Looking after the Itchy
Horse or Pony
- First, and most important, make sure your horse wears
his sweet itch rug whenever midges may be around (midges fly when the
temperature is above 4oC, and/or the wind speed is below 12mph,
which can be all year round in some areas)
- If your horse rubs his face/ears, get him a mask as
- Bath your horse regularly, using an insecticidal
shampoo, or shampoo for dry skin such as coal tar shampoo (or even Head &
- If your horse is sweaty after exercise in hot
weather, hose him down - sweat attracts flies
- Wash your rug regularly - dirt attracts flies
- Use a good fly repellent anywhere the rug doesn't
cover, paying attention to the sheath/udder and the backs of the legs. We
like Nettex Stop-Itch Salve Complete and products by
PureNeem but quite honestly
providing you apply it without fail every day then you can use baby
oil, sudacrem, udder cream or pretty much anything else to deter the midges.
If you miss a day, or don't re-apply after heavy rain, then your horse will
- If your horse has any sore places, treat them with
Sudacrem (from chemists) or Udder Cream (from farm suppliers). No need for expensive remedies!
- Be careful using Tea Tree oil, citronella or other
strong natural products - some horses can react badly. Some horses also
react badly to Benzyl Benzoate. Always patch test any new cream/lotion etc
by applying a small amount to the thin skin on the inside of the thigh or
front leg, wait 24 hours and see if there is any irritation.
- Fence your fields carefully - don't use barbed wire,
and if you have post & rail protect it with an inner electric fence. If
your horse rubs, he will itch even more so it's essential to make it
difficult for him to rub.
- If you are in rented grazing or a livery yard, see if
the owner will allow you to put up your own temporary electric fencing - it
will protect the other fences (and keep your horse safer)
- Try not to keep itchy horses in wooded areas or near
ponds or boggy areas where midges breed. Breezy, exposed fields are best -
by the sea is perfect.
- If your horse suffers really badly in spite of all
you do, consider asking your vet for long term steroid injections. One or
two a season may do the trick, and providing your horse is not at risk from
laminitis (ie too fat or very old) they do an excellent job and will save your horse from suffering
Click here to read an article about the causes, symptoms
and treatment of sweet itch.
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