HH website visitor, Robbe, requests advice from Shari Frederick, regarding her pregnant mare’s dandruff condition. "The skin is the largest organ of the body. Skin, hair and hooves are treated as one with the horse, which acts as a protective covering. Skin is also a window to health. It can be a first sign of internal imbalance. "
DANDRUFF is caused by Eczema and is the shedding of skin that leads to the flaking of dead skin cells. It can be caused, triggered, or accelerated by a number of things:
• hormonal changes
• seasonal changes
• cold weather
• increased humidity
• reduced immune system
• dietary deficiencies and too many unnatural foods
• a reaction to a product or ingredient
It is likely that most, if not all, of the causes for dandruff in your mare’s mane are listed above. The skin is the largest organ of the body. Skin, hair and hooves are treated as one with the horse, which acts as a protective covering. Skin is also a window to health. It can be a first sign of internal imbalance.
GROOMING: Set up a grooming calendar and note any changes taking place: lessening of flakes, new areas of concern, etc. Regular grooming is so important! Brush her mane daily if possible so the natural oils can move down the hair shaft to replenish the mane hair. Don’t use the same brush on another horse, in case later it is revealed she has a contagious problem (like mites) that could spread to other horses. You have indicated not having shampooed her yet, therefore she is not reacting to shampoo. It is quite common for horses to react, especially from the harsh chemicals found in many dandruff shampoos.
Also, many people over-bathe their horse which can lead to dandruff, mostly because of a buildup of leftover shampoo and conditioner. On average, I wouldn’t wash a horse more than twice a month. Less is best. If you do choose to shampoo, ALWAYS rinse really well. When dandruff is present you should wash and rinse then REPEAT, but on the second shampoo, rub the mane skin vigorously to dislodge the dead skin cells. If you use a medicated shampoo, let it sit at least 5 minutes to allow it to assist in breaking up the buildup of dead skin or plaque. Rinse REALLY WELL so the dead skin can be eliminated from the hair and off the body. Some horses will look less shiny after a bath because the natural skin oils have been washed off. Grooming will help.
* Try adding a little tea tree oil to a mild oatmeal shampoo or try Dr. Bronner’s eucalyptus natural soap (from the health food store) and let it sit 5 minutes in lieu of using a harsh medicated shampoo. Eucalyptus acts as a natural antiseptic to discourage fungal activity.
* Sponge or spritz dry areas with chamomile tea; even add liquid aloe or use aloe gel to apply topically instead of spritzing.
* Massage in hypericum oil and/or vitamin E oil to support dry, sensitive skin needs. Rinse lightly afterward.
NUTRITION: Almost all horses have nutritional deficiencies and they consume unnatural substances via pellets or chemicals in the pasture. If available, have someone check the liver meridian; otherwise rest assured the addition of dandelion and other liver supports are valuable in aiding your horse’s ability to detox. Try www.silverliningherbs.com #27 Liver. If any swelling is observed add in #37 Kidney to help the kidneys cope with the excess toxic load being released. Lack of trace minerals is common with dry hooves and skin. Consider following a liver/kidney cleanse with microminerals (see www.4source.com or www.EnviroMin.com ). For maintenance consider whole oats, a basic herbal supplement like Silver Lining #10 to support overall good health after detox, and ample access to chemical/dust-free hay and pasture grass as well as clean water.
CONTACT DERMATITIS: Contact dermatitis can be a naturally occurring allergic reaction to:
• pasture plants and bedding that would affect muzzle and body
• shampoo containing chemicals or detergents that may remain on skin after bathing
• dyes in blankets
• preservatives applied to tack Horses also can have reactions to the environment due to pollution, pollen, mold, dust and insects.
(TIP: If one horse is affected it may be hypersensitivity or contact dermatitis; if several horses are affected it points to a possible contagious situation.)
PSORIASIS: Psoriasis is the rapid multiplication of skin cells. Scalp psoriasis is a chronic skin disorder and may affect a local area like skin beneath the mane or can be body-wide (systemic). In a normal situation, skin moves to the surface and sheds in about 28 days. With psoriasis the skin rapidly multiplies and sheds in 4 days! The body can’t keep up so there is a buildup on the surface which can appear like dandruff, but is ongoing and excessive. In some cases the skin underneath is irritated and can be swollen. With some types of psoriasis patches appear, occasionally spreading and joining to make larger patches that can scrape and bleed.
FUNGAL INFECTION: Watch for any signs of fungal infection if the mane (or tail) hair comes out in clumps or if the mane flakes become really excessive. Consult your veterinarian right away!
Here’s to your horse’s GOOD HEALTH! Shari Frederick Healthy Horse Hints