We have all seen the effects of a rubbing horse, one that suffers with sweet itch and has an issue with the flies and midges. It’s not nice and they can do some serious damage to their coats, manes and tails. There are many topical ointments sprays and treatments out there on the market to help alleviate and repel. There are also a few management steps you as a horse owner can take to help your horse or pony. If your horse or pony hates the flies or suffers from sweet itch this does not mean they cannot lead a normal life. Or that you can’t ride or compete as normal. There are plenty of things you can do to help at this time of year.
❓What is sweet itch?
Sweet itch is a hypersensitive allergic reaction to saliva of biting midges and flies. This condition affects about 5-6% percent of horses in the UK. Symptoms can get worse as the horse gets older. The horses autoimmune system over reacts to try and help. But this can lead to the thickened skin evident after the damage has been done. Most horses will want to itch, bite or rub the mane, tail and belly areas. Others can also itch their quarters. This rubbing can cause self harm and this is seen in the form of hair loss, bleeding open wounds, scabs and thickened skin as a result. There is currently no cure for sweet itch.
☀️Selwood Equine have compiled a list of helpful hints to help to try and make this summer a midge and fly free zone for you and your horse.
❓What can help?
1. Make use of repellent products such as gels, shampoos, creams and sprays. Apply regularly to combat attacks from biting insects. Oil based products (such as Avon skin so soft) last on the skin longer than water based but keep this in mind if turning out on a hot day.
2. Stable your horse at dawn and dusk when the insects are at their worst.
3. Use a fly sheet or specific fly rug (Sweet itch hoody or Boett for example) to help prevent the flies and midges from landing on the horses skin.
4. Poo pick the fields and skip and muck out the stable regularly to make sure all droppings, and wet bedding are removed.
5. Keep the muck heap as far away from the stables as you can.
6. Hang fly traps or fly papers to catch them before they get to your horse.
7. Add a fly screen to your horses stable door and windows.
8. Install a ceiling fan in the stable – flies do not like breeze or wind.
9. Feed supplements that contain ingredients such as brewers yeast, herbs and plants proven to aid with itching (Global herbs, Naf, Hilton Herbs etc).
10. Keep your horse away from wetland and watercourses e.g when turning out as the flies and midges will gather near to water.
11. Antihistamine treatments can be administered for short term relief; speak with your vet about this and if there are any possible side effects.
12. Steroids can also be administered to prevent itching – please remember to speak to your vet about this option and the possible side effects.
13. Wash your horses mane and tail, and body if necessary, regularly with a medicated shampoo (even anti dandruff shampoos can provide relief) as the horse will itch more when they are scurfy.
14. For ridden work you can use ride on fly sheets or fly fringes to help keep the flies off the horse.
☀️We all know that with lovely long summer days, comes the annoyance of flies. Don’t let this summer be spoilt by fly problems, be forewarned and forearmed and ready to combat the pests.☀️