Check it Out!
[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]
[Date Index] [Thread Index] [Author Index] [Subject Index]



Pat Farmer said:

> << Personally I think there's more than one type. >>
> Sheesh, sounds like we really need more research from the veterinary end....  

It is my understanding that "scratches" is a generic term for dermatitis of 
the back of the pastern.  So it is unlikely that there is one cure for 
scratches any more than there is one cure for the myriad of forms of 
dermatitis that people are susceptible to (but a dermatologist would know 
better).  So if I had a horse with a serious case of scratches, I would do a 
culture and send it to a lab to find out just what kind of infection (if there 
is an infection at all) that I was dealing with...and then I would treat it 

> treatment knocks them back.  But when whatever-it-is-that-causes-'em is
> active, they come back or flare up at the drop of a hat.    Then after a bit
> they go away and become a non-problem for a while. 

> When they're bad, you can't ignore 'em - the whole lower leg will swell and 
> get hot, with crusty oozing sores in the fetlock.   But slopping your bucket 
> of soapy water out into the muddy pasture, washing and drying and doctoring 
> legs daily gets real old.  Very frustrating.  

> Love to hear from anyone who 
> has any new magic to try  :-)

I don't know whether what I have to recommend is new magic or not, it has 
always worked for me.  I have yet to have a horse contract scratches (of any 
sort).  True, my horses don't stand in any kind of mud that comes up over 
their hooves (they live on a steep hill that is made of granite, there just 
isn't any place for mud to form); however, I have done many multi-day rides 
(of my 4000+ endurance miles, more than 3,000 are multi-day rides), including 
the Outlaw Trail (notorious for scratches) 4 times, with five different 
horses.  I have also done Bryce Canyon, Mt. Carmel, NM Renegade, Ft. 
Schellbourne, Death Valley, and (some of) Rocky Mountain.  The horses I have 
used for these rides have been of varying colors (black, bay, chestnut, gray) 
and have had varying numbers of white feet (0 to 4).  At the 1999 Outlaw Trail 
the vet at the end of the third day (by which time probably about 50% of the 
horses at the ride had some form of scratches) expressed how impressed he was 
with how "clean" my mare's pasterns were, to which I responded, "I have a sure 
fire preventative for scratches."

He was very interested to know what it was.

Here it is...proper coat care.  All the way to the feet.  

And proper coat care includes:

Never, ever, ever clip.
Never, ever, ever use shampoo
Never, ever, ever scrub
A small, flexible, rubber curry comb (optional) you can use your fingers
A natural fiber dandy brush (optional) you can use a rag
A palmyra fiber finishing brush (optional) you can use a rag
A horse hair face brush (optional) you can use a rag
A silk rub rag (optional) you can use a cotton terry washcloth or towel
Your fingers

Regularly...all the way to the feet.

It always makes me wince when I hear of the things that people suggest with 
regards to preventing scratches which includes clipping, scrubbing with 
iodine, anti-microbials, and then smearing with some greasy substance (greasy 
substances attract and hold dirt) all over the lower leg.

In my experience, a horse's best defense against scratches is his own healthy 
skin and coat, and clipping, scrubbing, etc. just strips away all those 
defenses, leaving the horse's legs nakedly exposed to every pathogen in the 
environment (which, down there around the ground, are many).  Scrubbing off 
all of a horse's natural defenses and then trying to replace them with 
something like Desitin is nowhere near as effective as leaving the natural 
defenses in place.

This IS something that has to be started at home.  The horse needs to be 
regularly groomed to keep and maintain a healthy skin and coat, and the nice 
thing about it, is you will have a very simple check method to see if your 
coat maintenance program is working.  If your horse has a clean, shiny coat, 
without being constantly bathed, shampooed with coat conditioners and coat 
polish, then it is a healthy skin and coat, and is way less susceptible to 
pathogens in the environment.

So...what I do.

I never clip my horses (I have a horse with a trace clip on his neck right 
now, and you can bet that part of his skin and coat get extra brushing), I 
never shampoo them and rarely bathe them at all.  When I do bathe them, I will 
hose them down and use ... my fingers (so yeah, I usually get kinda wet) to 
bring the dirt and sweat to the surface.

