Despite the chaos and confusion of our current world, there are still some things we can depend on to arrive regularly as clockwork. Wetter weather, for one thing, bringing with it the misery of mud! The weather has cooled over the last few weeks; nights are drawing in and the ground is already beginning to turn slightly soggy. What lurks beneath the mud? The simple answer… bacteria! However, there is good news, we have some helpful advice to offer on how to prevent mud fever. 

Despite the name, ‘mud’ is not really our problem here; the combination of wet, warmth and wounds are. If we can control these three things, we will have beaten the bacteria and be well on the way to understanding how to prevent mud fever occurring in the first place.

Mud fever demystified- What is it anyway?

The skin is your horse’s first line of defence against bacteria. Once this barrier is broken down, bacteria are free to pass through into the body and wreak havoc, causing mud fever (or pastern dermatitis as it is also known).

When softened by water the skin is far more easily damaged, it takes nothing more than a tiny nick caused by frolicking in the field or the unnoticed rub of an overreach boot to leave room for bacteria to get in. And here is the shocking truth, once they have found a suitable breeding ground, bacteria reproduce every 20 to 30 minutes!

With the best will in the world, we cannot stop them. Though by playing our part in ensuring our horse’s legs are an unsuitable breeding ground, we can begin to focus on how to prevent mud fever from causing more severe secondary symptoms such as swelling, infection and lameness.

Building a resilient barrier really is the key in figuring out how to prevent mud fever. There has been long standing debate about what it is best to do when bringing horses with filthy feet in from the field. To wash or not to wash? Is often the question…In reality, it does not matter when we are considering how to prevent mud fever because we should not be concerning ourselves with the wetting of the legs and feet, but rather with the care and condition of the underlying skin.

prevent mud fever in horses

Whether your horse is an 18 hand Shire; a finely built thoroughbred or a miniature Shetland… skin is skin, and bacteria is not fussy. It will not select a horse based in size or breed; it is simply finding the right breeding ground. Hairy legs or not!

Banish The Mud

mud defender lotion

MUD DEFENDER LOTION is gentle and soothing in action and contains herbs, oils and tinctures including aloe vera, echinacea and coconut oil.  It can be used independently or for optimum benefits use alongside the Mud Defender Supplement

It’s safe to apply to broken, sore, scabbed skin and should not sting when applied. The lotion is not designed to be used as a barrier cream, but does contain oils that should help deter water penetration

How to prevent mud fever in a nutshell…

1. The devil is in the detail, be meticulous when looking for any chinks in your armour. Where possible manage the mud to prevent mud fever. Vary your routine enough so horses do not predict your arrival and, in turn, spend less time wallowing in the mud bath by the gateway. To help prevent mud fever becoming an issue, try to ensure high traffic areas, such as those around feeding stations and water troughs, remain as mud free as possible. 

2. Keep your horse’s legs as clean and dry as possible, the provision of a dry place to stand is essential; be it a stable or field shelter, the skin needs adequate time to dry each day. If you have turnout boots which cover the pasterns and you can guarantee the area under your horse’s boots will stay dry then use boots; if not, barrier creams and fresh air are our best bet.

Horses come in all shapes and size, boots will work for some and not others. If the wet can get under horse’s boots, it creates a warm and cosy breeding ground for bacteria.

3. Barrier creams also come with a word of warning, these are perfect for soothing mild irritation, but only if the skin is clean and dry before application. An effective soothing cream over damp skin will result in the bacteria being trapped closer to the skin, resulting in infections. In the likelihood that scabs have formed whilst bacteria are present, soon enough puss will form beneath the surface, you will need to soften and remove the scabs to disturb and destroy the breeding ground beneath.

Part 2: How To Treat Mud Fever

Despite you now knowing the best practices on how to prevent mud fever, your horse may still become victim to bacteria! Read part 2 to our mud fever series by clicking the button below and learn how to effectively treat mud fever.