Around the Water Trough

Summer Skin Issues

Shannon Habenicht

By Emma and Cat | World Class Grooming | @worldclassgrooming |

It’s summertime, your horses might be getting night turn out, they are getting regular baths after being ridden, on humid days they are sweating just standing there. Are you seeing more skin issues, are they losing hair on their faces, do girth rubs seem to be occurring, are you continually dealing with scurf on legs and pasterns, are hives appearing more after rain?  What can be done, if anything, to help solve these issues?  

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Maintaining an environment that inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungus is critical when dealing with summertime skin problems. A wet, warm environment is all that is needed to enhance the growth of these pesky microorganisms. Drying your horses after bathing is an easy solution to maintaining a dry environment. Always towel dry the legs and face after bathing, paying attention to the face crevices, behind the elbows, front of cannon bones, tendons and back of the pasterns. If possible, hand graze your horse until he is dry, checking his belly is dry before bringing him in. If the wash stall is outside and time is short you could leave him to snooze whilst you tidy up equipment and clean tack. On wet days you can safely position free standing fans in front of your horse whilst standing on cross ties to help dry legs. Everybody’s barn situation is different so do what works best for you. 

Do not shampoo your horse every time you bathe him. Have you ever noticed that retired horses that live outside and look unkempt don’t suffer from the same skin issues that your beautifully cared for horse does? This is because the horse’s natural skin and coat provides defense against such issues.  Bathing everyday with shampoo removes the horse’s natural oils and therefore defense to fight against bacteria and fungus. Keep the shampoo for special occasions, such as pre-shows or lessons. Using natural products, such has Shapley’s Medicare shampoo which contains Tea Tree and Lemongrass, is a great to help treat scratches and rain rot. It is gentle on the coat, leaving a healthy natural shine. If daily shampoo is required, this is the “go to” shampoo.

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If you have a horse that gets hives easily just from getting turned out in the rain, giving them an Apple Cider Vinegar rinse as soon as they come in from the paddock can often help to neutralize the effect of rain and lesson the appearance of hives. This may not work for all horses but is worth a try.

When it comes to your daily grooming routine, using a good curry and lifting the dirt from the coat is a must. The Hands On Gloves provide a way of getting into all those skin folds and creases that can be great places for bacteria/fungus to grow. Let your horse tell you how much pressure to use when grooming these areas. Because each finger has dimples, you can easily get into eye sockets, tendon groves and elbows where regular curries cannot. 

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Having followed up with a good soft brush, you then have many choices on the market as to how to finish your groom. The most basic is witch hazel, not drying on the skin but is great for picking up dirt and dust. Being an astringent, it can help to lessen the appearance of hives.

Equinature Aloe and Tea Tree Spray is a great product that not only leaves a great finish to coats, but it really helps soothe irritated skin. Used over a few days this product will minimize hives and help to remove unwanted fungus.  

If your horse already has scratches, rain rot or hives...

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Getting down to healthy skin once scabs have developed is paramount. The quicker scabs are removed then the quicker healthy coat can regrow. Shapley’s MTG is the number one product to use for these occasions. If never used before always apply a small amount to a test area to make sure your horse doesn’t react to it. Applying this where needed and letting it soak in for a day is normally enough to soften the scabs and allow them to be finger groomed or curried off. Seriously affected areas might take more time.

Should this be a horse with a heavy coat, clipping away the hair can really help quicken this process. Once you get down to healthy skin, use witch hazel or aloe tea tree spray to clean the area and help prevent further irritation. Try not to let the skin get too dry, this will only cause more micro abrasions for microorganisms to take advantage of. Applying MTG or Equinature Skin Mend can really help skin to return to good health and encourage hair growth.  

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Sometimes referred to as dew poisoning, cracked skin on the back of pasterns is very common in horses that spend periods of time on wet grass. To prevent this problem applying a zinc-based cream to the back of pasterns before night turn out can be useful. Equinature Zinc Cream contains Tea Tree which is an added barrier against fungal infections.

We hope these few tips help you to maintain your horses skin health this summer!