Winter Skin Care
It would be easy to think that without flies, midges and the sun beating down on our horses and ponies that winter will be plain sailing when it comes to skin health. However, the colder, wetter weather brings with it a new set of challenges.
The good news is that owners can take several steps to support skin health through the winter months and even help to prepare the skin for midge season well before the ghastly insects reappear!
Not so glorious mud!
Whilst some horses seem to copy well with mud, others struggle with conditions such as mud fever or hoof abscesses. Ideally horses will have access to hard standing so they can escape the mud if living out, or when stabled overnight the legs and hooves will have a chance to dry out. Skin that is constantly wet and muddy can become compromised and the natural barrier can break down giving bacteria the perfect opportunity to invade. It is important to keep a close eye on your horse’s legs and hooves with daily checks and to take preventative measures when required. For example, horses that are prone to mud fever will need careful management and may benefit from a barrier cream or protective leg wraps. It is often best to let legs dry and then gently brush mud off as washing too frequently can strip the skin of the natural oils which help to protect it. If you are concerned about skin health always contact your vet for advice.
Prepare in advance for insect bite hypersensitivity
TurmerItch is formulated to help not only repel biting insects, but also support the entire mechanism of allergic reaction and resultant discomfort. Although it would seem logical to only feed TurmerItch during fly season, it may not be the best policy. It has been shown that horses that are particularly prone to insect bite hypersensitivity may have underlying issues with allergens.
Several allergenic factors, such as inhaled and ingested factors, microbiome imbalance, inherent overproduction of IgE antibodies, when added to the body’s reaction to an insect bite takes the overall response over a threshold, resulting in a full inflammatory response, with the associated itching and discomfort that leads to scratching, skin damage and potential infection.
Whilst TurmerItch “headline” activity is for use during the fly season, its continuing role to support skin condition, help with allergic responses and maintenance of the gut microbiome and immune system all contribute to keeping the threshold to insect bite hypersensitivity high, and so allows sensitive horses to enter the fly season pre-prepared.
Beware of what’s hidden underneath
Thick winter coats on unclipped horses can hide skin issues just as easily as rugs so make sure you get your gloves off and have a good feel for any lumps or bumps when you are grooming your horse. It is also important to remove rugs once a day to check your horse’s skin and pay extra attention to any sensitive areas that may be prone to rubbing such as the shoulders, withers and hips.
Nutrition – starting on the inside
By providing a balanced diet for your horse you will give skin the best chance to stay healthy. It is not uncommon for horses to get a scurfy coat over winter due to the cold, dry air and reduced circulation but nutrition can go a long way, especially feed or supplements that are formulated to support skin health. For example, Cooked Linseed from British Horse Feeds has high levels of omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids which aids skin and coat condition.
Whatever winter brings, with the right planning and support you and your horse will be ready! View our equine range here.