I went to ride a client’s horse the other day and noticed his rear pasterns were puffy. On closer look I discovered he had scabs on his pasterns; raw, oozing, scabs that really hurt. He was super sensitive to the touch and very defensive when I started to clean the area away. Ugh, the dreaded muddy paddock scratches!!
Horse “scratches” is a bacterial horse skin infection that most commonly affects the area at the back of the pastern and heel.
It is usually caused by trauma to the skin created by wet or muddy footing. Horses with long fetlock hair are most susceptible; but any horse can get it. White socks seem to get it more often. Horses that stand in mud, get their legs washed often (without fully drying) and those with compromised immune systems are most susceptible.
Most cases are caused by the Staphylococcus bacteria. Once the horses’ skin gets irritated by the wet conditions, it sets up a situation for the bacteria (and other fungi) to thrive. Moisture rich environments throw out the welcome mat to bacteria and fungi.
Scratches causes the formation of scabs and skin cracks which can be extremely painful and some horses can even go lame.
Just so it’s clear, there are some other common names for this same condition:
- Grease Heel
- Greasy Heel
- Pastern Dermatitis
- Foot Rot
- Cracked Heels
- Dew Poisoning
- Mud Foot or Foot Rot
How Do You Treat Horse Scratches?
FIRST!!! Remember how painful this is and that even the kindest horse may strike out from pain, so be VERY careful working down near the feet.
SECOND! If it’s infected- call your vet!!
A mild case can be treated with the following steps:
Begin by clipping as much of the hair away as possible.
Carefully, wash the area using an antibacterial soap such as a Betadine scrub. Be careful when doing this because the area is VERY sensitive, and if you scrub too hard, you could cause pain.
Towel dry the cleaned area.
Use some type of oil (baby? Mineral?) to soak the scabs until they are soft. DO NOT try and pick them often until they are soft because you can cause more trauma to the area and A LOT of pain to your horse.
Traditional veterinarian medicine recommends treating the area with topical cream that contains both antibiotics and antifungal agents and dexamethasone (a steroid) to reduce inflammation. Really severe cases often will be treated with a course of oral broad-spectrum antibiotics.
Using essential oils can be a great ALTERNATIVE to using chemicals and I have had great success. The oils that are most beneficial to a horse with scratches include:
Once the areas are clean apply essential oils. If the irritation is severe you may want to cover with a bandage until the areas start drying out and healing.
Do this treatment twice a day when first starting off. REMEMBER you MUST keep your horse in clean and dry surroundings until the areas heal. This is so important!
Keep applying the essential oils daily until the lesions are completely healed.
They contain many of the ingredients I mentioned, are all natural and safe to use on galls, open wounds, scratches, and rashes and plus they help fight fungal infection. BooBoo Butter contains all the essential oils you need and has an easy to use roll up applicator. Order them here
Lastly, don’t forget to soak all brushes, wash all saddle pads and towels, etc, with Thieves Household Cleaner to decontaminate everything!
Hope this helps!! If you would like to purchase a digital download of this article for .99 click here
Peace and good rides,