Tips for Managing Your Equine’s Health During the Rainy Season
by TERESA SCHIFFER
Rainy season is here in Central Florida, and for horse owners, that can mean more time in the stable and less time in the saddle. Thunderstorms, muddy fields, and mosquitoes can all mean problems for horses. So what should you do when the rains come, keep the horses inside all summer or let them brave the elements? Well, maybe a little of both. Here’s a few facts on how to handle summer storms with your equine friends.
The summer rains can cause pastures to experience a burst of new growth. This is great for foraging. The new growth can be appealing to horses who have exhausted areas of their grazing land. Many horses will enjoy their pasture time despite wet weather, so turning your horses out to pasture during the rain is no big deal. There are a few hazards to watch out for though.
According to local large animal veterinarian Katie Hennessy, horse owners need to pay attention to potential skin issues with the warm, wet weather. Rain rot can become a problem if a horse is not given the opportunity to thoroughly dry out. “Rain rot is a bacterial infection that occurs in the skin,” says Dr. Hennessy. It can be a painful irritation that causes the hair to fall out.
If rain rot seems to be a problem with your wet horse, you may need to apply an antimicrobial shampoo or betadine to fight the infection. Painkillers can help with the inflammation. Brush and allow your horse to dry thoroughly to help prevent rain rot.
Wet feet are another problem waiting to happen. No matter how happy your horse is to stand around in the rain and mud, you need to make sure its hooves are allowed to dry. Chronically wet hooves can lead to potential abscesses or other infections, such as white line disease. This disease causes a separation of the hoof wall from the sole, which can then lead to infection by a number of pathogens. Check your horse’s hooves during rainy weather and give them a thorough cleaning when necessary.
“Horses do just fine in the rain. As long as there’s not lightning, they’re okay to be out in the rain,” advises Dr. Hennessy. You do want to get them in shelter long enough to dry out though. Dr. Hennessy says you don’t have to leave them in the stable while it’s raining out, just provide them with some shelter so they can get out of the rain if they want to.
Insects also present additional problems at this time of year. Horse owners need to be diligent when it comes to mosquito breeding grounds. Frequently empty any buckets or areas with standing water so mosquitoes don’t have a chance to lay and hatch their eggs there. Using insect repellents and fans to keep bugs away from horses can help prevent infection with mosquito-borne illnesses, such as encephalitis.
Lightning is one thing to keep an eye out for during rainstorms. Horses can be struck by lightning, or injured by standing near a tree that is struck. Anytime there is lightning out you should get your horse to safety. High winds are also a safety hazard, as flying debris could injure your horse.
A little rain time can benefit horses, as it rinses them off, washing away allergens. Horses generally don’t mind getting a little wet in the rain. However, bad weather can frighten some horses, causing them to not drink enough water. This can lead to colic. Make sure your horse is getting plenty of water during rainy season.
Overall, a little rain isn’t going to hurt your horses, and with just a little extra care and attention, most horses can be quite comfortable despite the soggy weather. Just keep an eye on your horse’s coat and hooves to make sure they aren’t remaining constantly wet, and you should be able to avoid the most common infections.