During the winter and early spring when the ground is wetter some horses and ponies may experience a condition called mud fever. It is a bacterial infection that causes irritation (painful sores and scabs) and dermatitis in the lower limbs, more commonly the pastern and heel. However, in some cases it can also affect the upper leg, stomach and neck area, although this is not common.
When a horse gets mud fever it can be very difficult to clear if it is not treated immediately. If left untreated the legs can become swollen and very sore, in some cases even causing lameness. Open sores can become infected very quickly which can cause further complications.
Ideally you want to prevent mud fever from occurring. As the age old saying goes ‘prevention is better than cure’.
The bacteria of mud fever thrives in wet muddy conditions, so avoid leaving your horse standing for prolonged periods in wet boggy mud. Try and avoid pathways that you know will be sodden.
As tempting as it is, always try to avoid washing your horses legs too much as this can rid the skin of its natural oils that prevent infection. However, if your horse has mud fever, the best thing to do is to bring them in and let their legs dry naturally, then just brush the area clean. Keep an eye on the condition and seek veterinary advice if you are concerned.
There are a variety of products on the market that claim to prevent and/or cure mud fever but as with anything, it is always best to seek professional advice from your vet or farrier/trimmer.
Ragwort is a yellow flowering plant that starts growing from early spring onwards. It is incredibly toxic to horses and when regularly ingested can cause liver failure which ultimately leads to a slow painful death. However, this is easily avoidable with a good field management routine.
Start checking your fields in early spring for any signs of this toxic plant. At this time of year, it will present itself as a small rosette of deeply-cut, toothed leaves. This is the best time to remove them.
Mature plants start to be visible from June to October.
* Dig the plant up, including its roots.
* Dispose of by burning.
* Do not throw onto the muck heap or leave in the paddock.
It is a good habit to routinely check your paddocks on a weekly basis and remove any ragwort plants you find. Even the smallest of rosettes because it is best to remove them before they mature and die, as this is when the seeds will spread and germinate.