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Rain Rot - How Much Is It Related to General Health vs. Environment?

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    As for nutrition, I managed a farm about 20 years ago, that was very nutrition oriented, and they still had horses getting it.

    This farm was one Don Kapper personally worked with/visited and did the feeding program for. We had all of the hay analyzed, and he worked up what each horse needed in feed for each batch of hay. We also used the complete program of Buckeye Harvest Salt, their mineral block (no salt), and had a mineral drench that he created for us. The fields were also tested and fertilized/limed REGULARLY.

    This was a breeding farm, so not horses coming and going, no competition stress. They lived in closely bonded groups that had been together for a long time and got along like sisters.

    I think nutrition CAN leave a horses susceptible to it, but there are definitely other causes.

    Now that I think back, I don't remember ever seeing a chestnut with much rainrot. Certainly all of the bad cases I have seen have been bay/black for 30+ years, beginning with my black QH x back in 1976 when I got him. Interesting.


      I have a 10 year old OTTB that has never had it and then bam-I moved him to a new barn in Sept. and he gets it. Nothing else in his life has changed except that move-and this has happened to pretty much every horse at this barn when they first moved here. I think it's a couple of different factors and stuff in the dirt is probably one of them.
      you look vaguely familiar.

      "And somewhere -- wherever the racing gods live -- there was unabated laughter at this comeuppance. Karma's a Witch, babe, and so is the Triple Crown. "


        I check all of my guys following a hard rain. There was a very nasty, hard-rain kind of storm that caused an epidemic of rain rot on horses turned out all over the county a few years ago (not every horse got it, but a noticeable number did). I know this because I trim horses and heard the talk at various locations. So I'm on the alert after a particular hard rain that saturates the coat. If they look like they might have hives, I assume it is rain rot starting and treat immediately.

        I haven't noticed that one color horse gets is worse than another. Breeds? Don't know. I rarely see it on ponies, and the few times the ponies got a touch of it, all it took was brushing the scabs out. No medication needed. They seem to be very hardy and less prone to stress-related problems.

        If I had to bet on one major factor, it would be the horse's immune system. When it is stressed, horses are susceptible to infection upon exposure. Trying to say why one horse gets it vs. another is about trying to figure out why some members of a family get a cold and others don't succumb. All have been exposed, but not all will get it.

        If it is highly prevalent on a particular farm, I'd wonder what they are doing to cure it. It can get bad enough to need antibiotics.
        "Passion without knowledge is a runaway horse."


          I'm still trying to figure it out, but here are my observations based on my herd.

          My QH mare, who has been with me since birth, had a horrible case of rainrot the first year we moved here (5 winters ago) as a 4yo. Nothing since. She is mostly sheeted/blanketed during inclement weather, but sometimes it is hit or miss. My old TB mare that lives with her also got it that year and hasn't gotten it since. She does, however, get chronic scratches that if left alone, never seem to get worse. If I mess with them, they blow up and turn into lymphangitis/cellulitis/big fat mess.

          My others that have been here the past 5 years don't get much in the way of rainrot. My Va Tech purchase from 10/08 came with rainrot and it got horrible over that winter. First rain this year it came back with a vengeance but we seem to have it under control earlier.

          A group of ponies from another farm came with it last spring and first rain, bam, rainrot. Again, controlling it at this point. One of the ponies from that farm came 2 years ago and same story...but no rainrot this year.

          So, it seems everyone gets it/comes with it the first year or so, then I don't have problems after a few years. So, I'd wager a guess that maybe it is something in the soil coupled with immune system and they must build a resistance as long as they are kept healthy. That is my best guess. It isn't that I'm so religious about grooming and mine do NOT stay in during the rain.


            My OTQH just got it

            He is brown(really). I groom him a lot. He is on Equine Senior with supplements including MSM, Smartflex Repair, and SmartVite Easy Keeper Grass as well as tums for Ulcer management (he is in hard work and it is preventative more than anything). He is on constant turnout with free choice hay. I am in Colorado so it is hardly wet. So....The immune system explanation might make sense in his case but I don't think any of the others do. he has been at this barn for a few years even though I have only owned him for a few months. What really bugs me is the vet was out and she didn't give me anything to do for it
            My blog:



              myvanya, I've had good success mixing Listerine (original) with baby oil, half and half, and spraying it on the rain rot. Give the scabs a few days to soften, remove, respray. Repeat until the rain rot is gone.

              One horse came in last Christmas during a nasty rain. He'd already been struggling with rain rot but it wasn't horrible and the lady leasing him had been treating it with MTG. Within a week of his arrival, rain rot exploded all over him from his ears to his tail, even on his stomach. My guess is that the upheaval of moving combined with the horrible weather taxed his system to the point where the rain rot got the better of him.

              I sprayed the Listerine/baby oil in his scabs, saturating as well as I could, rubbed it in, didn't brush much because it hurt, and reblanketed him. A day or so later I'd remove the soft/loosened scabs and respray, rub in. It took about two weeks, but it cleared up. He had to stay blanketed because he'd lost a lot of fur during the infection. One spot on his neck was particularly hard to clear up.

