Every time I visit Aiken, I see so many horses develop fungus , scratches, or cellulitis. It’s a combination of the warmer weather, sand, and bacteria that can fester and irritate our ponies. Generally, the footing is very sandy, and because the warmer weather allows bacteria to survive, our poor horse’s legs are the perfect spot for the bugs to land!
The first step to avoid scuzzy legs is prevention. Aside from the products I will share below, I want to explain the hot topic. Or hot legs. I’ve seen many riders in error note that washing horses legs causes fungus. This is just not true. I “wash” or “disinfect” my horse’s legs after every ride. However, what does cause fungus is placing a wet horse back in a dirty stall where his warm, moist legs, then come in contact with bacteria.
After every ride you want to insure your horse’s legs finish clean and dry. This means, removing any sweat and debris. (Sweaty legs are another happy place for scuzz!) The only topical solution to removes sweat, an oil, is with soap. I’m sharing a few of my favorites below. But I tend to use just a drop of soap, hand rub the legs, and rinse. While I alternate between Dawn and other horse shampoos, an ultra-drying dish soap, while the best at removing sweat and mud, can be overly drying. Overly “drying” , meaning, removing the natural moisture found in the skin, can leave the skin irritated enough to become inflamed, and result in another warm spot for scuzz to land. A happy medium, is to use minimum soap, I find a pen prick enough. Afterward, always towel dry the legs before returning to their stall. I don’t always spray a moisturizer on the horse’s legs, but if there are any non-fungal dry spots or healing areas, a vitamin E cream will help heal and balance the skin back to normal. I do share a few coat moisturizers I like below.
I do believe that good nutrition is key for a glowing, healthy horse, and that your Omega 3’s and anti-inflammatories help keep the skin glowing. That natural barrier (like your own scalp!) will provide a defense against bugs and fungus! I feed StableFeed’s Spirulina Chia. It’s packed with the Omega 3’s from the Chia, but the Spirulina also has anti-inflammatory properties.
Moral, keep your horse’s legs clean and avoid situations where warm, wet legs, are interacting with mucky debris.
Once the scuzz arrives
Once you feel the first prick of scuzz, TAKE IT OFF. I always remove all remnants and bits of the fungus from the horses legs. This can often be time-consuming, dirty, and maybe even a little painful for our ponies. But, you don’t want the fungus to spread or pass the dermis and become a problem inside the leg! I like to use a jelly curry and my hand to remove the scuzz. Then, I go ahead and bathe with a betadine scrub. I will use other anti-fungal shampoos along with the betadine, but this is my main attack force. I like to let the betadine sit on the skin for a few minutes. This will clear any bacteria and disinfect the leg which now has some open areas from removing the scuzz. After treating with your betadine or anti-fungal shampoo, dry the entire leg with a clean towel. (Take the towel to the wash immediately. You don’t want to spread on another horse!)
If you just cannot scrub all of the fungus off in one session, I apply Coat Defense completely over the infected area and leave on.
Then, apply an anti-bacterial cream. I like a silver/ SSD cream. (This is silver sulfadiazine. Your vet can also prescribe the light blue bottle of popular SSD cream)
If you see any inflammation of the leg, contact a veterinarian and professional. This needs to be treated immediately, oftentimes with an antibiotic.
After you have gotten rid of your fungus, the skin is often left ultra-dry from all of the washing and scrubbing. Like in the preventative steps, you want the skin to go back to its natural state. Quality nutrition with Omega 3s from StableFeed are a great addition to any horse’s diet. Topically, I like to use Vitamin E creams. After the legs have healed, I’m really not looking for additional anti-bacterial properties. I want the skin to grow back, and often-times the anti-bacterial/fungal creams actually prevent healing. (That’s how it zaps the bacteria!)
If you cannot wash your horse’s legs
Worst case scenario, the water is turned off and you just cannot wash your dirty horse’s legs. I have a bottle of the following mixed up. I’ve been asked the exact measurements, but It’s a little bit of an eyeball.
3/4 Mouthwash (The plain antiseptic, no added flavors) + 1/4 Baby Oil + 2/3 caps of Tea Tree Oil . And shake before use. The mouthwash, provides just enough of anti-bacterial to kill any bacteria but is not to harsh since it won’t be rinsed off. The Tea Tree Oil has anti-fungal properties, and the baby oil adds in moisture. I spray on, then brush down legs.