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Looks like scratches....but not

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    Looks like scratches....but not

    My horses have been coming in from turnout with some weird skin funk lately. One mare came in yesterday with scratches-like scabs on her legs, but one leg was covered all the way to her elbow, the other to her knee, and two legs had minimal scabs. She came in last week with a cluster of bites on her jaw and neck that almost looked like hives, but bigger. They went away within a couple of days.

    Another mare also had what looked like scratches, but her scabs were primarily below her knees and I didn't think much of it. I just treated with Banix medicated shampoo and it cleared up. They have some wooded areas in their pasture, so I don't know if they're getting into prickly bushes, seed ticks, some weird bug nests, or is it just scratches? I've just never seen scratches cover the entire leg and appear so quickly! Any ideas?

    In both cases, legs were totally normal when they went out, and had scabs when they came back inside. No heat, no swelling, no lameness.

    Sounds like a reaction to something in the environment. Do they have access to any heavily wooded areas, swampy/wet areas or very tall grass? Certain insects, oils from heavy contact with certain plants or something in a very wet environment sound possible.

    What we commonly know as scratches is actually a photosensitivity reaction after ingestion of particular plants, so while shampooing/treating the affected area does treat the symptoms, it doesn't actually solve the underlying problem.
    Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not. Remember that what you have now was once among the many things that you only hoped for.


      Scratches can be all kinds of things, not just or only photosensitivity. It can also be a fungal infection or a bacterial infection, or both, or an allergic reaction, etc. There is a good write-up linked below.

      If it persists you'd want to call the vet. Also, if you think it could be reactions to tick-bites--and I don't know what you mean by seed ticks, but I'm thinking those might be deer ticks?--then you should be concerned about Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases. I'd watch the horses for the onset of fever, or any unusual behavior for the next couple of weeks.
      Last edited by Posting Trot; Sep. 10, 2020, 09:17 AM.
      "The formula 'Two and two make five' is not without its attractions." --Dostoevsky


        Skin things are tricky.
        The last few weeks of August we were battling little bugs that were giving some of the horses hive like reactions. Then last week we got a short heat wave, followed by a lot of rain. All of this equaled a perfect storm for rain rot.

        I have found that when "scratches" appear in the summer, or only on the white legs than it does seem to be some sort of photosensitivity thing. But I've also had horses develop scratches when we're transitioning from mud to snow. In those cases it's been clear that there was skin irritation from the wet environment or a small cut that let bacteria or fungus invade and grow.


          This is timely

          my environmentally allergic horse also has issues.

          Every year, at this time, he has issues but this year have been worse than normal - he ended up with hives on his neck and outbreaks on his face, to where I also thought of ant bites but ants are not the cause.

          what is the cause is him eating blades of grass amongst a matted growth of weeds that resemble the weed ground cover “Virginia Buttonweed”, BUT I’m not sure it is Virginia Buttonweed because I have never seen little white flowers on it.

          Also this time of year toxicity of some plants change, making some weeds tasty that weren’t tasty earlier in the year.

          I got the Scratches under control by washing the legs with Dawn dish soap, the. Applying a mix of Cortisone10 and diaper rash paste with 40% zinc oxide.

          I washed the face and neck with MalAcetic shampoo. The sores that were open & seeping also got patched with Cortisone10 & diaper rash paste.

          However, the entire one side of his face was full of itchy bumps. For that I have been switching back and forth between Derma-Vet (greasy prescription lotion) and Mal-A-Ket a clear liquid daily. Either of these is a lot less grief than pastes and creams, while still being effective, but they are also more expensive to use.

          The equine chiro is also a vet and was here yesterday. She gave him a thorough hands-on exam regarding this horse’s vital organs because he now has horrible smelling gas. Thankfully he did not react so I’m going to assume he hasn’t done any internal damage in spite of his best efforts to the contrary.

          We have 20+ acres of pasture so it is t easy to “just get rid of” whatever that garbage is. What I did so was to take my JD with the 60” belly mower up on the ridge and it that section down to where there’s nothing for the horse to eat. That alone seems to h e helped.

          I need to gather some of the weed and take it to Co-op and have the. ID it. If I can kill it with 2-4-D or some other horse friendly weed Keillor, I will. If it takes something that requires the horses to be off pasture for days or week, then I am S.O.L. And will just have to try and keep the stuff cut to the dirt with the belly mower because the bush hog can’t cut low enough.


            Do you have fire ant mounds where you are? If you do then I'd say that's a possibility. They are all over the place here... Mine seem to know and give them plenty of room but I know a couple other critters who haven't been as wise.


