Every year, without fail and without warning, this crap pops up on Fizzy’s leg(s). The first time, we had no idea what it was as we had never seen anything like it before. So, to try and help any readers we may get from the frustration of this crazy stuff, here’s an explanation of what it is and how to get rid of it.
Scratches is also called greasy heel, mud fever, dew poisoning, or in more technical terms, pastern dermatitis or pastern folliculitis. Anyway, it’s some sort of nasty fungus that happens when the conditions a horse lives in are muddy, wet, etc. It seems to be worse when there is repeated wetting/drying of the legs. Horses that live in fields are prone to it since overnight can get dewy (dew poisoning) and then during the daytime the field dries out. Even more prone to it are white legs. Lucky Fizzy, he has 3 white legs!!
Early on, it might just look like some kind of liquid/gel on your horses leg(s) and if detected early, will be no big deal. The earlier you begin treatment, the easier it is to treat. As it progresses, it will look like scabbing, and it can be very sensitive to the touch and in bad cases even cause lameness. Avoid picking at it, trust me on this one. I tried to “wash” it off the first time Fizzy had it, and that did not turn out very well and he was very uncomfortable. I feel like a bad mommy because I didn’t know any better.
Some recommend you have it diagnosed by a veterinarian and receive anything from antibiotics, antifungals, to steroids… I know, I can see the dollar signs too. However, THERE IS HOPE!! I’m here to tell you (and save you some major money) that you don’t necessarily need that for this junk to go away. However, if you try my method and it’s just not working, then by all means, you need to call a vet.
Anyway, I remembered to get a few photos this time since the last few years I did not. I was at the barn Wednesday morning, did not go Thursday morning, and showed up Friday morning to picture #1, below. This tells you how fast this stuff can pop up. I always groom Fizzy’s legs (and use polo wraps/splint boots) so there’s no way I would not have noticed this Wednesday.
I immediately knew what it was as we had dealt with it before, so I began to treat it with what I am going to call my miracle mix. Yes, you will get funny looks buying these items together at the department store or pharmacy. Yes, your horse is worth any humiliation you might experience. #1, Bordreaux’s Butt Paste, I buy the larger tube size in maximum strength, with 40% zinc as this is the active ingredient. I assume generic diaper rash cream might work, but I like using the best of the best with the 40% zinc. #2. Jock Itch Cream. These are usually in small tubes like .5oz, I buy 3 or 4 of them in a generic brand because they all basically have the same ingredients. #3. Triple Antibiotic, again, small tubes in 1 oz, I’ll buy one or two in the generic store brand. Mix it all up, and there you have it: Miracle Mix. I keep it in tupperware at the barn, and it’s held up and kept well til I need it. I always have it on hand so I can begin treating this immediately when I notice it. That way, it doesn’t spread.
Put it on the affected area, and leave it alone. Because we really have no other option, we have to turn Fiz back out, so he goes into the field with this on. Apply it daily (or as much as you can) and the scabs will start falling off. Keep applying until the scabs are gone and the area starts growing hair back. If after seeral days to a week, the scabs persist, please call a vet and get some more serious treatment for your horse. However, this is the treatment that has worked without fail for us on Fizzy every time for the last 3 years.
I didn’t take a photo after the first day, this is after the 3rd day of treatment. As you can see, the scabbing is going away but still present.
Below is after a week, and not treating every single day. Only a small amount of scabbing remains. I keep putting it over the entire area anyway, just as a precaution.
His first case was VERY bad. I only have a photo of the spot after it had begun healing. As you can see, this area is much more largely affected than the above, because we didn’t know how to treat it and it spread. Once we began treating it with the cream I talked about above, it looked like the below photo within 2 weeks.