Summer is an amazing time of year to be an equestrian. Over the warmer months, you can spend your days trail riding through the woods, enjoying a thrilling gallop on the beach, or even just feeling the breeze while you school your horse in the outdoor arena. Show season picks up and the long days offer plenty of time to ride. But there are downsides to being a horse owner in the summer months. The extra heat and moisture often cause skin issues in horses that are uncomfortable and may be debilitating.
Keep reading to find out what they are, how to manage them, and what you can do to prevent them from happening to your horse.
Blame The Bugs
Whether it’s the flies by the manure pile, the gnats by the long grasses, or the wasps that have made your tack room their home, these bugs can easily disturb your ride. Even worse, certain bugs can cause serious skin issues in horses, like insect bite hypersensitivity, or summer sores.
If your horse develops insect bite hypersensitivity, also known as sweet itch, you’ll start to see raised lumps and scabs on their underbelly, mane, tail, or ears. These lumps are extremely itchy and can cause the horse to rub against fencing and buildings. Sweet itch is caused by an allergic reaction to the saliva of gnats, midges, or no-see-ums. While some horses couldn’t be bothered less by these little bugs, others come down with a bad case of skin irritation.
Summer soresare another summertime skin issue caused by bugs. But this time, it’s not related to the bite of the bugs themselves, but to what they’re carrying inside. Habronema are small parasites carried by flies. Most of the time, the larva makes its way harmlessly into the horse’s digestive tract. Problems occur when the fly deposits the larva near an open wound, or the eyes, genitals, or mouth. Here, the larva starts to burrow into the skin in search of moisture. When it can’t make its way into the digestive tract of the horse, the larva dies. The irritation of the burrowing plus the dead parasite leads to the development of large open sores. These sores, scientifically known as Habronemiasis, are difficult to heal and very painful to the horse.
Over the winter, neither summer sores nor sweet itch are much of a problem because the cold temperatures keep the insects at bay. But when temperatures rise over the summer months and the bugs come out to play, fly protection is essential. Fly masks and fly spray protect your horse against harmful insects and the parasites they carry. If your horse does develop either of these skin issues, horse owners have reported successmanaging these conditions with moisturizing Zarasyl equine barrier cream. Many veterinarianshave reported that a moisturizing environment allows for superior wound healing for both summer sores and sweet itch.
The Problem with Dust, Pollen, and Sweat
When a thick blanket of snow covers the world, dust is buried under the frozen water and pollen dies with the flowers and trees. But every summer the heat turns previously wet ground to dust, causes your horse to sweat, and blooming flowers give the world a pollen-orange glow. While the flowers are beautiful, the pollen they produce combined with dust and sweat can lead to significant skin issues in horses.
Without daily grooming, the sweat from the heat of the day is left to dry. Over time, the buildup of saltcauses irritation and hair loss. Just imagine how you would feel if you went for a run without showering for several days in a row.
The increase in dust and sweat over the summer means that it’s time to step up your grooming routine. Daily grooming helps to bring natural oils to the surface of the skin, while a weekly or bimonthly bath can really get all that sweat and grime off and keep the skin healthy. If your horse does develop skin irritation, try Zarasyl. We have created an FEI & race-day safehigh-tech amorphous silica formula tailored to promote overall skin health for situations just like this one.
The Rainy Season
Every spring and summer most countries in the Northern Hemisphere get more rain than any other time of year. Our pastures become a mucky soup filled with mud. After walking and standing in the mud all day, horses develop skin issues like mud fever. This skin issue is a type of pastern dermatitisthat occurs when bacteria, fungi, and/or parasites enter through the topmost layer of waterlogged skin, leading to irritation and lameness. The rough sandpaper-like grit in mud causes abrasions that are prime opportunities for these invaders to sneak past your horse’s natural defenses. The extra moisture in your horse paddock that caused the condition to start with, also prevents your horse’s skin from drying out, creating the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
The best way to manage mud fever is also the hardest: getting rid of the mud. This may mean bringing crushed stone into the paddock, laying down specific mats, or moving pastures altogether. Try creating a sacrifice lot or other sandy area to turn your horse out in when it rains as the sand provides more drainage and you won’t churn up your nice grass pastures.
Once you’ve addressed the root cause of the problem, apply an equine barrier creamto the irritated skin. As this skin issue in horses can be painful, it’s a good idea to contact your veterinarian right off the bat to discuss the best protocol.
Zarasyl: Keeping Your Summer Care-Free
Few things are more frustrating and disheartening than watching your horse struggle with summertime skin issues. Instead of trail riding on the beach, you’re stuck in the barn with an itchy and painful horse. The good news is that there are constructive things you can do to prevent skin issues in horses and keep your horse healthy and happy.
Keep stalls free of wet bedding and pastures dry.
Groom horses daily to increase blood circulation and remove grime.
Use adequate fly protection, like fly masks and insect repellent.
Contact your veterinarian at the first sign of skin issues.
At Zarasyl, we strive to take the frustration out of managing skin issues in horses. That’s why we developed our FEI & race-day safe high-tech amorphous silica formula tailored to promote wound healing and overall skin health. Non-toxic and non-irritating, Zarasyl is designed to offer worry-free skin care for your horse.