Top Tips for Managing Summer Itching
SI is not normally a condition that can be cured but it can be managed effectively to make your horse more comfortable. Horses vary as to how severe the condition is and the management needs to be tailored accordingly. Our top tips are
Keep your horse as healthy as possible; the general health of your horse is important. Ensure your horse’s skin is kept healthy with an oral additive such as HerdLeader SR which contains natural ingredients, including the Nicotinamide form of vitamin B3, which are known to support and maintain the skin. These ingredients are supportive for skin health when there is over production of histamines (which causes the itch). They also support healthy fat cell development in the skin layer (epidermis) which provides a better barrier.
Manage stress: like many conditions SI can be worse when your horse is under stress such as when moving home or competing. Pay particular attention to his behaviour and modify your management accordingly.
Decrease exposure: Severe cases of SI will need to be covered as much as possible using a specialist rug such as a Boett, Pagony or Snuggy. Less sensitive horses may only need a propriety fly sheet to keep the worst away. Fly management is important and repellent and fly traps may be sufficient. Extreme cases will benefit from stabling during peak fly times, ideally in a stable fitted with fly screens and a large fan which deters midges. Oils and greases also deter midges from biting but can be tricky to use on riding horses as they can transfer onto you and your tack - be particularly aware of making your reins slippery!
Manage the environment; severe SI sufferers can go to extreme lengths to relieve the itch by scratching on anything and everything they can access. You may need to use electric fencing for their own safety and to prevent damage to fences and buildings. This may leave them nowhere safe to scratch so consider a safe and specially made scratching post with a plastic bristle which prevents them from damaging themselves. Avoid fields which are close to water courses where midges will breed more readily. A windy hilltop paddock may provide some relief.
Stopping the itching: your vet may offer a steroid injection which can bring temporary relief by depressing the immune system, but these can have serious side effects such as laminitis so discuss this with your vet beforehand. Antihistamines are sadly not often effective in horses. Soothing lotions can help to relieve the itching and reduce inflammation though these won't deter further midge attacks.