Archive for the ‘Moisture Control’ Category

Ten Skin Ailments to Avoid

Here is a brief primer on some of the most common skin problems that might plague a horse.

Rain rot is caused by Dermatophilus, an infectious microorganism from the soil that eagerly becomes established in skin cracks under a dirty hair coat during rainy weather. The painful, tight scabs that form on the horse’s neck, shoulders, back, and rump make him uncomfortable and unusable and require medication and bathing.

Seborrhea is a skin disease caused by a malfunction in sebum production and function, resulting in flaky skin.

Ringworm is a fungal infection affecting the skin and hair, characterized by round, crusty patches with hair loss. It is easily spread between horses via tack and grooming tools.

Photosensitivity of the skin (usually under white hair) can result from components of certain plants (ingested). The skin becomes red, then sloughs off.

Warts, most commonly on the muzzle of a young horse, are caused by the equine papillomavirus. As a horse matures, he develops immunity to the virus and the warts disappear. The same virus also causes aural plaque, a scaly condition inside the ear, which can become painful if flies are allowed to bite and feed inside the ears.

Sarcoids are common skin tumors with unknown cause. There are several types, mostly occurring around the head or the site of an old injury.

Thrush is a fungal infection of the hoof that thrives in moist, dirty environments.

Scratches (also known as grease heel) is a common term that refers to a general localized skin inflammation found on the lower legs of horses. The thick, chronic sores at the heels and rear of the pastern can be quite painful. Scratches are linked to an opportunistic fungus, but can be complicated by bacterial infection.

Ticks cause crusty scabs and can be disease carriers. Check the mane and tail carefully throughout spring and summer. Use rubber gloves or tweezers to remove ticks, which can carry Lyme disease that can also affect humans (see July Vet Clinic). Be sure to remove the entire tick. If the head is left in, it can cause a painful infection.

Lice are not common in horses unless they are poorly kept and crowded. Then lice can spread rapidly through a group. You’d find the nits (eggs) or the lice themselves along the midline of the horse, such as in the mane and tail head.


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Hello Cherry,

I recently put up a 36 x36 pen and shelter for my horse.  I live here in Golden Colorado where the soil is VERY much Clay.  We had a several inches of rain this past week, which is a considerable amount for our parts.  The pen got very muddy.  I spent several hours today mucking it and now doing research on what I should do for a better fix.  I saw your article on 3/8 minus pea gravel.  A couple of questions:

1. Some horse friends of mine suggest I use Granite Crusher Fines to aide in the drainage.   Is this suitable?

2. Whether I use Pea Gravel or Granite Crusher Fines, what is the recommended depth of the material I should go with?  2, 3 or 4 inches? 

BTW:  I’m also going to install a french drainage system as well. 

Many Thanks! 


Hi Shawn,

The French Drain is a good idea. Sloping the pens slightly away from the barn is helpful to manage drainage too.

I’m not personally familiar with Granite Crusher Fines but think they might be something like decomposed granite which we use here in northern Colorado.

We use decomposed granite under our stall mats and also under the 3/8- pea gravel in turnout pens.

So my answer would be yes and yes ! A tamped crushed granite base with 2-3 inches of 3/8- pea gravel on top.

Please feel free to post your results here. Thanks ! Cherry Hill

To read more about French Drains, pen footing and much more, refer to these books and DVD.

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Hi Cherry,

In your almanac, you say that the repeated wet/dry cycle can damage the quality of a horse’s hooves.

My horses and I are avid swimmers in the summer…  I usually take them out every day to relieve them from the heat… they love it!  Splashing and swishing and dunking… we have a blast!

They are both young (6 & 7) geldings on 24/7 turnout with free choice grass hay and twice daily grain (1/2 cup hi fat hi fibre).

Am I doing them more harm than their fun is worth?


Hi Christena,

It depends on where you live, the temperature and humidity, the condition of your horses’ hooves and skin, and your management.

For example, if you live in a hot, humid climate, although the swim might feel good, it might take hours (or maybe never) for the horse’s coat, skin and hooves to thoroughly dry out. That can set the stage for skin problems, fungus and hoof deterioration.

A daily swim here in semi-arid Colorado would be fine – it would be refreshing and the horse would dry quickly.


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