While we’re still getting plenty of sun, there’s also a slight chill in the air and there’s no doubt about it – Autumn is on its way.
While thankfully the worst period for fly bites and bothering has now passed, the wet and cold weather brings its own challenges and early Autumn is the ideal time to adopt the appropriate grooming routine and make sure that your horse’s skin and coat are in tip-top shape.
So what should be the key elements of your grooming regime in September/ October?
1. Insect Control – you should be able to drop repellent use right down during these months. We’re still using an insect repellent gel on the head, to keep away the last of the irritating face flies, but have been able to drop this down to once a day in the last week. Of course, if your horse has sweet itch then it’s likely you’ll still be using topical treatments right up until the end of October (or whenever the daytime temperature has consistently dropped below 10 degrees, and there’s been a frost or two)
2. Grooming – it’s coat change time again! Losing hair is an incredibly itchy experience for our equines and it can’t be stressed enough how regular good grooming can help. Why is the process of losing hair so itchy? Simply put, the hair cells step up their activity and their nerve supplies can become overstimulated. Any dead hair sitting on top of the new coat creates an extra layer of insulation – creating warmth and in turn moisture – and unfortunately this is the ideal breeding ground for microbes including fungus. A rubber curry comb with flexible teeth is great at loosening the hairs and massaging the skin. Finish with a dandy brush and some elbow grease to dislodge loose hairs and general grime.
3. Clean and condition – it’s becoming too cold to shampoo and rinse without risk of a chill. Instead, a cleansing spray such as Biteback’s Sweatbuster will quickly dissolve sweat from hot spots (such as under the mane and in the ‘arm’ and leg pits) and will sweep away any microbes before they can start being troublesome. It should also remove scurf and grease when used with a rubber curry comb.
4. Regularly check sensitive areas – skin issues such as mud fever/ rain scald often present as tiny little lumps and bumps at first, and it’s a good idea to check prone areas such as the pasterns on a regular basis. Use the tips of your fingers to feel the texture of the skin under the coat. Should you detect any irregularities - our Sweet Relief Quick-Silver spray will both sterilise the area and leave a protective layer on the skin. It’s an excellent first line of defence.
5. Pay special attention to hooves. Mud can negatively impact the health of your horse’s hooves, causing issues like thrush, abscesses and even abnormal hoof growth. We use Sweatbuster to give the frog and heels a good clean every couple of days, and Flowers & Zinc powder is excellent for drying out and preventing bacterial growth.
5. Leave rugs off for as long as possible! With the weather so changeable, it’s tempting to shove a rug on early, but there’s a real risk of overheating. On warmer days, your horse will likely feel prickled by the combination of dead hair and sweat sticking to the rug, and that’s when itching and rubbing can start up again. Think carefully about whether your horse actually needs an extra layer yet, and make sure that you are allow a decent amount of rug-free time so that the skin can breathe.