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Sunburns
Added on Tue 1 Aug 2017

Sunburns

The long, hot, dog days of summer are in full swing with all the fun activities and events that come along with it.

As you are planning your vacation, your top priority probably isn’t thinking about your horse getting a sunburn, of all things, but it does happen quite often.

Therefore, having a horse nanny that can handle this summertime woe is very important. Horses sometimes will resist having sunscreen applied so having someone that is able to persuade the horse into having this stuff administered (preferably several times daily) is very important.

I had a paint horse years ago that could spot me with a tube of sunscreen from the other side of the paddock. At that point, the chase was on to catch her and then the fight was on to apply the sunscreen.

You would swear that I was trying to apply acid to her face! Okay, I have to admit that her nose was a tad pink…maybe that was the issue.

This just proves that preventing a sunburn is so much better than treating a sunburn. Since non-pigmented skin is more susceptible to sunburn, Paints, Pintos, Appaloosas, Cremellos, Perlinos, and other horses with white markings or pale coat colors are at a higher risk of burning.

Sunburn causes the skin to become pinker than the surrounding pale skin with the formation of skin lesions around the eyes and muzzle first. Then the skin will begin to appear scaly and will peel off. Eventually, if burned bad enough, blisters that leak a yellowish fluid and scabs will develop.

Options for preventing a sunburn:

  • Avoid the sun as much as possible by stalling your horse during the day only allowing them to graze from dusk to dawn.
  • Use sunscreen. There are few equine-specific sunscreens on the market, however, sunscreen for children will work. They make a sunscreen that is brightly colored when applied. It makes it easy to see when it needs to be reapplied. Zinc oxide paste works really well and has healing properties also. The downside of using sunscreen is that it needs to be reapplied several times a day and if a burn has already occurred your horse will resist this process because it is painful when touched.
  • Use a fly mask with UV protection that covers the entire face, ears, and nose.
  • Use a full fly sheet if large areas of white cover your horse’s shoulders and/or back. Be careful though as fly sheets are made of mesh and do not provide total protection from the sun.
  • In the end, once a sunburn has occurred, recovery can take months. Your horse may become head shy and/or resist wearing a halter, being bridled, and/or being saddled (if the back is burned). It is important to be patient, understanding, and willing to give your horse some time off to heal. It is also very important that your horse nanny be able to spot the early signs of a sunburn and then be able to apply sunscreen to the affected areas several times daily.
Article by Guest Writer Christy R Taylor

Christy lives in Arkansas and has a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science with an Equine Science minor. She has owned horses and worked in the horse industry most of her adult life and loves training horses, some of which have gone on to win barrels and poles at the Arkansas State Horse Show. Christy says she can’t imagine a life without horses. She also writes a blog for an Instagram account, @eqstyletheory link opens new page to Instagram

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