How To Care For & Groom Horses With Sensitive Skin Conditions

We all want our horse to have a beautiful sleek and shiny coat that reflects health and vitality.  Unfortunately many horses suffer skin sensitivities like Queensland Itch from biting insects and other skin issues that adversely affect the appearance of the horses coat and overall well-being.

The treatment and causes are complex and there is no one size fits all solution and you may need to consult with your local vet for advice.

1. Understanding Sensitive Skin:

Identifying Sensitivity:

  • Observe your horse for signs of sensitivity, such as excessive itching, redness, or flakiness.
  • Observe when the reaction usually occurs is it during daylight hours or a night time, after being washed etc.,
  • Consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying skin conditions or allergies.

Resolve Diet Deficiencies

  • A well balanced, nutrient dense diet is essential to maintain effective immune function.
  • Common nutrient deficiencies in essential amino acids, copper and zinc are often the cause of a dull rough coat, skin issues and poor hoof quality.
  • Supplementation with Omega 3 fatty acids are suggested to help with any inflammatory response. Feeding one to two cups a day of freshly ground linseed (flaxseed) on a daily basis is an easy and effective way to reduce skin reactions.

Know Your Horse’s Triggers:

  • If biting insects are the trigger, use insect repellents, rug from dawn until dusk, use fans in a stable with mesh applied to any windows. Eliminate any insect breeding areas such as standing water and manure.
  • Identify specific food substances you horse may react to like lucerne (can create sunburn like symptoms on pink skin) or starch as in carbohydrate rich oaten/wheaten chaffs and hay.
  • Pay attention to changes in the environment that could affect your horse’s skin, such as weather or seasonal variations in grasses.
  • Check and treat for worm infestation. Horses rubbing their tails could be a sign of worms.

2. Creating a Gentle Grooming Routine:

Soft Brush Selection:

  • Keep the horses coat clean with daily grooming and regular washing to reduce itchiness of scabs and remove dry flaking skin.
  • Opt for soft brushes with dense short bristles to minimize abrasion on the skin.
  • Brushes made from goat hair or soft synthetic materials can be gentle on sensitive skin.

Frequent Cleaning of Brushes/Rugs/Saddle Blankets:

  • Good hygiene is essential!
  • Regularly wash grooming rugs/saddle pads and gear to prevent the spread of infection.
  • Sanitize brushes and other grooming tools to prevent the buildup of bacteria that might aggravate sensitive skin.
  • Don’t share tack, rugs and grooming gear between horses.

Avoid Harsh Chemicals:

  • Use an iodine wash and or natural quality horse shampoo that is gentle on the skin.
  • Choose hypoallergenic and natural grooming products that are free from harsh chemicals and fragrances.
  • Use medicated washes as instructed on the label.
  • Read product labels carefully to ensure they are suitable for sensitive skin.