Like us, our horse's skin and health can be affected by the weather. In winter horses can suffer from dry skin from the elements and the cold dry air can lead to delayed tissue healing. Horses can also suffer far more varied issues like, mud fever, rain scald, rug rubs, and fungal infections. So how can we help?
There are pros and cons to weigh up when we decide if and how much hair to clip off our horse. For horses in good health with plentiful grazing, good shelter and at rest or in light work there is generally no need to clip. Their hair provides a natural barrier to the winter elements and keeps them cosy and warm. However for most of us, we use rugs, end up with poached gateways and have sweaty horses from riding, so clipping off at least some hair has many benefits. Short hair dries much faster, meaning that the risk of bacterial overgrowth is decreased. In a warm and damp environment, the natural bacteria on the horse's skin can invade the surface layer, leading to infections.
Clipping can also be helpful for horses with Cushing, as they can produce so much coat in the winter, that they sweat even stood in a field. It is also worth considering clipping horses that are particularly good-doers, grow big heavy coats, and need to use up a few fat resources for weight loss.
Consider leaving on the hair over the horses’ back, to keep them from getting a chill, unless they are in hard work, like jumpers, racehorses, or hunters. The same goes for clipping feathers, if you have good ground then leave them on, they can stop the mud getting to the horse’s skin however once the wet gets thought to the skin, cutting some feathers off can make a huge difference in helping maintain skin condition and preventing issues taking hold. Trimming hair also makes any creams and lotions more effective, as you can work them into the skin.
Most horses love to be brushed, regular brushing helps stimulate circulation and promote skin health. It is also the perfect opportunity to notice any skin concerns.
For horses prone to issues in the winter months, there are some great supplements on the market, that can help support the skin's integrity and defences against the elements. Look for those containing herbs like linseed, seaweed, brewer’s yeast, echinacea, garlic, liquorice and calendula. These herbs combined supply essential fatty acids and amino acids and vitamins for keratin production, boost overall immune response and help support cell renewal and regrowth of hair and skin.
The amount of time our horse spends in rugs during the winter is bound to increase the risk of rubs. Clipping also makes our horses far more sensitive to rubbing. At least two well-fitting rugs, one to wear and one to dry can be helpful. Watch our Rugging tips video to ensure you get a good fit and make sure you take your horses rug off daily to check your horse for any cuts, scrapes, or rubs. Trouble areas to watch for are the shoulders and the withers. For any light rubs (where the hair is just a little thin) from rugs, tack or even our boots rubbing their sides when riding, aloe vera rich lotions like Hilton Herbs Ezee Arnica are great.
If you notice any rubbing over the wither, it is wise to change the design of the rug your horse wears and pop some cream on the abraded area to reduce the chance of infection.
If you do have any further concerns about your horse’s skin health please do contact us at the Helpline at Hilton herbs, (link to contact us page) we are happy to help. In an emergency or in the case of infection please do consult with your vet to bring your horse the comfort it needs.
Thank you to Premier Equine for letting us use their rug photo