The days are getting longer, the horses are shedding out their long, Winter coats and Spring is right around the corner. Although the weather may be warmer with Spring, it also brings its own weather concerns for horse owners, namely wet muck and mud. Not only is it a mess for horse and rider, it is also a breeding ground for bacterial and fungal infections.
Some of the most common skin ailments are Rain Rot (Rain Scald) and Scratches (Mud Fever). The first signs of these infections are small, clumped sections of hair that come off easily when brushed. Along with hair loss, these infections are also characterized by bleeding, oozing sores that can be very painful for the horse. This can also spread rapidly among horses due to shared brushes.
Bacterial infections can also affect the hooves, which is known as Thrush. This condition is characterized by a foul-smelling black discharge from the frog and cleft.
As with any infection, prevention is worth more than any cure. As many of these infections are a result of horses standing in wet, muddy conditions, the best prevention is to simply move them from such conditions. Of course, when it’s been raining for days on end and the fields look more like a swamp then rolling green hills, that is harder to accomplish.
Pasture management is critical in preventing mud and muck; proper rotation of fields and keeping horses off fields when they’re wet can do a lot to help. Addition of a “sacrifice area”, a flat, non-seeded paddock, typically lined with bluestone, can also be a great option for turnout in wet conditions.
If moving horses out of the mud is not an option, consider booting your horse with water-resistant wraps, or treating with an anti-bacterial talc to help keep the legs dry. The Equilibrium Close Contact Equi Chaps are a great option and cover the horse’s legs from the hoof to the knee and keep the legs dry and clean.
AgSilver CleanTalc is also a good choice for horses that are prone to bacterial infections and for whom booting is not an option. It is a dry talc that can be applied directly to the legs and prevents the growth of bacteria and fungus without the use of antibiotics.
The best prevention for Thrush is simply keeping your horse’s hooves dry and clean through proper cleaning on a daily basis.
If your horse is starting to show signs of infection, the first stage of treatment should be proper cleaning of the infected area with an antibacterial scrub, such as Chlorhexidine or Povidone-Iodine. Then gently pat the area dry and apply a topical antibiotic such as Eqyss Micro-Tek Medicated Gel.
Thrush can be treated with a topical antibiotic designed for the hooves and is available in many forms. One of the most popular treatments is Koppertox, a copper Naphthenate, to which many forms of the bacteria are susceptible. For tough to treat cases of Thrush, a soaking boot can be used, such as the Giddyap Girls Soaking Boot, which allows the treatment to penetrate into hidden crevices of the hoof. Such boots are also useful in the treatment of abscesses and other hoof ailments.
If any of these infections are severe, or last for an extended period, always contact your veterinarian for care options as stronger, prescription grade topical or oral antibiotics may be necessary.