Help your horse recover after a severe wet weather event

Help your horse recover after a severe wet weather event

If you’ve been through a severe wet weather event, you might think that once the rain stops and the water levels drop, that your horse will be ok and you can go back to riding. However for a lot of horse owners, problems will come up over the next few days, or weeks, as a result of horses spending a prolonged amount of time standing in wet conditions with lots of swollen legs and abscesses brewing. This is likely to be a common theme for horses in the coming days, especially if they don’t have somewhere dry to stand, so although it can be tempting to jump on and ride as soon as the sun comes out, here are a few things to consider before bringing your horse back into work.

  1. As mentioned above, many horses will have filled legs from standing around for so long. They generally shouldn’t be lame, and if you can take them for a brisk hand-walk, this swelling should go down. If the legs are hot, the horse is lame, or the swelling doesn’t reduce, your horse may have cellulitis which will need veterinary attention.
  2. Try to find some hard ground for them to stand on. I have sectioned off part of my driveway for them to stand on during the day. Although I have stables, they started to become waterlogged after a few days of constant rain, so my horses are still suffering the same foot-related issues as those out in paddocks.  
  3. Pick out feet once daily at a minimum (ideally twice), and spray with something that will help prevent any nasties from working their way into the hooves. I’ve been spraying betadine, but there are lots of specially formulated options on the market. If you can’t get any of those, try a mixture of white vinegar with a small amount of eucalyptus (thanks to Emerton’s Professional Hoofcare for that tip!). If they need extra drying out, taking the horse for a walk on gravel will work wonders! Alternatively, you can pop some nappies on their hooves to soak up some moisture.
  4. If your horse’s back has been wet over the past few days, their skin will be soft and they may develop rain scald (a bacterial infection of the skin that is often seen when the skin is susceptible to bacteria getting in, such as when it is consistently wet. Rain scald causes sore & itchy scabs to form, and is usually seen on the back and hind-quarters). If they start to develop rain scald, give them a good wash with shampoo and if possible use a medicated shampoo such as malaseb. Use towels to get your horse as dry as possible, and then stand in the sun (or even better, take them for a gentle hand-walk) to dry thoroughly. Legs may need washing regularly if the skin is damaged/weak due to the wet. Even if your horse was lucky enough to have shelter and so didn’t get too wet, they probably got damp from the moisture in the air, and a good wash will do them the world of good. 
  5. Spend a few days doing in-hand work with your horse to allow them time to recover fully. It’s been a big event for horses, and they may be stiff and sore from standing around in the cold, damp weather. Lots of hand-walking, some gentle stretches (try some carrot stretches!), and some TLC will make the world of difference to them!
  6. If they seem a bit stiff and sore, consider booking a massage for them. This can really help to speed up their recovery, and can be a big help if they’ve slipped in the mud.
  7. When you’re ready to ride, have a couple of gentle rides first before returning to full work. Keep an eye out for any rubbing where your tack goes, which may indicate the skin is still a bit soft. 
  8. And finally, remember that you can only do your best. Don’t be too hard on yourself if your horse has any injuries as a result of this weather. It’s been a traumatic time for animals and humans alike, and lots of us are still suffering the effects now, and this may take weeks or months to recover from. If you’re worried about your horse, please contact your vet. Even if they are unable to get to you because of flooding, they will be able to give you some advice to help your horse until they can get to you.