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If you, like many horse owners, dread the winter months then this article, brought to you by Robinson Animal Healthcare, offers advice to help make winter worry-free by stocking up on first aid kit items.
The winter months bring with them a whole new set of ailments and injury risks to both horses and their owners as the temperature drops and we are faced with adverse weather conditions. From slipping on ice (horse and owner) to mud fever and other minor injuries, it’s better to be safe than sorry by making sure you’re ready, should the worst happen.
In order for any treatment to be effective, it is vital that you have access to a well-stocked first aid kit whilst on the yard and when away at competitions. Regardless of the type of injury, the quicker you discover it the quicker it can be treated. This makes a huge difference, and horses should be regularly checked over especially when they come in from the field and rugs should be removed every day.
When it comes to first aid you don’t need to have a massive kit crammed with lotions and potions for every known ailment, but it is important that you do have the basics and keep your first aid kit fully stocked. Products should be replaced immediately after they have been used or if they go out of date.
Out of date?
It is important to regularly check and dispose of any products that have reached their use-by-date, regardless of whether they have been used or not. While the product inside sterile packaging could still be perfectly useable, the sterile barrier within the package may have deteriorated, potentially increasing the risk of infection from contamination. The active ingredients in products such as Animalintex® could be less effective if used beyond their expiry date.
Adequate storage of first aid kit items is also important in winter to prevent any items, such as liquids or sprays, from freezing. Most first aid items should be stored at room temperature, but always check the packaging. You may also need to store your kit in a different place in winter if your tack room isn’t heated. Vermin-safe storage boxes are a must.
Common Winter Ailments
Hoof abscesses are more common during wet weather as the feet become softer making it easier for dirt or foreign objects to penetrate the foot. When a horse stands in mud and damp conditions for long periods of time dirt can get under the shoe or into the foot of an unshod horse.
Hoof abscesses are commonly caused by dirt or gravel penetrating the white line (weakest area on the sole of the foot) or when a sharp object penetrates the hoof sole. Infection then rapidly develops, with a build-up of pus within the confines of the hoof, which is extremely painful for the horse.
A vet or farrier will need to locate the abscess and drain the pus. Once the pus has been drained the foot must be cleaned, before applying Animalintex® and securing in place with Equiwrap®, to draw out any remaining pus.
Over winter you should check and clean the hooves daily. If hooves are muddy, even after you have picked them out, then use water and a hoof brush to clean the feet. This will allow a thorough inspection to check for any damage to the hoof which could otherwise be masked by dirt.
- Mud fever/rash
Commonly seen during winter, mud fever is a bacterial skin infection that can affect your horse’s skin on the heel, fetlock, and pastern. It can affect all horses, but particularly those with long hair around the fetlocks. In more severe cases it can lead to inflammation and infection which can then spread up the legs.
The best form of treatment for mud fever is taking steps to prevent the condition in the first place. In severe cases of mud fever, particularly where there is inflammation, hot poulticing can help to remove scabs.
If your horse is prone to mud fever, try to limit their exposure to muddy, wet conditions as much as possible, and use a barrier cream or protective boots when turned out. Horses prone to mud fever may benefit from regular treatments with an anti-bacterial cleansing wash, remembering to dry the legs thoroughly, ideally using Veterinary Gamgee® as this will absorb any excess moisture and provide warmth and insulation.
During winter many horses are forced to spend long hours in the stable or in water logged, muddy turnout. These constantly wet conditions can predispose some horses to thrush, a bacterial infection of the frog which is categorised by a smelly discharge or soft spots.
To treat thrush, ask your farrier to remove all the diseased tissue before cleansing the area thoroughly with 10 parts warm water (ideally boiled first) to one part hydrogen peroxide before applying a hot wet poultice to the area.
With thrush, prevention is definitely better than the cure, with appropriate stable management being the number one priority. It is essential to ensure your horse is stabled in dry conditions and pick out and inspect the feet daily, paying particular attention to the cleft of the frog.
In icy weather make sure walkways are gritted and take extra care when leading horses, and always wear a riding hat and gloves – even the most well-behaved horse can slip, injuring both themselves and the person leading them.
Based in Scotland, Robinson Animal Healthcare sponsored event rider, Louisa Milne-Home is used to braving bad weather during winter. Her two top tips to help keep your horses ticking over in winter are:
- Keep a plentiful supply of salt to hand and always salt pathways and ramps to muck heaps. Stock up early as once the freezing conditions hit, supplies will quickly sell out.
- If you are lucky enough to have your own arena, keep it harrowed regularly to help prevent it from freezing.
If you buy one produt this winter, let it be …
Animalintex is a poultice and wound care dressing that is licensed by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), meaning it is strictly controlled to ensure efficacy, safety, and consistency.
Each poultice contains two active ingredients, Boric Acid to kill infection and promote faster healing, and Tragacanth to draw out dirt and infection and reduce inflammation. This, in combination with different layers of absorbent material, padding, and a low adherent wound facing layer creates the proven formulation of Animalintex®.
As a licenced product it can be used to treat a wide range of conditions, including a number of common ailments affecting horses during the winter months.