Healthy equine skin is IN. Exposure to infection is OUT! Your horse’s skin is regularly
presented with many challenges, many of which can be minimized or eliminated with proper management and sensible care.
HHH: Factors affecting your horse’s skin include:
- lack of grooming
- poor sanitation
- extended stall time
- inadequate nutrition
- toxic feeds
- high stress
- digestive upset
- frequent clipping
- improper tack
- rowdy pasture pals
- minimal exercise or pasture grazing
- wet weather
HHH: Daily grooming serves to strengthen your relationship with your horse, and, along with cleaning his coat, helps draw attention to health issues that may include:
- chafing from ill fitting tack
- thrush, scratches (pastern dermatitis), girth itch, rain rot, etc.
- allergies or clogged pores from lotions and creams or fly spray
- infection from clipping, cuts or other abrasions
HHH: Skin friendly supports for your horse:
- Topicals include aloe vera, tea tree, arnica, chamomile, calendula, witch hazel and Vitamin E
- Accelerators include collagen, growth factors, protein, fibroblasts, connective tissue (ex. Fibroskin).
- Internal supports include supplements with Vitamin C, flax seed, biotin, grape seed
- Combat thrush with oregano and Diatomaceous Earth (ex. No THRUSH dry formula)
- Antifungal shampoo and ointment and spray (ex. Zephyr’s Garden Anti-Fungal products )
- Non-chemical fly spray (ex. Ricochet)
- Arnica poultice (ex. Equilite’s SORE NO-MORE )
- Appropriate turnout and exercise/sunshine (vitamin D absorption)
- Warm compresses
- Towel drying (or warm blow dry if tolerated) after bathing
- Time to heal and regrow hair and healthy skin naturally
HHH: Skin foes of your horse:
- Dirty tack, tools or surroundings
- Constant stall environment
- Limited exercise or interaction
- Wet skin
- Poor nutrition, inconsistent feed times and limited or unclean water
- Pyrethrins and other chemicals
- Harsh/chemically derived soaps
HHH: Clipping should be kept to a minimum or avoided altogether. The process of clipping
serves to sharpen the end of your horse’s hair. The hair shaft is cut at an angle and hair can “turn back” into the skin as it continues to grow. Clipping removes natural body defenses against cold weather and can lead to irritation, inflammation, itching, bumps, lumps, ingrown hairs, rash, red skin, pimples, papules, pustules, and various skin infections. If clipping is absolutely necessary, it should never be done with dull or damaged blades, and clipping equipment should always be disinfected between each use.
HHH: Sanitize, sanitize sanitize! Disinfecting with an antiviral, antifungal, antibactericidal cannot be overemphasized! Dentists and doctors sanitize equipment prior to use with each client. Salons and barbers wash tools between each use. Horse owners and handlers must practice common sense to avoid potential skin problems BEFORE they occur. Common agents include rubbing alcohol, bleach, hydrogen peroxide and iodine.
HHH: Skin lesions are structural changes in the tissue caused by injury or disease and are either primary or secondary. A scab is a secondary lesion on the skin, meaning it develops in later stages of a disease. Scabs are also called crusts and they are an accumulation of serum (watery fluid which may contain blood) and pus (thick fluid from tissue debris).
HHH: Healthy skin no-nos:
1. Never use the same clippers on another horse without sanitizing the blade or fungus can spread.
2. Never run clippers over scabs. Snip the area with scissors, and apply a protective salve over the scab.
3. Never use another horse’s tack, equipment or grooming supplies without sanitizing first (without sanitation, dermatophyte spores remain viable in the environment).
A full body clip (the most common US clip) resembles your horse’s summer coat yet leaves your horse the most exposed to the elements.
A hunter clip allows your horse to stay cool under gallop while leaving legs and saddle area left intact.
In a blanket clip , only the shoulders and neck are clipped.
Trace clips vary depending on the horse’s job and primary sweat areas. Generally, the back and legs are left unclipped.
A chaser clip keeps the back warm by removing below the poll to the belly, legs are left unclipped.
Belly clips cut hair along a minimal strip along the jugular groove, chest and under the barrel.
Because hair is an outgrowth of the skin, clipping may cause scabs. The root of the hair is contained in a depression called a hair follicle which becomes coarser and thicker with clipping and even darker with shaving.
“I apply one rule: If in work, my horses get clipped, rugged, hard feed and turnout all day. If not in work, they do not get clipped or rugged, just get supplements and hay as well being turned out all day. I have seen many horses with skin problems over the years from over clipping. In cases of post-clipping rashes, I advise my clients to wash the horse with warm water and Aloe Vera, in a sheltered environment 24 hours after the clipping.” --Zeb-Graham Howard from the UK
“My friend in Florida used to work in a sales barn that clipped daily! Many show horses get clipped 2-10 times a season. I used to have to fight my trainer that [my horse] only gets clipped once a year. I clip in early November, that’s it.” --Georgette Topakas from California
Options to discourage seasonal hair growth:
1. Maintain a consistent environment that avoids cold temperatures.
2. Utilize sheets (in 50-60 degrees) and blankets (in 30-49 degrees).
3. Add a controlled lighted area to your barn by August 1. Schedule 16 hours of continuous light with 8 hours of darkness (controlled by a timer).
PREVENTION is key to your horse’s healthy skin year round. Sanitize equipment prior to each use, include an immune support and a skin supplement in your horse’s diet, consider a kidney flush and liver cleanse once a year, groom regularly, address issues immediately and minimize (or eliminate) risk of skin challenges. Your horse’s radiant glow will be reflected in your tenacity!
Shari Frederick, BS, NMD, a nutritional educator and licensed aesthetician , assists horseowners in making healthier, more natural choices in horse care. She is an independent author, international lecturer and self-styled naturalist. At her Happy Horse Haven Rescue in Texas, detoxification and liver/kidney/immune supports are the FIRST steps in rehab for nearly every arriving horse. Visit Shari’s website horseshaveheart.org