Horse Skin Problems

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One of my first jobs was as an assistant manager at a major Thoroughbred rehabilitation and swimming center outside of Lexington, Ky. We had the privilege of having some of the best racehorses in the nation come through our doors. I remember, with glee, when I was assigned Linkage, who was a Kentucky Derby contender.? I loved getting to care for Affirmed?s full sister and many other horses with royal lineage.

So, you can imagine my determination to take the best care possible of these pampered superstars. And it was an uphill battle at times, as daily swimming in a chlorinated pool was not exactly conducive to good coats and skin.

Many of the horses were only there for a 30-day rehab, which usually went quickly with little difficulty. Others were there for 90 days or more and, especially if they were chestnuts, you?d see the impact on their skin and coats.

Some developed actual skin disease, despite a bath with the best shampoo available, which was Orvus (the same horse shampoo Dr. Grant Miller is recommending in his itchy-horse story in this issue). If the skin disease developed into a fungal infection, the go-to remedy back then (this was 30 years ago?I can't believe it was that long ago either!) was a plant fungicide called Captan.

Although ?everyone? used it all those years ago, the EPA now classifies Captan as a probable carcinogen, so may not be worth the risk, even if you can find it. There are better ways to combat a fungus infection today, like Vetericyn spray (see page 8).

But prevention leads the pack.? For several years after I purchased my mare, Sally, we battled skin fungus every summer. And one summer it was so bad that my husband felt we had no choice but to try Captan (this was still 10 years ago). It was a horrible hunt to even find the product for sale, but even the veterinary products weren?t touching that fungal infection.

Captan did clear it up, but around the same time I learned through one of our Horse Journal articles that the nutrients found in hoof products are the same ones for optimal skin health, especially the trace minerals. Since Sally is blessed with wonderful hooves, I didn't have her on a hoof product. I immediately changed that?being sure it had copper and zinc in it?and haven't had a problem since. Yes, the power of good, old-fashioned proper nutrition. don't knock it until you?ve tried it.

Cynthia Foley

Editor-in-Chief