Why does summer seem to create all sorts of skin problems with my horse?
Because it can. Bugs, heat, sprays, dew, you name it. That’s the best explanation I have! But let’s examine some common summer skin problems and see what we can do for our horses.
Sunburn - Totally painful and also totally preventable. Pink skinned horses (true white hair) will suffer unless they are protected with zinc ointment, fly masks, fly boots, and/or daytime stabling. It’s actually really easy to prevent if you put protection in place in the morning. Blisters on pink skin might be sunburn, or it might be photosensitivity, so involve your Vet. Photosensitivity often has accompanying liver problems (bad). More on sunburn here, more on photosensitivity here.
Rubs - So in an attempt to protect our horses from the universe of sun and bugs we often create rubs with our sheets and face masks. Inspect withers, shoulders, inside of hind legs, under the neck, well, just look everywhere. You will see shortened hairs, crumpled hairs, out of place hairs before the rub goes bald. After a bald spot forms, your horse will get a sore. Attack with new clothes, fuzzy padding, adjusting the fit, or sheet liners. Having a few styles of muzzles and sheets and fly masks allows you to rotate through if your those is susceptible to rubs. For more on rubs, read this.
Pink skin needs protection!
Insect bites - these vary in severity from a little spot, to a huge hive, to a bald open sore, to nothing more than an itchy spot. Ticks can be particularly irritating, not to mention disease carrying, so inspect daily and remove. Larger bites can affect tack. Bites that turn into sores might get infected. Any severe bite warrants a phone call to the Vet just in case.
Scratches - the dreaded lower leg war of the scabs. Clean and dry is best, so it catching it early. Daily leg inspections (wouldn’t you know you can read about that here) catch scratches early. Sometimes you can nip things in the bud, sometimes you need the Vet. Scratches can also look like photosensitivity, so be aware. More on scratches here.
Summer fungus - A popular description among horse owners, especially those in hot and humid areas. A fungus amongus is often a case of a bacterial infection, but saying fungus amongus is clearly more fun to say. Sometimes topical potions help, sometimes they don’t. The key is early detection, and looping the Vet in for suggestions. Sometimes systemic antibiotics are warranted.
Super fun scratches. :(
Sweet itch - A super horrible reaction to tiny, almost invisible midge bugs. The reaction causes intense itching, which causes rubbing, which causes scabs, which cause itching… you see how this is bad. Specialty sheets and fatty acid based fly sprays help. More deets here!
Random bald spots on the face - who knows. So many reasons - sweat, fly sprays, rubs from masks, bugs. Same as usual - monitor and intervene if necessary. More on random bald spot formations here.
Daily grooming, sun protection, and a super fly control plan can all work together to give your horse the best possible summer skin. What works for you?