By Lauren Dreyer
There are very few things not to love about spring! Flowers are blooming, grass has never been so green and the weather just keeps getting warmer. Unfortunately, for many horse owners, spring also means dealing with scratches. One of the most common places to find horses suffering from scratches is the back of the pastern or the heel area. Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks for treating this all too common problem.
If the horse has hairy legs or lives in a particularly wet environment, scratches will occur more commonly and treating them will likely take longer. Because of this, I recommend clipping the surrounding area with T-84s clipper blades very carefully.
For horses with already clipped legs, I thoroughly wash the affected area and the surrounding areas with a gentle shampoo.
Once soaked, I will gently scrub the scratches typically with a few square gauze pads with a drop of soap on them. This helps to remove the scabs that are ready for removal without ripping off those that aren’t, which is important because if the scab is not ready to come off, it will cause major discomfort for the horse.
Once I’ve soaked and scrubbed the area, I rinse it thoroughly. It’s extremely important to not leave soap on the skin, because it can dry out the horse’s skin. To make sure you don’t leave soap behind, run your hand down the leg to check for bubbles and rinse completely until the water runs clear.
Once the rinsing is finished, I thoroughly towel the leg. Always remember to dry the legs before returning the horse to their stall if you want to prevent scratches.
Next, I work to prevent fungi from affecting the treated area by using the following products: for scratches, I use Enviro Equine Fungicide or Cocotea Salve – which is also be used for wounds or burns, depending on how severe the scratches are or it they have any cuts or abrasions. Along with this, I use square gauze, vetwrap, Elastikon (I prefer this over duct tape because duct tape usually slides when wrapped around the hoof), or Tesa Tape.
Once you’ve gathered those products, generously apply the topical fungicide or salve to the wound, then cover the treated area with the square gauze. Secure the gauze by wrapping the vetwrap around the back of the heel toward the front of the foot about two full times. It’s very important to not wrap the heel too tightly, because that can as cause discomfort or rubbing to the leg. I’m a stickler for not wrapping it too tight, so I always pull it toward me past the foot and gently laid it around the foot to put as little pressure on the heel as possible.
Once the vetwrap is wrapped around the area, use Tesa Tape or Elastikon to secure the vetwrap to the foot. Do not go over the entire vetwrap; I only use just enough to keep the vetwrap from moving or sliding, because that could cause damage to the horse’s leg (rule of thumb: You should not be able to see the gauze and also be able to easily place finger or two between the gauze and the heel or pastern).
Lastly, I always apply baby powder from either mid-cannon or knee down after a bath. It has always served me well, as I’ve never had my own horses get scratches.
Photocredit: Lauren Dreyer Grooming during the Winter Equestrian Festival photo courtesy of Tori Repole for Noelle Floyd