There are a variety of factors that determine sensitive skin in horses. Some breeds, like Arabians and Thoroughbreds, have skin that’s naturally thinner than others. These animals need all-natural horse products designed to be gentle on the skin. You should also consider different grooming tools when cleaning areas that make your horse particularly fidgety. Pro Equine Grooms recommends using rags, sponges, and brushes with exceptionally soft bristles in lieu of curry combs, dandy brushes and other instruments. Proceed as normal over areas that don’t cause your horse any discomfort, but brush delicately over spots that cause it to act out. If your horse’s sensitivity is simply a behavioral issue, the gentle reinforcement will get it acclimated to the grooming process.
If you notice your horse is uncharacteristically sensitive, however, he might have an underlying condition separate from genetics or attitude. Here are a few common ailments that increase a horse’s skin sensitivity:
“Horses with sweet itch nibble their skin.”
Some horses are more sensitive to bug bites than others. Many people refer to this sensitivity as a fly allergy or sweet itch, and it can lead to some pretty big problems. Horses rub against nearby objects like trees and fence posts to alleviate the intense itch, and some even nibble their own skin. Left alone, the scratching and biting results in hair loss and large bald patches, according to Horse Channel. The bug bites can also become infected if your horse manages to break the skin.
Horse Channel recommends using sheets, masks and leg wraps to protect your equine from biting bugs and discourage him from picking at its own skin. You should also stable your horse during dawn and dusk when biting insects like gnats and blackflies are most active. Inspect your horse regularly for bites, and pay particular attention to the belly, chest and lower legs. If you see signs of irritation, wash the area with a gentle product like Finish Line’s Herbal Shampoo. This wash, when diluted, matches the unique pH of your horse’s skin. Once the area is clean, apply a topical ointment such as Kool-Out Poultice to soothe the skin and keep the wound free of bacteria.
In addition, Finish Line’s Blaster Essential Oil Horse Spray assists in preventing fly bites and is gentle enough to use on sensitive skin. Blaster combines several essential oils, including thyme, tea tree, and lemongrass for a product that promotes healthy skin and is gentle enough for sensitive horses.
“Flies spread equine papillomavirus.”
Fly bites can do more than irritate the skin. They can also spread equine papillomavirus, which can then cause crusty, white lesions known as aural plaques to form inside the ear. The plaques need to be treated in order to disappear, but they’re generally a cosmetic issue and don’t cause pain or discomfort on their own. However, according to Equus Magazine, the skin underneath is often pink and sensitive. Horses with aural plaques often resist bridling and having their ears touched.
Removing the plaques yourself agitates your horse. Instead, Equus Magazine suggested obtaining a prescription for a topical cream with imiquimod from your veterinarian.
Horses with sensitive skin are particularly susceptible to allergens, leading to hives and rashes. Common culprits include bedding, pollen and dust. Mild reactions usually clear up with little interference, noted Practical Horseman, but you should still take time to find the underlying cause. Repeat contact can make the allergic reaction worse over time. An intradermal test at a veterinary dermatologist’s office gives you a better idea of what causes your horse’s allergy than simple process of elimination.
Regardless of the underlying issue, horses with sensitive skin need all-natural horse products that support healthy functions and don’t cause irritation.