"Cowgirl Magazine" - Scratches

The fields are muddy and it’s been raining non-stop! You better keep a outlook for bacteria. Scratches, a common skin condition seen in horses, is quick to attack when the weather is muddy, rainy, windy, and cold. The natural oils of the skin are stripped from the harsh conditions. Find out how you can fight back and keep your horse feeling his best!

What is Scratches?

Scratches is a condition that usually affects the horse’s pastern (right below his ankle bone), heel, or fetlock. You’ll notice crusty scabs and red, inflamed skin. It is caused by a fungus. Scratches is also known as Mud Fever, Greasy Heel, and Dew Poisoning.

How to Treat it

Depending on the severity, it might be advisable to clip the area of hair away. It will make treating it easier. You’ll want to wash the infected area with a mild soap or medicated shampoo. It is important that you dry the area with a towel. Be gentle, as it’s painful! You don’t need to pick at the scabs.

Apply a topical treatment to kill any bacteria, reduce redness, and provide a protective barrier. There are a ton of products on the market, such as Fura-Zone or Banixx. Some people like the old-fashioned method of Desitin (diaper rash cream).

You can either wrap the area or leave it alone. It must stay dry and free of dirt to properly heal though. Treatment should be, at the minimum, twice daily.

Even after you begin treating scratches, you’ll need to figure out how to prevent them from coming back. This can include avoiding turnout on wet pastures, drying your horse’s legs after bathing, and always using clean boots and wraps.