Springtime skin problems

Spring is often considered as the light at the end of the tunnel after a long, cold and wet winter. Who couldn’t love spring? Fresh, sunny weather, but not too hot that you are struggling in the heat. It really is the ideal horse riding temperature. However, just like it is for many humans, horses too experience the negative aspects of spring that tend to come with the new life forming, such as allergies and hay fever. Although horses are prone to allergies and skin conditions no matter what time of year, they generally are more common during the season of spring. Take a look at some of the most common skin issues that tend to form during the season of Spring and learn what the first stages are in order for you to catch them before the issues get out of hand. 

Pollen Allergies

Horses tend to develop pollen allergies during spring as this is the time when plants and flowers begin to bloom after the cooler months. In order to determine whether your horses allergies are pollen related, take a look at when it started and whether your horse experiences any of these issues during other stages of the year aside from spring? If the answer is no, then we think you have your answer. 


Look for respiratory signs (known as ‘heaves’), skin rashes or irritation. Heaves is a type of respiratory issue which is common for horses during this period of time. It is an air-way condition which is caused by an allergic reaction to inhaled particles such as pollen, mould, hay or straw. Often heaves only affects horses that are 9 years or older. Pollen allergies may also present themselves in the form of skin rashes or irritations such as hives, itchy skin or swelling. 


If your horse is constantly experiencing hives, often a script of anti-inflammatories or antihistamines are prescribed, but with this route of medicine does increase the risk of laminitis which is a hoof disease that horses are susceptible to. An alternative route of treatment includes the use of topical ointments which can provide some relief to the horse, whilst assisting the rash to heal. Hypocare Skin Irritations is a great option as it targets skin irritations, cuts & wounds and infections. However, if you believe that your horse is suffering from heaves, your best option would be to go straight to your vet to investigate further. 

Insect Bites

Just as it is for humans, hypersensitivity to insect saliva is another allergy which is often presented within horses. Often referred to as ‘Sweet Itch’ or ‘Summer Itch’, essentially it is a reaction to the bites of tiny culicoides midges. However, these are not the only insects which can cause skin allergies, with other more common insects including mosquitoes and horse flies. 


Itchiness and discomfort amongst the horse is often a tell tale sign that your horse is having a reaction to an insect bite. Patches of inflamed, scabby skin may also be present if the horse has been itching itself constantly. 


Often the only treatment for this skin condition is to treat the skin and relieve the itching symptoms. Again, topical ointments are the best option for these kinds of symptoms. However, the best practice to implement is to prevent insect bites altogether. Grab yourself a bottle of Nettex Fly Repellent Spray which can be applied daily to provide 24 hour protection. 

Rain Rot

Rain rot is a common equine skin disease which is caused by bacteria. It generally occurs on areas which are exposed to rain (as indicated within the name), rarely occurring on the legs or stomach area. Rain rot often presents itself during the warmer, wetter temperatures as these climate conditions are optimal for bacterial growth. Plus, during spring there is an increased chance of insect bites which heighten the symptoms of rain rot. 


Rain rot can be characterised by crusty scabs and missing chunks of hair on the horse’s skin. The bacteria which causes this infection can only penetrate through the skin if there is a wound, insect bite or if excess moisture has stripped away the oils from the skin. As a result of this unwanted bacteria, the horses immune system starts to produce an excess amount of white blood cells and proteins which situate themselves in pus-filled bumps / pustules under the surface layer of skin. When these pustules have been present for a while, the skin layer underneath dies off which results in dead skin cells clumping together with hair that can be easily pulled off. 


The first stage of treatment that should be completed is to allow your horses skin and coat to dry out, as if there is still moisture present, bacteria still has the opportunity to grow. As soon as the environmental factors are removed, the horses symptoms will clear up on their own. However, if your horse is becoming frustrated with the symptoms, you can apply products which contain benzoyl peroxide or chlorhexidine which are great antimicrobial agents and assist in opening the hair follicles, allowing the scabs to fall off. Gilberts stock Hypocare Infections which is a non-toxic, non-sensitising, antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral solution which will soothe the symptoms for the horse’s comfort. 

As trusted equestrian supply experts, Gilberts can assist you with finding the health and lifestyle products you need for your beloved horse. Whilst you are there, browse through our extensive range of horse riding clothes and horse riding equipment. Shop online today to provide the best to your equine friend.