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Are coat enhancers safe to show on?

I have a black horse whose coat has bleached out a bit and he will be showing within the next two months. I know most coat-darkening supplements carry paprika which is a banned item for showing purposes…my question is two-fold: (1) how long does the paprika product stay in the system? (i.e. could they be used for 30 days prior to showing ,then not for the next 30 prior to showing or is that not OK?)…and 2) are there any products for darkening the coat that are legal substances for showing that work well? ML, Florida

Dear ML,

Since this is a really challenging question (and it sounds like a lot is riding on the answer!) I asked HorseTech, the manufacturers of Bläckenall, to help me out. Here’s their reply:

It would be difficult to say how long the capsaicin found in paprika might stay in the system. To the best of my understanding the regulatory bodies will not divulge testing methodology that would allow a company, or individual, to set up a trial that you could point to with any confidence. I have always told our clients this—“if a positive test is going to spoil your day, don’t feed it.” You certainly don’t want to be caught up in a positive test—over a coat enhancer! To date, we’ve never had a positive test reported for the Bläckenall product, but keep in mind, we’ve been very upfront with clients about the possibilities of a positive test.

Paprika generally contains very low levels of capsaicin. To put it into perspective, consider that pure capsaicin will register at 16 million Scoville units (a measure use to determine the “hotness” of peppers). The higher the capsaicin level, the hotter the pepper. The paprika that we’ve tested generally tests out at something fewer than 100 Scoville units. So, the level of capsaicin in products containing paprika would likely be relatively low to begin with. But, I understand that testing techniques have recently been changed/enhanced and may be able to detect even miniscule amounts of capsaicin in the system.

In my opinion several components in Bläckenall work with the paprika to give the deep, rich color that you’re looking for. In addition to the paprika we’re adding zinc and copper amino acid complexes. Copper is known to be important in the normal production of coat pigments while zinc is known to be critical to skin health. In addition we’ve added B-complex vitamins which are also involved in skin and coat health. We put all of this on a base of food grade milled flax—it is super stable and provides a natural shot of Omega-3 (almost 6 grams per 2-ounce serving of Bläckenall).

While the mode of action for paprika remains a bit of an unknown, taken together with the other ingredients present in the Bläckenall it does work very well in the majority of cases. I will say this, however—of the things that we’re asked to change, improve or enhance when it comes to horses I have found color enhancement to be the most difficult to predict reliably.

I would say that about 80-85% of those using paprika-based products for color enhancement will see the results they are looking for. In some cases you will simply not be as successful as you might have hoped. If you are at all concerned about a positive test, you might simply try adding some flax (2-4 ounces, milled) to the diet along with a good source of copper and zinc. You’ll have a beautiful shine and most likely some color enhancement as well.

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

Posted in Skin, Coat & Hooves

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