Although officially it’s not yet Spring, warmer temperatures, melting snow and rain are already creating muddy headaches for horse owners. This post will help you safely navigating spring health issues with your horse. 

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“Horses evolved on prairies; their feet are healthiest when kept away from wet conditions. Nature designed them for a dry climate, just like she designed them to be moving and grazing all day.” Julie Bullock, DVM, Equine Practitioner, and Farrier in Mt. Sidney, VA

Spring Moisture and Its Challenges for Horses

While it’s a natural transition from the winter season to green pastures, springtime for your horse poses some tricky issues. When hooves are continuously moist, muddy, or even waterlogged, they become vulnerable to a variety of health conditions including scratches, rain rot, and thrush. Below, we’ll take a closer look at each of these issues.

Spring and Your Horse: Scratches

  • AKA: Pastern Dermatitis, Dew Poisoning, and Grease/Greasy Heel
  • Caused by:
    • Moist and dirty stalls, muddy paddocks and pastures

      Equine Spring Challenge: Scratches
             Courtesy: Western Horse Review
    • Exposure to wet, scratchy grass causing local irritation
    • Bacteria (the same organism behind rain rot)
    • Chronic skin inflammation
    • External parasites (i.e. mites)
  • Symptoms:
    • Painful inflammation and lesions around exposed pasterns (the top and back of the hoof, but may cover the entire lower leg)
    • Scaly, crusty and scabby skin with swelling and redness
    • Hair matting
    • Lameness
  • Horses with white legs and heavier equines (i.e., draft horses) may be more susceptible
  • Not normally considered contagious


Click here to learn more about Scratches prevention and more treatment options at

Spring and Your Horse: Rain Rot

  • AKA: Rain Scald and Mud Fever
  • Caused by:
    • Bacterial spores
    • Heavy rainfall, high humidity and warm temperatures
  • Symptoms:
    • Crusty scabs that peel off with clumps of hair

      Equine Spring Challenge: Rain Rot
             Courtesy: Horse Answers Today
    • Bare spots on the skin
    • Itchiness
    • Small, pus-filled bumps called pustules
    • Scabby tufts called “paintbrush lesions”
  • Highly contagious to other horses, animals, and humans
  • Sometimes mistaken for ringworm, a fungal disease
  • Treatment:
    • If left untreated, rain rot can lead to secondary infections
    • Do NOT share tack, equipment, or grooming tools with an infected horse.
    • Separate infected animals to prevent from spreading
    • ONLY use rain sheets or blankets that are breathable
    • Help prevent rain rot by scraping all excess water off after bathing (our WaterWisk makes this quick and easy) and making sure the horse is completely dry.
    • Click here to learn about home remedies for addressing rain rot.
Video: Courtesy of EquiGroomer

Spring and Your Horse: Thrush

  • Caused by:
    • Wet and muddy conditions and unsanitary stalls
    • A degenerative infection from packed mud in the equine foot  (specifically in the grooves of the horse’s frog and hoof cracks)
    • Heavy rainfall, high humidity, and warm temperatures

      Equine Spring Challenge: Thrush
              Courtesy: Merck Vet Manual
  • Symptoms:
    • A painful infection
    • Visible dark, gooey discharge with a foul smell (like rotting cheese)
    • Change in hoof color
  • Horses with high set, deep heels are more susceptible
  • Treatment:
    • Move the horse to a clean and dry environment to encourage healing
    • Click here to learn about 10 treatments for equine thrush (including apple cider vinegar).
  • Prevention:
    • Carefully and gently pick horse’s feet daily, before and after riding
    • Swab daily with a gentle preventative/powder


This information is not a substitute for professional, medical advice. Check with your regular vet or farrier to best treat your horse considering their health history and overall condition.



Additional Reading:

The Trouble with Mud

4 Horse Hoof Problems Caused by Mud and Rain

Mud-Related Health Problems

How Do I Get Rid of Rain Rot?

Thrush in Horses: Tips and Cures


Image Credits:

Image by jacqueline macou from Pixabay 

Image Courtesy of Western Horse Review

Horse Journal Recommended Products for Scratches

Image Courtesy of Horse Answers Today

Video: Courtesy of EquiGroomer

Image from Merck Veterinary Manual

Product Image: Courtesy of EquiGroomer

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