This might seem like an easy question to answer – but it goes a little bit further than the obvious sometimes. Of course the itchy horse is telling you that he’s itchy there! But when we take a moment to investigate why he is itchy, we might discover something more.
Some horses just like being scratched. It’s their spot, it feels extra good there, it takes them to their happy place. Simple.
But when a horse has a new itchy spot – it might be due to something else. It’s always a good idea to involve your Veterinarian if you find something new.
Bugs. Insects like flies, mosquitos, and various other biting critters think your horse is delicious, and in exchange for a blood meal they leave your horse itchy. You might find a raised bump, you might not. You can indulge your horse with some scratches and perhaps a topical anti-itch medicine to help.
Ticks. Ticks often leave giant itchy welts after they release, and in weird places like between the folds of skin around the elbows. While it’s true that some tick bites leave rings around the wound, you can’t see this on a horse with a hair coat and dark skin. Besides being carriers of dangerous diseases, ticks can cause significant discomfort.
General dermatitis, AKA a skin infection. Just like humans, a horse’s first line of defense is his skin. But sweat, dirt, and bacteria in the environment can sometimes cause skin infections. However – not all types of skin infections cause itchiness – which means your hands and eyes need to discover these possibilities.
A healing sore or wound. Scabs can be itchy! Even the smallest of scrapes can cause an itchy scab. The best course of action is to carefully avoid scratching off any scab, they will fall off in due time.
A sore muscle. Sometimes, a horse may decide that he needs a massage, and will be happy to lean into you to get some added pressure on a spot. You might also notice that your horse likes to move and adjust himself so you are working on the spots that need some massage.
Allergies. A horse with allergies can sometimes display itchy skin – which is your signal to investigate further. Many times an allergy is tricky to track down, but your Veterinarian can give you a plan to determine if allergies are the cause and which allergens are to blame.
Too much product! It’s in a horse’s nature to want to be dirty – which is fine! But when we start to shine them up, we sometimes use the wrong product or leave a product residue which might be irritating. Diligently rinsing and scraping off shampoos is key, as is using topical products in moderation.
It’s always a learning experience when you groom your horse – and the more you start to listen to his body, the more you can investigate and learn more about him. It makes for a great partnership and a healthy horse!