My horse gets rubs! How can I prevent and treat them?
Most rubs are caused by equipment, such as blankets, bridles, saddles, and girths. Sometimes the best thing to do is change equipment or find a way to alter it!
You will find ruffled and broken hairs before a full blown rub or sore is evident.
For blanket rubs, I suggest finding another brand with a more loose chest area, or larger gussets up front. There are also new blankets that are bib like in front, the fabric swings under the neck and closes on the wither. You can also consider a nylon underblanket pajama! (lots of fun colors and patterns!) You can read more about fitting blankets and fly sheets here. Generally speaking, I have found that rubs are better prevented with slippery fabrics instead of sheepskin or fleece.
This bed sore rub won't be affected by tack, but a blanket many need some more padding.
For neck rubs, under blankets, you can use an old quilt.
For saddles, an adjustment is necessary to the tree, the flocking, or both. I have seen some folks add more pads. This is very similiar to adding more socks to a shoe that gives you blisters. You will put more pressure on that blister! Consider consulting with a master saddle fitter to make some adjustments to your flocking and/or tree. This article here can also explain some other signs of a poorly fitted saddle.
For spur rubs, this can be totally tricky. The first thing to do is know that you will need to leave that area alone as much as you can so the hair can grow back. Talk with your trainer, also, and come up with a plan for new spurs or new training. Can you ditch the spurs for a while?
Rubs from the grazing muzzle and halter - easily remedied with some fleece.
For bridles and halters, consider some fleece on the crownpiece, but be warned that fleece can cause more rubs because of the uneven surface. Consider a fly bonnet for use if you are riding. Bug control and skin protection all in one. If the rubs are on the sides of the face, use a bunch of vaseline or baby butt cream before you tack up. A zinc oxide cream is a good choice, as it does not melt as easily as other ointments. You could also switch to a leather halter (I like them better anyway because they break before your horse does!). In the summer, some horses have a tendency to lose hair on the face from sweat and bugs, cover up with a fly mask. If you use a petroleum based product, be warned that this can inhibit oxygen getting to the skin and can slow hair growth. Try a cream based if you are considering using an ointment all the time.
Fly bonnets can help prevent rubs from the bridle.
For girths, this is tricky. Some horses do fine with a sheepskin cover, others are even more irritated by them. I like a silky sleek girth cover like the one pictured. If the rub becomes open, please chat with your vet and consider letting it heal before you ride again. (Think giant oozy blister plus belt plus movement equals pain). This is called a gall sore, and you can read more about them here. I thinks it's totally ok to use a girth cover and some slippery cream at the same time as double protection. Although laundry won't be too much fun!!
These girth covers are sleek!
What's your protocol of choice for dealing with rubs and hairless patches on your horse?