By Liv Gude of Professional Equine Grooms, special contributor to Heels Down Magazine
You say your horse has a rub or a sore? I say be a detective, go shopping, get Martha Stewart-level creative, and most importantly, give it time to heal.
The oh-so-scientific reasons for rubs:
Hair plus friction = Rubs.
Rubs plus friction = Sores. Sores can also be caused by tack and blankets, insect bites, and even sweaty skin that rubs itself. Think about those butt cheeks or the super wrinkly elbow area.
The first order of business is to figure out what’s causing the sore, because then your healing and prevention plan can be implemented. For tack rubs, the location will tell you what’s up and what you need to do to fix it. Rubs under saddles mean that the saddle doesn’t fit. As an aside, just because there are not rubs doesn’t mean it DOES fit; it might just mean it fits poorly but not bad enough to cause a sore. Find a saddle fitter to help your horse.
For sores found near the girth area, use a different design or a different material. Shape and fabric/leather make a difference. Use a slinky girth cover once the sore is healed to prevent more rubs. Fleece can sometimes be scratchy on sensitive skin and may irritate the area even more.
For bridle-area sores, remove the offending piece of your bridle if you can. This gives the rub or sore time to heal, and may shed some light on how well your horse responds to your seat…perhaps a great training opportunity! Switch to a different noseband/crownpiece/flash, add slinky material to the offending leather, or use a goopy and slippery ointment so the friction is reduced. Always make sure that the bridle is properly fitted!
For blanket-related sores, you might be able to creatively work around the rubs, or you may find that this a great time to go shopping. If you have a stash of leg quilts, grab some scissors and sew in quilted pieces to the inside of your blankets and sheets to reduce rubs. This is great solution for hip rubs. For shoulder rubs, find another cut of blanket, and remember that even if the blanket fits when your horse is standing, he still must be able to walk and get up from a nap, as these are two horse activities that test the limits of shoulder motion inside a blanket.
Adding underwear to your horse’s clothing collection can work, too. Slinky nylon is slippery, and lets blankets and sheets glide over rub-prone areas.
For rubs that seem to appear out of the ether, treat and focus upon future prevention. Most mystery rubs are really a grooming dilemma. Could you imagine sweating and exercising with a little bit of dirt in between your butt cheeks or in your elbow? Ouch! Perhaps your horse’s whole body inspection and grooming routine needs to be kicked up a notch. Add those slick ointments to reduce friction, and make sure that your horse is super clean!
Pay attention to rubs as they can quickly turn into sores. Many sores are exceptionally painful and need to heal completely, so perhaps you will be having no stirrup AND no saddle lessons for a while.