I have a palm-sized, rubber curry comb with little teeth on it that are about 
1/8" in diameter and 3/16" long (which my tack store calls a "face curry").  
It is very flexible so follows all the curves of a horse's body easily, and 
the teeth are close enough together that they trap almost all of the loose 
hairs so it is easy to remove them.  I don't ever use a metal curry comb as in 
my experience they damage the hair and if they get down to the skin, they 
scratch the skin (which then makes the skin more susceptible to invasion).  
With curry in one hand and my bare hand following (or maybe the finishing 
brush if the horse hasn't been working), I curry in a circular motion, and 
anything stubborn gets removed with my fingers (as they are far more 
sensitive).  This will loosen dirt and sweat and bring them to the 
surface...and I do this all the way to the feet (including the back of the 
pastern).  The backs of the pasterns I will rub across the direction the hair 
grows (i.e. from side to side) first with my fingers to identify what may be 
hanging out there, and will use the curry to loosen anything stuck in the 
hairs, and then will "finish" by rubbing pretty firmly with my fingers, even 
"encircling" the pastern with my hand while I rub...not to vigorously as you 
don't want to generate much heat (if you generate heat, you are pushing too 
hard and/or are rubbing too fast).

After the currying has loosened all the dirt I will use the finishing brush or 
the dandy brush depending upon a) which one is handy or b) how small the dirt 
particles that have been raised are (a dandy brush is pretty useless for small 
dust particles).  Brush in the direction of hair growth...all the way to the 
feet. If the horse is particularly dusty, I may dampen the ends of the brush 
slightly in order to "pick up" the dirt.

Finish with the silk rub rag (and if the horse is particularly dusty, I will 
dampen the rub rag too)...all the way to the feet.

If you do this regularly at home, the horse will have a nice, shiny, self-
cleaning coat that takes about 5 minutes to get through the whole routine. (I 
took my colt to the Region 2 championship qualifier last summer and was asked 
by many people what kind of shampoo, conditioner, polish I used on his coat to 
get him so shiny--boy were they surprised to hear that he had never been 
shampooed in his life).  And that curry comb goes into my fanny pack at a ride 
so I can quickly take it out at vet checks and give my horse a "once over" 
along the way.

The other nice thing about this particular "preventative" protocol is that it 
requires you to regularly run your hands all over your horse's body.  Which a) 
is a great way to become familiar with your horse's body so you know what is 
normal and pick up on any abnormalities very quickly (so you will notice a 
little "heat" in your horse's pasterns BEFORE the skin breaks and becomes 
susceptible to infection, b) is a great way to discover just where your 
horse's "buttons" are (you know, the ones that Susan Garlinghouse mentioned 
that the top level dressage rider knew how to push on her horse using spurs) 
and teach the horse to respond to them, and c) it is great for "bonding" with 
your horse.  The most important tool in your grooming box is your hands (I can 
completely groom my horse with nothing more than my hands and a rub rag--I had 
one horse whose skin was so sensitive that that was all she would LET me groom 
her with :)).

Additionally, at multi-day rides (and other rides too I suspect), it is 
important to keep swelling and "stocking up" out of your horse's pasterns.  
The skin of a horse's pasterns, below the fetlock is not very pliable if the 
horse gets any swelling there.  When the tissue below the fetlock becomes 
puffy, the skin must stretch, and then every time the horse takes a step the 
back of the pastern gets a "wrinkle" in it (like the wrinkle in the skin of 
your finger when you bend it).  So you are, in essence, over bending and then 
straightening out the skin with every stride, pretty soon, the skin is gonna 
weaken and/or break there (just like you can eventually break a metal wire by 
constantly overbending it in the same place), and when the skin weakens or 
breaks, infection can set in. (If anybody would like to hear how I keep 
swelling and stocking up out of my horses' pasterns, feel free to ask but that 
is a bit of a different topic.)

As I said, I don't know if this preventative method will work for horses that 
are standing in mud (since I have never tried it), but it has worked at many 
multi-day rides on many horses.  So while I see so many other people at rides 
diligently scrubbing their horses' pasterns with Betadine scrubs and then 
smearing them with Desitin (taking 10 to 15 minutes a foot), all it takes me 
is about 30 seconds to kneel down and rub my hand around the pastern and then 
dust it off with a rag or light brush.

I am not saying it will work for everybody.  I am just saying that it has 
always worked for me.  It is possible that I just have gotten lucky because I 
have just never had a horse that is "prone to scratches."  But it is also 
possible that a lot of the (what I consider to be) excessive cleansing 
(shampoo, iodine, etc.) and scrubbing that people have subjected their horses' 
coats to has made their horses "prone to scratches."

I'm planning to do the 2001 XP ride, and scratches is one of the things that I 
have absolutely no concerns about (it might just be the time that I find out 
how wrong I am:)).

Orange County, Calif.

    Check it Out!    

Home    Events    Groups    Rider Directory    Market    RideCamp    Stuff

Back to TOC