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You are now leaving Funky Town


We’ve all been there. You get to the barn and there is just something, well, funky going on with your horse’s skin. But what is it?! And what can you do about it? We’ve put together a list of the usual suspects and some helpful hints on how to handle them. But even our expertise is no substitute for a hands-on consult from your veterinarian. If your horse is lookin’ funky, call the doc for a diagnosis first!

Rain rot

Rain rot is a skin infection caused by Dermatophilus congolensis. This opportunistic organism is like a shy boy at a party, it’s always there, waiting for the right moment to make its move. In this case, the right conditions are a moist environment and a break in the skin. Rain rot is characterized by hard, painful, crusty scabs that appear on a horse’s back and rump.


Gross! What can I do?

If your horse is diagnosed with rain rot, your vet will likely recommend removing the scabs and keeping the area clean and dry. You should soak the scabs before peeling because they can be quite painful. Then, as instructed, clean the area with an iodine solution.


Scratches is a condition caused by constant wet/dry cycles in the environment that causes the skin at the back of the pastern to become chapped (a lot like your lips). Once this skin is broken, bacteria in the environment get under your horse’s skin, causing redness, pain, swelling and discharge.


Gross! What can I do?

Get your vet involved. Scratches can quickly become serious and even cause lameness. Working with your vet, you’ll need to remove all scabs and dead tissue before healing can begin. But you don’t want to soak the area because that will just exacerbate the chapping. If you have really tough scabs, try gently washing the area with Eqyss Microtek Medicated Shampoo to soften them up (just be sure to dry the area very well with a clean towel). Dermacloth is also a great choice with gentle yet effective healing and antimicrobial agents built in. Many riders also love applying diaper rash cream to moisturize the skin and protect sensitive areas.


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Sweet Itch

Sweet itch, as it turns out, ain’t so sweet. It’s actually an allergic response to the bite of Culicoides (a.k.a. midges or no-see-um’s). It’s also referred to as insect bite hypersensitivity (IBH). Sweet itch not only causes horses to rub their manes and tails, it can also cause itching, crusting, and hair loss on the horse’s midline along the back and belly.

Photo by Bob Langrish

Gross! What can I do?

Unfortunately, Culicoides aren’t like fleas—you can’t just bomb or bathe them away. But if your vet diagnoses them as the culprit, you can manage how your horse reacts to them. A study by O’Neill, McKee and Clarke in the Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research showed that feeding flax seed reduced the inflammation and skin lesions in horses with IBH. Additional studies have shown that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids (found in flax seed and fish oil) can reduce inflammation throughout the body. Read more about Sweet Itch from our staff veterinarian, Dr. Lydia Gray, in her Ask the Vet blog.

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9 comments on “You are now leaving Funky Town
  1. Judy Rivers says:

    Hi! I finally figured out how to get rid of rain rot on my horse’s pastern once & for all, and it’s painless. You mix up 40% zinc oxide, antibiotic cream and hydrocortisone cream, and smear it on the affected places and LEAVE IT. I put some on every other day. No need to scrub off the scabs ahead of time….the zinc oxide is soothing and gets rid of the problem. After a couple weeks or month of treatment, once the problem is gone….THEN scrub the affected areas with an iodine soap. My vet couldn’t even fix this problem.


      “You mix up 40% zinc oxide, antibiotic cream and hydrocortisone cream, and smear it on the affected places and LEAVE IT.”

      The above Judy suggested plus antifungal cream mixed in has been my go to scratches remedy for years!

  2. Martha Woodham says:

    I add Preparation H to this mix. Works every time.

  3. Barbara says:

    no info about how to fight the black greasies on my horse’s face. he gets this late summer. it doesn’t wash off and it is sensitive. any idea of what it is and what to do? i have washed gently with anti fungal shape; put cortisone cream on it, and it’s been suggested to put ivermectin paste on it. i don’t know if anything works because it clears up eventually with cool weather.

    • KAD says:

      THIS. My guy is losing so much facial hair, even though I sponge and dry his face with a clean towel after we work.

      • goodtogo says:

        I have the same issue and I am careful to sponge and dry too. I have started putting “that blue stuff” on his face after it is dry and the hair is starting to grow back. He likes it too. Nice smell and just like putting lotion on.

    • Helen says:

      My horse tends to get greasy stuff on his face too, and I’ve just washed it with an anti-fungal shampoo in the past with success. It usually disappears quickly. Maybe your vet should have a look.

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Barbara,

      Since skin issues like sensitive, greasy spots can be caused by a wide variety of things, we’d recommend checking in with your veterinarian. We wish we could provide a more helpful suggestion, but once you and your vet determine exactly what the underlying cause is, it will make it much easier for you two to determine the best treatment plan!

      – SmartPaker Carolyn

  4. Eve says:

    “That Blue Stuff” works great, small can goes along ways on my 9yr Arab and has only had Scratched once& this last fall

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