Rocky Bay Equine Newsletter
October 2019

So - Many - Blankets!!

The transition from summer to winter has come rather abruptly this year. If the horses know something we don't about predicting the severity of our winter, we may be in for a chilly one. It seems like only yesterday our gorgeous horses were show slick and shiny and now they are fuzzy bears in ankle deep in mud. So, like it or not, it's time to re-ignite the age old discussion... To blanket, or not to blanket, that is the question.

It's really not that difficult around here because our winters are generally mild and horses really are naturally equipped to handle colder weather. We can already see them growing a longer hair coat and nature has provided them with a great internal furnace in the way their GI tract metabolizes hay. It's all about gut bacteria working up a "sweat" breaking down cellulose. The heat released serves to keep the horse warm in all but really frigid, (below zero fahrenheit) temperatures. The thing to remember here is that if you want to help your horse stay warm, increase their hay rations, NOT their grain (concentrate) rations.

There are a few other things to consider about blanketing in the context of our PNW climate. Situations where you might want to consider blanketing include age (very young and senior citizens) and overall health of the horse. Access to shelter or areas where they can get out of direct wind and rain are important as wind chill can be significant especially if they're wet. Then there are considerations about managing sweat caused by a thick wooly coat during riding and exercise. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that a body, or trace, clipped horse will need to be blanketed, especially when temperatures drop into the 40's.

In case you haven't noticed, we live in rain country. This opens a whole nuther can of worms when it comes to the blanket debate. Moisture trapped deep in the hair coat can become a breeding ground for bacteria like the dreaded "rain rot" (dermatophilus congolensis bacteria) that is common in our region. Keep in mind that rain rot can affect both un-blanketed and blanketed horses. Just because you put a blanket on that pasture pony doesn't mean you can leave it there without checking regularly underneath it for skin irritation or infection. Nothing worse than a leaky raincoat!

I don't know about you, but my clothes horse has a wardrobe bigger than my own (which consists mostly of t-shirts, jeans and breeches). There's the bug sheet for summer, the lightweight sheet to keep her clean, the light weight rain coat (going on now) and a heavy, waterproof rug for really nasty cold. That's the basic 4 that have their own niche in the full turn of a northwest year. With a bigger budget there are other outfits including liners and neck wraps to consider for optimal fine tuning of your horse's own sleep number coziness.

The blanket debate will never end because there is no single right answer (unless that answer is: "it depends"). If you do blanket your horse make sure it's the right blanket for the conditions and beware of over heating in fluctuating temperatures. Not only will the horse likely be cold later as the blanket traps moisture, but some nasty skin problems can develop when dampness is trapped next to the skin. Check that your horse blankets are the correct fit, have safe straps and are the correct weight for environmental conditions. Check your turned out horses as often as possible (preferably daily) for any signs of skin irritation, rubbing or infection. Make it a warm, cozy winter, no matter the weather... and for a real fashion statement, go for the bright yellow rubber duckies raincoat.

About that ankle deep mud...

We've talked about scratches before but it is the northwest gift that keeps on giving so here are a few ideas to avoid getting dizzy from the vicious circle of this locally ubiquitous disease process.

Scratches, crud, greasy heel, foot rot, mud fever, pastern dermatitis... call it what you will, it's nasty, often painful and can lead to serious secondary problems such as cellulitis and lameness. Not a disease per se, this is a cutaneous (skin) reaction to a variety of conditions including chronic moisture, dirt, sun sensitivity, viral, bacterial, fungal, allergy or immune challenges. Signs of the condition vary, but swelling, redness and scaling may be the first you'll notice. They often progress to oozing, hair matting and crusting. Secondary bacterial infection is a common complication and can exacerbate the symptoms. In chronic cases the skin can thicken and form deep cracks due to constant movement in the pastern area. Once these skin reactions become chronic they can be refractory to treatment, so prevention is always the best therapy.

When you see a list of treatments that range from sauerkraut to silver sulfadiazine you can bet there is no single effective therapy. If a discrete cause can be determined (bacterial, fungal, auto immune etc.) it should be treated directly along with antiseptic shampoos and topical ointments to soothe reactive tissues. Some horses will benefit from antibiotics and some from corticosteroids. The best treatment may simply be to clean and dry the affected areas and remove the animal from wet, muddy conditions.

Yep, it's a simple fix... that may be nearly impossible to actually implement over a NW winter. Successful management in less than perfect conditions is still possible with a little effort and creativity. Trimming long hair around the pastern, physically cleaning the area and drying it as best you can and keeping it dry as much as possible are steps in the right direction. Here is a list of some "horse hacks" with creative approaches to battling the crud and other annoyances. (Note; we haven't necessarily tried all these but as long as they do no harm, they might be worth a try.) Do you have any favorite remedies for beating "the crud"?

Home made fly spray: Witch hazel, Apple Cider Vinegar, Water, and your choice of these oils: citronella, eucalyptus, lavender, clove, lemongrass, rosemary, tea tree, cedar, catnip, or mint. Works amazingly well! And no toxic chemicals! 

Head N Shoulders shampoo, supposed to work on rain rot, cannon crud. Listerine, Desitin, use for thrush. 

Large white cotton athletic socks (tube socks) with the toes cut off to protect against scratches. With one turn of elasticon around the hoof and a polo to hold it in place it protects against scratches especially in winter. Already have scratches? use anti fungal shampoo and That Blue Stuff and leave the socks on in the stall without the polo. They are breathable so it's a perfect solution to keep the flies off their legs and allow them to heal. 

Apply a sauerkraut poultice to scratches, the acid will help drop the ph of the tissues and help them to heal. (we haven't tried this, but there is some logic to it - the lowered ph part anyway)

Coconut oil, spectacular for getting out pine tar or creosote...great on hoofs, manes n tails....also vinegar great as a diluted after bath rinse (cuts soap residue and is (mildly) antimicrobial), also a cleaning agent for buckets etc and can be used as a (leg) brace. 

Clean buckets with a mixture of apple cider vinegar, baking soda and peroxide. Add a little of each, then water, then scrub. Leaves water buckets fresh with no toxic remnants.

Try straight apple cider vinegar for fly spray and wipe. 

Fig Newton cookies are the best way to give ur horse even the nastiest pills. Just shove them in the figgy part and they can't resist!

Use Maxi pads for wound dressings!

Rocky Bay Equine Veterinary Services  
  (253) 858-4529   (360) 876-1544
Vaughn / Gig Harbor, WA 98394    find us on FACEBOOK