May 2013

Maintaining your horse’s health in muddy conditions

horse-in-a-wet-pastureYou’d think now that we’re in the spring/summer months of the year the issue of mud would be long since passed, but as per in Britain the rain continues to fall and we are having to dig out our wellies again to combat the slushy paddocks and fields.

Squishing through the deep mud in your boots is no fun, but it can be more troublesome for horses – they could pull tendons, slip and twist their legs, and their hooves can suffer greatly.

You particularly need to be aware of mud fever – a painful skin inflammation caused by a nasty microorganism that thrives on damp horse coats. This organism causes painful sores and hair loss and it is very common in horses that spend a lot of time outside in wet and muddy conditions. It usually becomes obvious around the pastern and heel area on a horse, so be very vigilant.

Key signs your horse has mud fever:

  • Matted areas of hair containing crusty scabs
  • Small, circular, ulcerated, moist lesions beneath scabs
  • Thick, creamy, white, yellow or greenish discharge between the skin and overlying scab
  • Deep fissures in the skin
  • Hair loss leaving raw-looking, inflamed skin underneath
  • Heat, swelling and pain on pressure or flexion of limb

Mud fever what to doThere are several things you can do to prevent mud fever. One of the most advisable is to make sure that after riding in wet and muddy conditions you hose off the mud on your horse’s legs as soon as you return to the stables. You should then dry them with a towel. If it is too cold to use the hose, wait for the mud to dry then brush it off with a dandy brush.

Remember to pick out your horses hooves as well – just to ensure there are no sharp rocks or pebbles caught in the mud which can cause abscesses and sores, and by maintaining a cosy – and dry – stable you’ll cut down on your ponies’ mud exposure and keep him comfortable and healthy through rainy season.

Keeping horse hair short will lessen the amount of mud that grips to a horse’s legs, so give try trimming it or give your horse a grade two haircut. Additionally, using a long-lasting antimicrobial spray at the end of the day – after cleaning your horse’s legs – will ensure that any bacteria on the legs is killed off, and cannot then multiply overnight.

One of the best ways of treating mud fever is by keeping your horse’s legs warm and dry and away from the wet and muddy conditions until the sores heal. We recommend using a mild disinfectant or anti-bacterial shampoo to make sure the area is clean.  Remember to make sure your horse’s legs are dried thoroughly following treatment and applying a cream or lotion to the area afterwards will help to soften any dry sores and patches.

Mud will also cause havoc for your horse’s hooves, especially deep and sticky mud which can pull horse shoes off! If the conditions are Tack N Tails - Mud Fever - Hoof Print in Mudreally bad it might be a good idea to have the shoes taken off completely, but only if you don’t plan on riding him and if his feet are in good condition.

If you decide to keep the shoes on, ensure toe clips are put on them to keep them well secured. Toe clips are two triangular shaped clips that help to keep horse shoes in place.

Ultimately, if the conditions are really bad, it is probably best to avoid riding your horse for a while due to the damage it can do to your horse’s legs. If you must ride, put rubber overreach boots on your horse and stick to slower speeds and dryer surfaces to prevent any accidents and to ensure that his shoes stay on.

So while the mud maybe a havoc in the paddock, don’t forget to reward your hard work looking after your ponies with a nice mud mask and relaxing bath. Of course, we don’t mean going au-naturel and scraping up some any old slosh from the back yard. Macs recommends some deep nourishing beauty treatment versions.


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