              Last summer my horse had a weird, funky patch on his neck. It didn't respond to anything and kept getting worse. He didn't like me touching it. I finally got the vet out and she did a skin biopsy. The biopsy was negative (thank God). We fiqured out it was my fly spray even though I had used that spray before with no problems. Horses can develop irritations and allergies from something that has been used on them previously, like humans can. I threw the spray out, used a different kind of spray, and haven't had a problem since. I thought it worth mentioning in case it could be your fly spray (if you use fly spray). Skin problems can be frustrating to figure out.


                I've also seen some weird skin stuff this year, and am not sure what to blame--bugs? weird plants? some sort of bacteria/fungus? weird reaction to fly spray? In my case, it was weepy, scabby spots, mostly on the front legs but at knee level or above, with some on the body. I've never seen scratches be weepy like this stuff was, or that high. Kept udder balm on it, and over a week or so the scabs fell off and healthy skin was underneath, and hair is growing back.

                Feels like it's just part of the craziness of 2020!

                SugarCubes maybe add photo sensitivity to your list of possibles? There's plenty they can eat in the field that can contribute, and it can certainly cause near instant WTF IS THAT skin funk.


                  Mine have had that in the past. It isn't scratches and I thought it was a reaction to something in the taller/ wet grass or maybe chiggers. It does happen around this time of year if I remember correctly. It came and went quickly.


                    Strange so many of us are experiencing the same types of things this year.

                    I thought one of my horses had scratches, then the other presented with the same a few days later. Mild swelling on lower limbs on the outside of one or two legs, but above the joints, and roughened hair with scaley skin. No heat, no lameness.

                    After a vet visit, turns out it was a reaction to the oil-based fly spray I'd be using -- a first in 25 years, and many years on the same fly spray (Rambo Gold), but she mentioned she'd been seeing this on the rise with the very hot and humid summer we've had. A Dawn detergent cleanse and switching to a water-based fly spray did the trick.
                    Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


                      My 24-year-old has something similar going on and IIRC it happened around this time last year too. One or both hind legs develop little yellow scabs kind of like tick bites but not quite. Sometimes one or both hind legs stock up too. One pastern (not the white one, oddly) sometimes has what looks like the beginning of scratches. It is odd, and good to know it’s not just me! Before last year this had never happened to him.

                      I started scrubbing his legs with Cytoxyl when I bring him inside in the morning, and coating his pasterns with my homemade scratches ointment before turnout in the afternoons. The scabs are still there but no new ones have formed, and the stocking up has improved.

                      I am ready for summer to be over!
                      Building and Managing the Small Horse Farm:


                        Original Poster

                        This is super interesting that several of us seem to be dealing with similar issues this year! We got a TON of rain this summer, and I think the moisture, humidity, and bugs are definitely contributing.

                        Simkie Sounds exactly like what my horses have had, glad to hear your were able to get it cleared up!

                        splitrockfarmnc Yes! I was actually thinking fire ants could have been a culprit, especially the cluster of lumps on my mares face!

                        Abbie.S Yeah, about half of the pasture is wooded, the trails are all cleared out but they will definitely go into the taller brush and stand under the trees, so who knows what they're getting into out there.

                        I've contained them to the drylot this week to give me a chance to get whatever this is cleared up before turning them back out in the pasture. They got medicated baths yesterday so hopefully the scabs disappear quickly!


                          So funny - this year has actually been exceptionally dry in VT - very dry spring, below normal levels of rain this summer...and yet we're still seeing weird skin funk, too!

                          One of my students had a horse breaking out with flaky, bumpy skin funk earlier this summer and we figured out it was her "all natural" flyspray. It was a really heavy, oily spray that probably relied on essential oils and it was mailing his skin irritated.

                          Another horse friend had a horse coming in with random, localized hive outbreaks...and still hasn't figured out why despite blood tests coming back with no known allergies.

                          2020 has been fraught with, well, general yuck, so maybe this is just one more thing to add to the list?
                          Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not. Remember that what you have now was once among the many things that you only hoped for.


                            I mentioned this thread to DH as I was picking the dried scabs off my horse’s face, after his shower tonight because the heat/humidity was stifling today.

                            Out of nowhere I pondered and asked DH if all that Saharan Dust that went over us, might have had some sort of affect on our weather that in some way affected plants.

                            Just ask Google and ye shall always find something. This does appear to be a credible report.


                            i do not profess to be anywhere near smart in the chemistry department. I can spell the word and that’s about it, BUT as whackadoodle as 2020 has been, I’m willing to blame that excessive Saharan Dust cloud on doing something to our plant life and increasing photosensitivity some horses,

                            Maybe the idea can be dismissed by someone knowledgeable, as I am only speculating