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First Posted: June 13, 2011
Jun 13, 2011

Spring Itch and Your Horse

Virginia Tech MARE Center * 5527 Sullivans Mill Road * Middleburg, VA 20117 * 540/687-3521 * Fax 540/687-5362 * MAREC@vt.edu * Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension (MARE) Center
May/June 2011 - Volume 2, Issue 3

Spring is in the air! Flowers are blooming and birds are singing! Unfortunately, this also means an increase in pollen, bacteria, fungi, and insects, and these can lead to some uncomfortable skin conditions for our horses. One reason horses itch this time of year is due to hair loss as their winter coats shed. Regular grooming will help them relieve the itch, but if it's extreme, you might try bathing your horse with an oatmeal shampoo. Another reason for itchiness is due to fly and insect bites. Some horses are highly sensitive and may develop a condition called "sweet itch", resulting in their rubbing the mane and tail excessively. Use of appropriate insect repellants can help protect the horse. Other alternatives include fly masks to protect their face and eyes, and fly sheets to protect their body. Providing the animals with shelter and a fan can also help; insects are disturbed by the air movement and don't bother the animals as much.

Rain rot and scratches are caused by fungal organisms and results in scabby, scaly patches on the horse's skin. They proliferate under long hair and so are common in late winter, under long winter coats, and wherever long hair grows (lower legs of some breeds). Good grooming, keeping the affected areas clean, and using appropriate topical treatments can aid in the healing of these conditions. Some horses are simply prone to dry skin. Over-shampooing can lead to dry skin as well. One option for this condition is to increase the fat content of the diet - this may supply additional fatty acids for the skin and improve the situation. For more information on skin conditions in horses, talk with your veterinarian or contact your local extension office.


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