Summer Skin in Lockdown 2020
Kate Hore RNutr (Animal) Snr Nutritionist at NAF
This year we’re facing some unique challenges. How to keep our horses and ponies, fit and looking well when riding is reduced - or stopped completely - and we’ve no shows to go to. However some things never change, and one thing that even Covid 19 can’t stop to is the nuisance of summer insects, which is not good news for our sensitive equines.
Sweet Itch, also known as Summer Seasonal Recurrent Dermatits (SSRD) is an allergic reaction to the bit of the Culicoides midge. Signs are seen as intense itching, particularly along the mane and top of the tail, though we also frequently see head and belly rubbing. Hair loss and sore, inflamed areas of skin may be seen, as will raised, ridged skin if the condition worsens. Needless to say affected horses and ponies will also be particularly irritated by flying insects, and especially those pesky midges!
Researchers have found evidence of a genetic link with Sweet Itch, which may explain why we see higher incidence in some breeds, including Shetlands, Shires, Welsh and Hackneys. Equally, research shows the importance of early exposure to the allergen to initiate the individual’s natural defence; hence, we see a high level of Sweet Itch in imported Icelandic horses, as the absence of the Cullicoides midge in their native Iceland means they don’t have early life exposure to the allergen.
The correct management can be really useful to help those suffering from Sweet Itch. Consider stabling during the day in a clean, airy stable, as flies are at their height during the day. When affected horses and ponies are turned out try to choose an open aspect field, preferably on a hill, which encourages a constant light breeze. Avoiding standing ponds or any water sources where flies congregate is a must, and don’t forget regular use of a strong, proven fly repellent - check it is registered for safety and efficacy with a HSE or BPR registration number.
To support from the inside out, feed a naturally sourced antioxidant based product for skin health daily. The inclusion of MSM alongside the antioxidants will strengthen tissue from within and provide the building blocks for skin repair. Lastly it is recommend to also add a little linseed oil daily, as research has shown that the omega 3 rich linseed oil can support seasonal skin health when fed daily.*
Alongside supplementary support, using the right applications topically will help maintain those skin defences. Look for a skin wash targeting lumps and bumps through natural ingredients for skin immunity, and to maintain comfort in summer skin. Your horse will thank you for a cooling wash all over after riding; but high risk areas, such as the mane and tail-head, will need a targeted approach.
By taking some simple management and dietary steps we can hopefully help all of our horses and ponies to enjoy the long summer days as much as we do.
For more information on supplementing through warm weather, contact our FREE Nutritional Advice Line, we would love to hear from you and we love to speak about horses! 0800 373106 / email@example.com
* O-Neill W, McKee S & Clarke A.F (2002) Flaxseed [linseed] supplementation associated with reduced skin test lesional area in horses with Culicoides hypersensitivity. Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research. 66(4)