Treating Horses for Scratches

Treating scratches in horses is challenging. The phrase “my horse has scratches!” can mean one of two things.  Either the horse has physical scratches, like cuts, somewhere, or he has a common equine skin condition called “scratches.” I’m willing to bet it more commonly means the latter!


What are Scratches?

Scratches is essentially a form of dermatitis horses get right above their hooves, in an area called their pasterns.  It looks almost like dried mud clumps hanging onto the horse’s fur.  But, it’s actually dried and dead skin.

How Do they Get Scratches?

Horses can develop scratches from a number of varying circumstances.

This “wetness” can be caused by mud, actual water (puddles, ponds, etc), soiled bedding, and other things.  The horse turned out in wet pastures for long amounts of time, or kept in a soiled stall for long amounts of time can develop scratches.

How Can Scratches be Treated?

The best way to treat scratches is to not treat it at all, the same way that the best way to heal a cut is to just let it be and not irritate it further.

Can Scratches be Prevented?

As with any other equine ailment or condition, scratches can never be 100% prevented.

When it comes down to preventing scratches, the best prevention is to make informed decisions.  Only you know exactly what conditions and situations your horse is exposed to, so only you can decide whether or not you think your horse is going to be inclined to develop scratches.

Scratches, thankfully, is very easy to treat- do nothing! But, in all seriousness, if your horse develops scratches, it is not a serious condition. Simply make sure that the fur around the scratches is trimmed away, make sure the horse isn’t exposed to the moist conditions it was when the scratches developed, and keep an eye on your horse’s recovery.


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