              This summer I read Chocomare's thread about neck worms and double-dosed him with Equimax 14 days apart (something about her descriptions reminded me of that one tough, lingering line of rain rot on his neck). No recurrence of rain rot even though we've had some nasty, cold, hard rain. I check him often so I can treat before it gets as bad as last year. I'm also not even going to try to keep him unblanketed this year. I reserve it for the nasty cold of deep winter, but I have it ready.
              "Passion without knowledge is a runaway horse."


                EAY--where do you live?

                I'm up here in the PNW and we're definitely used to wet autumn weather. But the last month or so has been one hell of a weird time period with super wet (and relatively warm) weather.

                4 of mine are in blankets and are perfectly fine. The 2 without blankets have rain rot along their backs. One is my super hardy pony who has never had a touch of rain rot in 6 years of living naked in the rain. The other is another hardy horse who's never shown the slightest inclination towards rainrot or scratches or anything even remotely related....though he is a chestnut with chrome (coincidence or not!).

                I had my vet out for vaccinations and she commented that she's never seen rainrot like she has lately. The warm, wet weather is just an ideal place for soil-dependent organisms. And boy do we have our fair share of mud already!

                Anyhow, I do agree that you ought to look into nutrition since the whole barn has it. But I'd also look at the recent weather. In my experience there are certainly immune-compromised horses who get rain rot more than your average horse, but I would also say that the "perfect storm" of enviromental conditions could also create a situation like you described.

                I have treated my guys and will be keeping them in rain sheets until the weather starts getting legitimately cold. Both were cleared up pretty quickly, and no signs of it coming back so far.
                Flying F Sport Horses
                Horses in the NW



                  Originally posted by moonriverfarm View Post
                  I think there is something to the "nutrition" effect here. When I changed feed this summer, horses who had never had rain rot got it. Changed back to Safechoice - bye bye rain rot.
                  Interesting that you mentioned Safechoice! My new guy was full of rainrot after our nearly constant rain since September down in GA. and he gets groomed daily and fed quite nutritiously. I tried a myriad of products on him to no avail. I just happened to switch him to Safechoice two weeks ago and this week the rainrot is nearly gone...coincidence?
                  Jazz- 4.9.01 OTTB, loved since 12.6.09
                  Skip- 3.3.91 APHA, i miss you buddy


                    Original Poster

                    Originally posted by PNWjumper View Post
                    EAY--where do you live?
                    I live in Maryland and we certainly have had a lot of cool, rainy weather lately, so I think that has played a part. It will be interesting to see how this last storm that we had impacts the situation.

                    Also the horses in dry lots seem worse affected than those in grassy fields, so perhaps some nutrient in the grass has helped. And those in dry lots who get more sun appear to be more resistant than those in shadier lots. Perhaps the sun helps to kill the organism in the soil or on the horses' backs. Maybe the extra vitamin D helps.


                      I don't think it is color/coat related...My thin-skinned TB chestnut and Selle Francais chestnut did not get it, but my friend's bay WB with the thickest most beautious coat and super fast growing freak tail and good body weight did get it...

                      She's also the one that stands half in and half out of the barn during a rain storm...

                      My two are on a different feeding program though...

                      But the other difference is the mare with the rain rot has more of a dip to her back than the others, so it probably "sits" there.
                      Last edited by TrotTrotPumpkn; Nov. 15, 2009, 09:08 PM.
                      DIY Journey of Remodeling the Farmette:


                        Originally posted by JB View Post
                        Immune system.

                        The organisms that cause it are in the soil. Everywhere.

                        Poor nutrition, or nutrition that just isn't adequate for that horse, causes an immune system to not be able to handle the issue.

                        60 horses with rr is a problem. A huge one. One that ought to have the BO/BM taking a serious look at the management of these horses. It's NOT normal.

                        Thousands of horses live in the PNW for their entire lives and don't get rr.

                        I know of one horse who hasn't been groomed but a few times a year for several years - he's never had rr.

                        If the BO isn't open to it being a nutritional issue, then he'll just continue to treat the symptoms regularly, year after year.

                        There's a recent thread on rr and/or scratches where I've posted my experiences and opinions on the nutritional component
                        Agree 110%
                        chaque pas est fait ensemble


                          Okay, say I buy into the immune system theory. It is true that my biggest 'problem' has also had ulcers in the past... What can I do to boost the immune system in a horse who seems healthy and happy, eats well, gets loads of turnout and regular vet, farrier care, worming, etc.? He looks the best he he has since we got him (9/08). Heck, he has dapples this year!
                          Y'all ain't right!


                            You don't "boost" the immune system, you feed it for health

                            I say that because 'boosting the immune system" tends to make people think about something like EqStim or another synthetic boost.

                            It can be as simple as adding copper and zinc, both of which play important roles in the body's natural immunity (they are the "base" components of 2 types of superoxide dismutase).

                            so, it starts off depending on the current diet.
                            The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                              So, he might need more copper and zinc than he's getting in 10 lbs of TC Complete each day?
                              I used to have Seminole Grass Balancer minerals available but there's one horse who pretty much just ate it all when it was in the pasture. I can top dress feed, or make something available in the stall during feeding if mineral sups might be the answer.
                              Y'all ain't right!