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  • June 22, 2023 3 min read

    Managing Skin and Coat Conditions in Horses During Winter 

    Winter can be a challenging season for horses when it comes to maintaining healthy skin and a glossy coat. The cold, dry air, decreased daylight, and limited grazing opportunities can contribute to various skin and coat conditions. As responsible horse owners, it is essential to understand these conditions and take appropriate measures to support our equine companions. In this article, we will explore common skin and coat issues faced by horses during winter and discuss strategies to alleviate and prevent them.

    1. Dry Skin 

    During winter, the low humidity levels and exposure to cold air can lead to dry skin in horses. Dry skin is not only uncomfortable but also leaves the skin more susceptible to irritation and infections. To remedy dry skin conditions ensure your horse remains hydrated by offering clean, fresh water, and also feed a balanced diet, with a focus on adding Omega 3 fatty acids to promote a healthy skin and coat. An emollient can also be used over the patch of dry skin to provide relief and relieve itchiness or irritation. 

    2. Rain Scald 

    Rain scald is a common bacterial skin infection that occurs during wet and cold weather. It appears as scabby, matted hair with a foul smell and is most commonly found on the horse's back, rump, and neck. If you notice that your horse has rain scald, a consultation with your vet is a must to ensure that it is treated effectively. To avoid rain scald, ensure your horse is provided with a dry environment, such as a shelter or stable. Rugging your horse will also help keep it dry when it is paddocked, but don't forget to take the rug off, as if water is trapped underneath this can also contribute to rain scald and other skin conditions! 

    3. Greasy Heel 

    Greasy heel, also known as pastern dermatitis, is a common skin condition that affects horses. It is characterized by inflammation and infection of the skin on the lower limbs, particularly around the heel, pastern, and fetlock areas. Greasy heel is more prevalent during wet and muddy conditions. Keeping your horse away from wet and muddy areas and offering dry areas, as well as regular grooming will help in preventing greasy heel. Should your horse contract greasy heel, then a consult with your vet is needed to ensure the infection is treated effectively. 

    4. Ringworm 

    Ringworm is a common fungal infection that can affect horses. Despite its name, ringworm has nothing to do with worms but rather refers to the circular lesions that appear on the skin. It is highly contagious and can spread from horse to horse or even from horses to humans. If you notice that your horse does have ringworm, there are over-the-counter preparations (e.g. shampoos) that can help treat it. If these do not work, however, a vet consultation is required. 

    5. Equine Dermatitis 

    Equine dermatitis, or sweet itch, is an allergic reaction to the bites of midges, commonly known as "no-see-ums." This condition causes intense itching, hair loss, and skin inflammation, particularly along the mane, tail base, and rump. If your horse suffers from dermatitis there are feed supplements that aim to reduce the severity of the dermatitis and help with the itching. There are also topical applications that can be bought over the counter to also help with itching. If however, these treatments don't help, a vet consult may be needed, which may include allergy testing. To prevent equine dermatitis, it is important to protect your horse from biting insects. This may include rug protection, fly sprays, and stable bug zappers. 

    6. Dull Coat 

    The combination of limited grazing and a lack of sunlight during winter can affect a horse's overall coat condition, leading to a dull and lackluster appearance. In some cases, nutritional deficiencies may contribute to this issue. To help your horse have a shiner and healthy-looking coat, you must ensure that you are feeding a balanced diet. Adding Omega 3 essential fatty acids, such as linseed, will also help with coat condition and shine. 

    Winter can pose challenges for horses, affecting their skin and coat health. By understanding the various conditions that may arise during this season and implementing appropriate prevention strategies, we can ensure that our horses remain happy and healthy, with a great shiny coat! 

    At Oakford Stockfeeds we are here to help! If you need any help with choosing supplements or feeds to help with your horse's coat, or if you require over-the-counter medications to help with skin conditions - we've got you covered! 

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