The Creeping Crud

Jan 10, 2011 - 4:32 AM
Photo by Sara Lieser.

Life in Florida is lovely. The weather is temperate, and there are lots of people and horses to keep one busy. But it’s also a real pain in the butt. Land here is precious, so turnout is limited. The grass that grows is not well-liked by picky horses, and the soil is extremely sandy, so it’s hard to get grass to grow in the first place.

That same sandy soil is full of microbes too, and between the sensitive chestnut mare, the sensitive AND chromey chestnut gelding, and the prone-to-scratches brown horse, I’m in for a three-month Battle Against The Scruff.

But I come armed, and I come experienced. Virginia is not much of a reprieve from The Creeping Crud; we deal with it all the time at home, too, though certainly nothing is as stellar as South Florida Crud. I’ve learned that above all else, keeping the hair short and keeping the skin soft is crucial. We clip everything, and when I bathe, I dry very thoroughly and try and use some kind of conditioner on the skin of their legs.

My weapon against scratches plays on just that theory—scratches get in because the skin cracks when it goes from wet to dry over and over again. So I bathe sparingly, and when I do, after carefully drying the legs with a clean towel, I use a mixture of Nolvasan (a tough antimicrobial), Desitin (diaper rash ointment) and Azium powder (dexamethazone, a steroid, for its anti-inflammatory properties).

Once the scratches are gone, or if it’s getting close to horse show time (the dex will test), I switch over to straight desitin. I want to keep the skin as supple as possible, so it can’t crack, so the crud can’t get in. Simple.

The fungal infestations are another matter. After bathing, as a preventative measure, I spray my horses down with a mixture of approximately two parts Sore No More liniment, one part apple cider vinegar. The liniment’s for their muscles, though it’s in a witch hazel base, and anything with anti-inflammatory powers can’t be wrong. The vinegar is for The Crud. It’s no cure, but it’s my first line of defense.

Once or twice a week on an uncruddy horse I will bathe their legs with a shampoo called Cortisoothe. I get it from my vet, and I really wish that someone would make a bigger container of it, because it only comes in little 12-ounce containers. It’s 1 percent hydrocortisone, and as I keep saying, anti-inflammatory is the way to go. It just seems to help calm everything down.

Once the crud has taken hold, everyone’s got their own breed of witchcraft, none of which works spectacularly well. Nolvasan seems to work well, though not every day—it’s quite powerful and seems to irritate sensitive skin. I don’t really have a super (s)crud missile when it comes to treating existing crud, but I’m sure, with the Begging-For-Trouble Three I’ve brought down, that I’ll have plenty of time to experiment. Ugh.

What do you think, out there in Chronicle-land? Please share your secret crud weapons!

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