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Month: January 2018

Rain Rot and Horses

Rain rot is a commonly used phrase to describe a flaky, scabby skin infection in horses. We sometimes call it a fungus, but it’s really a bacterial infection from the Dermatophilus Congolensis bacteria. We call it rain rot because it typically occurs on horses in areas that would be rained on – the face, the neck, the back.

rain rot skin hair mtg

The infection begins through an existing cut or break in the skin. Then you will start to see tiny scabs that are usually hot painful and usually not itchy. If removed, they also take the hair with it. Areas with rain rot can become painful, especially if the infections goes into the deeper layers of the skin or tack is placed on affected skin.

The area might also become a little itchy, in which case your horse will likely find a way to get some relief, and in the meantime spreading the infection through the act of scratching. Many horses get rain rot in the winter, and just as many get rain rot in the summer. The offending bacteria loves a humid environment – which in the summer is the weather, or frequent bathing. In winter, horses that sweat in their fuzzy coats create the perfect situation for rain rot, as does the horse in a blanket.

You can do wonders to prevent rain rot, including grooming and inspecting your horse’s skin daily. Any areas should be inspected by your Veterinarian for a treatment plan, which may range from a topical antibiotic to oral or injected antibiotics. You should also avoid using your horse’s grooming tools on other horses, skip sharing saddle pads and tack, and make sure you horse’s blankets, grooming tools and everything that touches his skin is clean.

Catch it early and it’s no big deal – wait too long and your horse can get secondary infections that are much harder (and more expensive!) to treat. Severe cases can also weaken your horse’s immune system, leaving him vulnerable to a wide range of viruses and infections.

A daily grooming session is your best chance at keeping rain rot at bay!

How to dry the damp or wet horse in winter!

Horses are amazingly adept at dealing with winter weather! Their coats are designed to keep them warm and dry, and for the most part being outside in a downpour can be just fine. The outer layer of hair allows the water to run off your horse. There’s also the instance in winter when your horse starts to sweat – in which case he’s getting wet from the skin. This can happen on an unusually warm winter day, or you have ridden your horse and the sweat starts coming!


It now becomes your job to dry your horse to avoid him getting chilled as your horse cools out. This prevents his body from swinging into hypothermia mode as he dries. The easiest ways to do this involve some elbow grease, some fleece or wool coolers, and perhaps even a walk around the property.

When you come back from your ride and have untacked your horse, toss a cooler over the sweaty parts to start wicking moisture from his skin and coat into the cooler. The cooler also serves to keep any wind from chilling your horse and helps his body temperature return to normal. 

Then you can go around him and ruffle up his coat with your grooming gloves. Think the opposite of smooth and sleek, you want the coat to get some air under the cooler and dry out.

You can also take him for a hand walk around the property. Be sure the cooler has leg straps so it doesn’t fly up. His walking will create some body heat to dry the hair, but not so much that he starts to sweat again. Check frequently on the drying status.
It does take time to dry the wet horse in winter, but use your grooming tools and a cooler to make it safer and more comfortable for your horse.
Curry on!

The start of winter tells your horse to start shedding!

This doesn’t make much sense…at first. In the US, we define the start of winter as the 21st of December. Around that time, and sometimes on the 21st itself, we have the winter solstice. This is the day where we have maximum darkness and minimum daylight. The day after the solstice is when the days start to get longer….with more light. 

In the summer, the longest day of the year happens around June 21st. The summer solstice is the day in which there is minimum darkness and maximum light.

glove shedding hair Both days trigger your horse to start shedding!

It’s a complicated process, and it’s also a gradual one, which is why horses take time to shed out, we just don’t arrive to the barn one day and see a pile of hair and a sleek coated horse. Initially, your horse’s eyes start this process. His eyes tell his pineal gland to make some hormones, which then work on the pituitary gland to make more hormones. This second batch of hormones works on the thyroid gland – which is ultimately responsible for telling your horse’s body to release the coat he has and grow a new one. 

That’s a lot of steps… Some horse owners might start to see the winter coat shedding out in mid January, and the summer coat shedding out in mid August. Of course every horse will be on his own schedule, and the shedding process will be complete on their own time. 

You may also know that some metabolic disorders in horses, such as PPID (Cushing’s Disease) interfere with the shedding and hair growth process. This specific metabolic condition affects the pituitary gland, and as a result many horses with PPID are extra hairy all year long.

Once you see the shedding process starting, there’s no changing it, unless the amount of light changes. This can happen if you move your horse from the deep south to Canada, or vice versa, or if you move to a barn that keeps the stall lights on. Eventually your horse’s body will figure it out!

In the meantime, keep currying with your grooming gloves, and happy bonding with your horse!

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