How to support his winter skin

Between clipping, wearing rugs and braving the elements, winter is tough on your horse’s skin. There are plenty of things that go into helping your horse have healthy skin, including a good nutritional programme, healthy digestive system, good weather, the ability to escape bad weather, and a good worming programme. But there is plenty you can do as his owner to help - here are Jenny Ellis’ tips to help you keep his largest organ in top condition.


1 Rugging 

Managing your horse’s rugs is important as you mustn’t let him get too hot or cold. Using rugs in layers will help keep him at the correct temperature as it’s easy to remove or add a layer. A light rug next to the skin can be washed easily and regularly – use a non-biological product to avoid irritation. 

2 Grooming time

Time without rugs is vital for his skin during winter. Set aside time for proper grooming sessions every day if you can manage it, or at least three times a week. This will stimulate his circulation and remove built-up grease – if rugged up he won’t be able to do this by rolling or mutual grooming. 

3 Stop sweat rash

Sweat rash can appear as little spots in the saddle area or across your horse’s body. Biological washing powder, shampoo and feed can cause similar spots, as can too many rugs or rugging up too soon after work. Always wash off all sweat, groom and thoroughly dry your horse after exercise.  

4 Daily health check

With an unclipped horse, it can be harder to keep tabs on skin conditions due to his dense winter coat. This means you’ll need to feel him every day for cuts or scrapes, and sign of the common winter conditions mud fever or rain scald. The earlier infection is detected, the easier they’ll be to clear. 

5 Mud fever and rain scald

You must get on top of mud fever or rain scald quickly. Wash the affected area with Hibiscrub or betadine, dry thoroughly and apply the antibiotic ointment prescribed by your vet. A moisture-repellent cream such as zinc oxide or Sudacrem on top can also help.

6 Diet

A healthy horse is a happy one. If he’s in good condition mentally and physically he’s less likely to suffer health problems, including with his skin. So contact a feed helpline to check he’s getting what he needs, keep him at the right weight, maximise turnout and give him ad lib quality forage.

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