High heat and humidity are ideal conditions for growth of organisms, so numbers in the environment — and on your horse’s skin — are high during the summer. They’re also high on tack, saddle pads, grooming tools and basically everything. Skin that’s irritated by friction (from tack), insect bites or dirt from the coat or equipment that gets trapped under tack or halters is at prime risk.
Bacteria and fungi, either on the surface of the skin or in the hair follicles, can play a role in many common minor skin problems seen in the summer, including itchy tails, bare spots on the face, hair loss under halters, raw areas between the hind legs, udder dermatitis, lumps in the saddle area and other equipment rubs. Fortunately, these problems are usually fairly easy to treat and prevent.
Cleanliness is essential for both prevention and treatment:
• Groom well before tacking up.
• Wipe sweat and dirt from tack after each use.
• Use clean saddle pads and stable blankets.
• Remove sweat and dirt after work by hosing or sponging, and don’t forget the face and around the ears.
• If the horse tends to have long fetlock hairs, keep them trimmed back. In fact, horses prone to skin problems on their lower legs often will do much better if the hair on their legs are clipped.
• Remember to clean halters regularly, too.
If you find a problem:
• Wash the area daily. A gentle soap/shampoo is usually effective in killing many organisms. Choose one free of a lot of additives, like Corona from Summit Industries (www.summitinds.com 800-241-6996), which is also one of our best buys in equine shampoos. Uckele’s Green Shampoo (www.uckele.com 800-248-0330) is an old-fashioned “green soap” based product that also cleans effectively but is gentle. The EQyss Micro-Tek Shampoo and skin spray combination (www.eqyss.com, 800-526-7469) is also extremely effective for problems like these and combines a shampoo with an antimicrobial spray.
For spot washings in difficult areas like the head, or when problem is well localized, try using a tea-tree-oil-based sheath cleaner like Triple J’s Sheath Cleaner (www.triplejproducts.com, 888-778-8100), which is excellent for dissolving crusts, easy to use for spot treatments, has good antimicrobial activity but is gentle.
• Use an antimicrobial product. For a broad- spectrum topical to try as a first line treatment after washing, use Animal Legends Tea Tree ADE cream or spray (www.animallegends.com 800-399-7387) or the EQyss Micro-Tek spray in combination with their shampoo we discussed with bathing.
• Keep the area dry and allow it to get plenty of sun.
• If there’s no improvement in 24 hours, go to a generic human antibiotic cream, alone or in combination with Lotrimin Athlete’s Foot cream. Areas that don’t show improvement within three days should be seen by a veterinarian.
• Do not cover areas of problem skin with tack or a halter until they have healed.
• Keep tack clean and use clean, fresh brushes and saddle pads every day until the skin has healed to avoid re-spreading the organism. Don’t share equipment between affected and well horses.