Before we go any further...what is mud fever?
It's veterinary term is; equine pastern dermatitis, and most commonly occurs at this time of year, when conditions are moist, wet and muddy, a few other triggers can be friction from boots, sweating, mites, bacterial and fungal infections (outbreaks must be managed as the mud fever - dermatophilus - bacteria can live up to 42 months within the removed scabs, ewww. Please ensure dispose of these safely and do not let them fall into bedding/paddocks - disinfecting your grooming brushes is also advisable after an outbreak if they've been in contact with the area).
What does it look like?
Picture from GoogleMost frequently seen at the back of the heel and pastern, the most common signs are matted areas of hair containing crusty scabs, small circular ulcerated, moist lesions beneath scabs that can contain a thick, creamy white/yellow/greenish discharge. There may also be swelling and heat in the limb and noticeable discomfort when pressure is applied and possible lameness. Also take note if your horse stamps their feet in discomfort/itching,as this is often a sign of mud fever or mites.
Always seek professional advise from your vet if you are concerned your horse may be suffering with mud fever.
What preventative measures do I take?
My horse, Oscar loves turnout, so I take extra special care of his legs to ensure the mud doesn't get the better of us! Here is our routine that works for us, take from it as much or as little as you need:
- I hose his legs down - yes, controversial I know but as I said, it's what works for us - I do this straight from the field and as the paddock is only muddy at the entrance the mud is still wet and easily glides off.
- My favourite tool is my hand, I run my hand down Oscar's leg with the water checking for any lumps, bumps, heat or discomfort. I then run my hands through his short feathers that I keep trimmed - this gives me easier access to check his heel, less hair for the mud to cling to and makes his leg/heels easier to clean.
- When I have time (I'd like to do this every time but there aren't enough hours in a day - oh to have a hot shower at the yard) I dilute some Milton (yes, babies Milton) with boiled kettle water that's had time to cool and sponge this onto Oscar's legs to disinfect the area instead of hosing.
- After both of the above methods I thoroughly towel dry Oscar's legs (I wash his towels each week), I run my hand over his legs and through his feathers to ensure they're dry enough, I never leave them wet as this will only encourage bacteria!
- Once this process is complete Oscar skips happily to his clean, dry bed of shavings.
- The next morning;
- After testing a few products (that I will discuss below) I have settled on Pig Oil and Sulphur for Oscar and I. PLEASE DO A PATCH TEST ON YOUR HORSE OR PONY prior to using, I have read stories of the pig oil burning sensitive, thin skin - I also wear gloves to apply it as the sulphur discoloured my ring, but came up shiny again after a polish (the girls at the yard giggle at my pampered pony and me in my pink marigolds! The lengths I go to). I purchased a 1 litre tub from R&R Country (http://www.randrcountry.co.uk/contact_us) for £5.99 and this is easily available from other equine stores for a similar price, I pour a small amount into my hand and apply down the pastern, into the heel area and the longer hair around the coronary band.
- Now for the best bit....I only need to do this whole process twice a week as the Pig Oil and Sulphur makes the mud bead, like water on oil and doesn't reach the skins surface, it literally slides off!
- Baby oil, this worked well and is probably a better option for the more sensitive skinned/less hairy horse but I found the smell sickly and the smell would stay with me all day, clinging to my clothes, hands, blerrrghhh!
- Keratex Mud Shield Powder/450gm £11 (R&R Country, again) this is like talcum powder, but for your horse. You puff it onto their legs and rub it into the hair in the opposite direction of the hair growth, it makes feathers silky smooth and dries the area out making it difficult for mud to stick. The reason Pig Oil and Sulphur wins over this is 1) price and, 2) ease of use! It's difficult not to get the talc on the floor (please note I apply this outside the stable as it is to not be inhaled and I do not want it in Oscar's bedding), it leaves hoof marks where Oscar has been stood and this then means extra tidying up and like many of us, time isn't always on my side!
What would I like to try...
- As I said, I have a routine that works but if money weren't an issue I'd purchase some Close Contact Equi-Chaps by Equilibrium (http://www.equilibriumproducts.com/leg_protection/equi_chapsreg_close_contact_chaps/). They're described as a breathable second skin and keep legs clean and dry, they sound like a dream come true but at a RRP of £75.00 for one pair they'll be remaining on my wishlist for some time yet, especially as my horse has four white legs which doubt the above bill, I feel all faint! Although I do live in hope as Your Horse are running a competition this month to win all a full set of the Equi-Chap range, a prize worth £360...yes my jaw is on the floor and if I don't win I'd love someone to read this post and win, so get entering...http://www.yourhorse.co.uk/Win/
Thank you for reading, I hope you keep your mud fever at bay too this winter.
Jessica & Oscar xx