It’s the time of year when mud fever is at the top of everyone’s mind. Some people say that white legs are more prone to mud fever than dark legs. However, I know someone who’s managed to keep mud fever at bay from her coloured filly with white legs, and I know dark legged horses who are plagued by it.
There are a number of factors which I think helps prevent the onset of mud fever.
1) having a little bit of feathers. Yes heavy feathers can be cumbersome and difficult to keep clean, as well as playing host to mites, but I tend to feel that they are there for a reason and are nature’s way of protecting the legs. If I had a hairy legged horse I think I’d clip them in September/October and then leave them to grow over the winter before reclipping in the spring so that the legs have some protection but the hair is a manageable length.
2) don’t over wash the legs. I like to leave the mud to dry naturally and brush it off, giving them a thorough wash once a week and drying them with a towel. Repeatedly washing the leg softens the skin and makes them more susceptible to letting bacteria enter the area and develop into mud fever.
3) coat the legs in pig oil, or baby oil even, which will prevent mud sticking to the legs. It’s really interesting to see the effects of oil on the legs. For example, you can see on Phoenix’s legs that where the oil has been applied from the knee/hock down her cannon bones are sparkling clean and only her pasterns are muddy, but the mud is less thick and brushes off far more easily than if no oil was applied. Applying the oil every few days will cause it to build up on the legs which will help keep the legs clean and mud free.
As I was driving out of the yard last week I saw a livery come back from the hack on her Mum`s Dales pony. He is jet black, and gleams like polished ebony. But what caught my eye was the fact that his feathers were as immaculate as when he left the yard; the air flowing through them as he marched into the yard.
It`s pretty incredible, I thought. That a) he comes back from the hack as clean as when he went out – I think back to my last hack where I found clumps of mud under my saddle flaps. And b) that even in winter, this pony had freshly combed feathers that were entirely mud free – I think back to the three washes Otis`s legs had to have this weekend in order to be deemed presentable at our dressage competition.
The next day I asked what…
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