By Liv Gude of Professional Equine Grooms, special contributor to Heels Down Magazine
You might not know the exact, scientific name for it, but skin issues and horses are often described as:
But what on earth do you DO about it? Well, lucky for you, the easiest thing to do is pass the buck for someone else to figure out why your horse looks like he’s morphing into a hairless scabby lizard beast. Your horse’s vet. You might be tempted to play internet doctor here, but the bottom line is that you still won’t be sure what’s going on and then you won’t be able to write your horse a prescription to take care of the issue.
But why is this important to involve your vet? Well, let’s take scratches for example. A scabby and sore infection that normally resides on the lower legs of your horse. Scratches can be painful, cause swelling (which can cause more problems), and often need systemic drugs to treat. It also closely resembles photosensitivity, which is often linked to serious liver problems in horses, sometimes due to your horse eating toxic plants. The treatments are different for each situation!
Another great example of skin stuff you don’t want to mess around with is rain rot. Another icky skin infection, and this time it’s contagious to other horses. Sharing brushes, blankets, and not washing hands between petting two horses can spread rain rot around. Sometimes it looks like a fungal infection called ringworm, which is easily passed to YOU. The human. So much gross. One more thing to consider: The longer you wait to call your Vet, the larger your bill will be. It’s as true as the fact that horses love to give us heart attacks and also spook at invisible things.
So – what do you do to stay ahead of skin stuff? Daily grooming. It’s not just knocking off the dirt where the saddle goes, it’s going above and beyond to memorize and examine your horse.
Use your eyes and your fingertips. From head to toe, and front to back. It’s in the ears, sheath, under the tail, in the elbow wrinkles, in between the face and butt cheeks. No inch is off limits here. Use the dang curry comb and work on your upper body strength. There are so many benefits to properly grooming one of them is finding skin problems and knocking them out early. A few other ideas on staying ahead of skin problems:
– Make sure your horse has a complete and balanced diet. Hay only doesn’t have some vitamins and minerals and fatty acids that make up a healthy horse diet.
– Keep your grooming tools, saddle pads, and horse blankets clean! You don’t have to wash blankets all the dang time, but spend a few minutes brushing stuff out. Saddle pads get crusty with dirt and sweat, so take care of that before you tack up!
– Your horse’s tack better fit. Nothing says “horrible sore that won’t heal” more than ill fitting saddles and bridles. And, this just increases the chances of you ending up in the dirt because your horse’s tack hurts.
– Resist the urge to shampoo every day or every week. A horse’s natural oils are his buddy, and frequent or harsh shampooing robs your horse of these shine making oils.
You may also find that a clipped horse is easier to manage in terms of skin health. This is especially true if you exercise your horse in the winter – he dries quicker, he won’t overheat as easily, and brushing just got a lot more simple! You will, however, discover the joys of itchy horse hair all over your body as you try and carve an elaborate beach scene into his rump.