While the Gypsy Horse as a breed is certainly not delicate, there "are" some things of which the new feathered horse owner and indeed every horse owner, should be made aware.


Scratches - often referred to as Cracked Heel, Greasy Heel and other names, can be a problem in many breeds. However, in heavily feathered breeds, it can often be a major issue. Unlike the problem in smooth-haired breeds, it often goes unnoticed in feathered breeds and left untreated, it can then evolve into something much more serious and even deadly. The affliction usually begins with a softening of the skin behind the fetlock and the heel. While it often afflicts horses which reside in constantly wet, muddy or damp areas, don't think for a moment that horses kept in dry, even desert conditions, cannot suffer likewise. As the condition progresses, the affected body part is invaded by tiny mites. They feed on the epidermal debris, and in the process, cause irritation to the afflicted area.

The next stage is usually a form of staph infection followed by a fungal invasion. This results in inflammation that is accompanied by crusty, scabby bumps or lesions. The first step is to never allow it to get started! Check all your horses thoroughly each week! Part heavy feather carefully right down to the skin to inspect. Make sure when you wash your horses, you dry feather well and down to the skin. Accustom your horses to having their feet inspected daily from babies. Get them used to the sound and feel of hairdryers. It will make your job much easier.

A similar problem which some refer to as "rain rot" is found on the upper body of the horse - often in warm, damp areas and climates. While is sometimes appears on the backs and around the mouths of horses, always check carefully under heavy manes. It is a fungal becteria.

The treatment for the above, whether holistic or conventional, is to remove the horse from the wet environment, if indeed that is a probable cause. If the affliction is in the early stages, washing the area with warm water and soap can be effective. Dry thoroughly and apply an application of a wetness barrier, such as Desitin ointment. This can help protect the area.

Well there are as many old time remedies which work as there are commercial products which work. What works well on one horse, might not work well on another. Below are just a few remedies we have found over the years which people swear have worked well for them. Remember I said "For them."! Doesn't mean it will work well for you and you should have the Vet make a call as soon as you do find a problem so he can make an informed decision as to whether Scratches is indeed what your horse displays.
Here are some remedies which others have shared with us.

I have found this works on ringworm and rainrot.
Mix 1/3 Listerine mouthwash, 1/3 cheap baby oil, 1/3 hair
conditioner. Apply twice a day. You must use Listerine original.
This recipe can be used for scratches too. Donít use brushes,
blankets or combs on any other horse.


Rainrot is more commonly found in warm, humid areas, but it can affect horses all over the world in any climate. Be absolutely sure not to use your horses' brushes/combs/blankets etc.on others. If you blanket your horse, don't put the same blanket on the horse after starting treatment. It will just reinfect him. This is a fungal bacteria and extremely contagious. Some pick scabs off - others don't. Bathe the horse daily for seven days with either iodine shampoo, chlorohexidine shampoo or benzoyl peroxide. If you do remove scabs, small tufts of hair may come out with them and they will probably bleed. Keep your horse out of wet or moist areas. Tie his mane up in braids or bags if you have to. Don't touch other areas of your horse while treating.


When dealing with scratches, if the horse has long hair around the fetlocks or heel and the infection is bad, you can braid, bag or even clip the hair if you must. I don't pick scabs off. You can soak in saline and do a Betadine scrub.
In a mild case you can apply Zinc Oxide paste or even Calamine to dry up the skin. You can also treat by applying Antibiotic Corticosteroid oinment such as Corticosporin. Oral and injectible antibiotics can also be used. The main thing is to try to discover what brought on the problem in the first place and remove the horse from that area.


Ringworm is not a "worm" at all, but instead is caused by a fungus known scientifically as Dermatophytosis. Horses most susceptible are the young, debilitated, or animals whose immune systems have been compromised. It is easily spread to other animals and to humans. It can also be carried by rats, mice and other animals. It is particularly itchy. While ringworm usually is a self-limiting disease, topical care of the affected area (as advised by your veterinarian) usually will improve the way the horse feels and the appearance of his coat. However, it is difficult to attack the condition itself with topical medications because the causative agents are residing at a deeper layer than most topical medications can reach. When ringworm strikes, you should immediately disinfect all grooming equipment. If possible, the horse should be isolated to prevent further spread of the disease. Suggested in medical literature as part of the conventional approach are washes or sprays of 0.5% lime-sulfur; 0.5% sodium hypochlorite (1:10 chlorine bleach); 0.5% chlorhexadine solution; or 1% povidone-iodine. It is recommended that the desired medication be applied to the entire body of the affected animal on a daily basis for five to seven days.

There are obviously hundreds of other common diseases and problems found in Equines. We suggest you aquaint yourself with all - on the internet or via books etc. Keeping your horses on suitable ground and bedding, going over your horses from head to toe weekly and keeping them well groomed and clean, will go a long way to stop many conditions starting and gaining a foothold.

To learn more about problems which might affect heavily feathered horses, join our forum. The link is on our Home Page. There are many member/breeders there, who constantly discover new medications or recipes, which help control some of the things which concern us.


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