infections like ringworm can prevent proper coat development.
  4. Allergies may lead to skin irritation, affecting hair growth.
  5. Parasites weaken the horse’s system, impacting coat growth.

Addressing these health concerns with your veterinarian is crucial for promoting a healthy winter coat. Understanding Cushing’s disease in horses, dealing with hair loss, and managing horse rashes are essential steps in this process.

Management Practices Affecting Hair Growth

Overgrooming or keeping your horse too sheltered can negatively impact winter coat development. Natural oils protect and insulate the horse’s skin and coat, so it’s important to groom gently and allow for adequate cold exposure.

Additionally, reconsider using blankets, as they can limit the natural growth response to cold weather. Learn about horse blankets.

Nutritional Factors

A balanced diet is essential for healthy coat growth. Ensure your horse receives adequate protein, biotin, zinc, and essential fatty acids. These nutrients support skin and hair health, promoting a thick winter coat. Consider supplements for weight gain and coat health.

Picture of a person riding a horse in the snow.
Horse without much of a winter coat.

The Hidden Culprit: Artificial Lighting

Artificial lighting can disrupt the natural signals essential for winter coat growth by affecting melatonin production and the horse’s circadian rhythm. This disruption can prevent the natural progression of winter coat development.

Addressing Artificial Lighting

To mitigate the effects of artificial lighting:

  • Assess your horse’s light exposure and adjust to mimic natural light cycles, using timers and sensors if necessary.
  • Gradually reduce artificial light exposure to minimize stress and allow your horse to adjust to a more natural light schedule.

Implementing these changes, along with a balanced diet, regular grooming, and addressing health concerns, can support your horse’s ability to grow a healthy winter coat.


How long does it take for a horse to shed its winter coat?

It typically takes four to six weeks for a horse to shed its winter coat. However, exposure to sunlight and warmer temperatures can impact the shedding speed.

Do all horses grow a winter coat?

Most horses grow a winter coat in the winter. However, in warm climates, they may not need to, and some may have trouble growing one because of health conditions or management practices.

What temperature does a horse need a winter blanket?

A horse may need a winter blanket when the temperature drops below 40°F, depending on the horse’s age, health, and coat thickness. However, it’s important to monitor the horse’s body condition and adjust blanket use accordingly to prevent overheating or chilling.

Picture of our horse in a stall.
This horse is kept in a stall and isn’t growing a winter coat.


If your horse struggles to grow a winter coat, consider all potential factors, from environmental to health-related. By understanding and addressing these issues, especially the impact of artificial lighting, you can help your horse grow a thick, protective winter coat, ensuring their comfort and well-being during the colder months.

Additional Resources

  • Nutritional Supplements for Winter Coat Growth: For horses needing a little extra help with their winter coat, supplements can play a key role. SmartPak Equine offers a range of supplements designed to support skin and coat health.
  • Grooming Tips for a Healthy Winter Coat: Proper grooming is essential for maintaining a healthy winter coat. Equus Magazine offers expert grooming tips that can help stimulate coat growth and keep your horse looking and feeling great.

Join the Conversation and Share Your Insights

Have you faced challenges with your horse’s winter coat growth? Or perhaps you’ve discovered effective strategies that made a difference? We’d love to hear from you! Share your experiences, tips, and questions in the comments below.

Your insights could provide invaluable support to fellow horse owners navigating similar issues. Together, let’s create a community of care, sharing knowledge to ensure all our horses enjoy a comfortable, healthy winter season.