If your horse is prone to mud fever, just the thought of winter might be enough to stir up feelings of dread in the pit of your stomach.
It can seem impossible to keep him clean and dry when the heavens continue to open, so we’ve brought together some handy tips to help limit his risk of mud fever.
THINK ABOUT HIS PADDOCK
It sounds obvious, but limiting the amount of time your horse stands in wet, muddy conditions will really help. Gateways have a tendency to become boggy over winter, so try and limit the amount of time your horse loiters at the gate by fencing off the muddiest areas, encouraging him to graze on drier land until you’re ready to bring him in.
For paddocks that are excessively boggy, you may want to investigate what’s causing this as it’s often a sign of bad drainage. Check round and make sure there’s no overgrown ditches preventing water from draining away from the field and that there’s no blockages in your pipes.
If you have limited pasture, rotate your paddock frequently to help prevent it becoming too muddy and damaged, and to help to keep your grass at a reasonable length.
TO CLIP OR NOT TO CLIP
There’s been much debate over whether feathers can help or hinder horses with mud fever, but it really comes down to your horse and what suits him best.
While feathering offers some protection from the wet, it can also hold wet mud on the skin for longer. Having clipped legs can get around this problem, but it also leaves the skin much less protected from the wet.
If your horse wears boots, ensure that they’re clean and well-fitted and never used over mud.
The key is to try and keep the moisture and the mud off his skin as much as possible, so learn what works best for your horse.
KEEP HIS LEGS DRY
It might seem like an impossible challenge in the winter months, but try and keep your horse’s legs as dry as possible, without over-washing.
If he comes in with legs that are already wet, hose him off, but leave them if the mud is dry and brush off later, as over-washing can weaken the skin.
If you do hose him off, make sure to dry his legs as much as possible and use things like talcum powder and paper towels to get rid of as much moisture as you can. You risk leaving a warm and moist place for the bacteria to grow if the legs aren’t dried properly after washing.
Once his legs are clean and dry, you can use waterproof barrier treatments on the legs (such as baby oil or Vaseline) to keep the moisture off.
NEVER FORGET THE VET
Have a chat with your vet if you’re at all worried as they’ll be able to advise you and give treatment if required.
Several other conditions can also look like mud fever (including mite damage, allergies, fungal infections and auto-immune disorders), so if your horse isn’t responding to treatment (or if you’re at all worried) call your vet.