Friday 27 March 2015

Sweet, Itchy Ginger

Our warm weather and early spring means the big mare has already been doing the scratchy dance and rubbing her tail and belly a little bit. Poor thing, looks like the insects are already tormenting her.

And she only just grew her mane back to a reasonable length. Pic is from last week I think - I need new ones, her summer coat is coming in and she's a super dark shiny bay at the moment. So pretty

 (As a side note, when I explained to G that Ginger has sweet itch and is allergic to midges he thought I meant The Midge aka Bridget and was thoroughly confused for a day or two before he asked me to clarify lol)
Don't worry Ginger, it's the other midges that you're allergic to.

I know in the past people have been interested in what exactly we're doing to manage her sweet itch. Last year was the first year it was really bad and not kept mostly in check with fly spray along with some Swat on her midline and around her udder. She did alright until the fall, when we got a bit caught out when the bugs got bad for a week or so and I was away. I really think the trick with sweet itch is to be proactive and keep a handle on it. If you fall behind and your horse has a bad day or two and itches themselves silly, the whole situation seems to blow up and nothing helps anymore -- the next thing you know your horse has raw spots and sections of mane missing. Ask me how I know.

I consulted with the vet last fall, so this year, we do have the vet ready to prescribe a steroid injection should things get out of hand again. For now though, with his blessing, we're doing the 'wait and see' approach. Here's our normal line up of preventative products:

Diaper rash zinc cream. My secret weapon for her belly and udder area and what I use almost daily. Cheap and effective because the bugs don't bite through it and it' soothes itchy, broken skin. The negative? It attracts dirt and I have a mucky mess to clean up before reapplying. Probably not the best to use on certain areas if your horse doesn't like you touching them there, since you will have to clean it off eventually.

This is handy for the same reasons as above, with the added bonus of containing bug repellent. The downside? It's a small container and the $ add up. Also, it attracts dirt and needs cleaning up now and then, although not as badly as the zinc cream. I tend to use a minimal amount of this mostly for the repellent aspect - I like the idea of it 'sticking' on and being harder to rube/wipe off than sprays. I use more if there is a spot she's rubbed raw and I want the extra insurance it won't spread.

The powder for her mane and tail, the lotion for her belly. I use this if/when she gets itchy and the zinc cream isn't enough.  The lotion is a lot lighter and less greasy than the swat or zinc cream, so it's great for daily applications without the mess. Again though, for daily applications on a horse, this could be $$ and I only use it if I see she's been scratching a certain place and it's not an open wound. Best to be smart about your fly sprays and management and not rely completely on anti itch products

Of course, I also use a ton of fly spray. We've tried natural (tea tree or citronella, marigold, chrysanthemum) and we've tried the 'nasty' stuff with little difference in results. Nothing seems to last more than a couple of hours. This year we're switching to a spot on treatment:

Management wise, we leave her in later in the morning and bring her in before the bugs get bad in the evening. I opt not to use a fly sheet, since she really gets bothered under her belly/between her hind legs where a sheet can't protect. The barn owners are awesome and did some further drainage work last fall in hopes of there being less standing water this spring to attract the bugs. A nice gesture, but our climate is a tough one. The upcoming 200 mm of rain over the next 3 days will probably overwhelm even the best drainage!

Since I am at the barn every day grooming and visiting anyways, it's not a huge deal for me to apply these products as needed. If I was busier or Ginger had a bigger issue, I'd be going with the vet injections or prescription antihistamines for sure (and I still will if I feel my prevention measures aren't working). We'll see how we fare this summer, here's hoping we keep it under control and pony has a mane left next fall.


  1. How does the Equi Spot work? Is it as small a capsule as it appears?
    Fingers crossed your prevention plan works well for Ginger ... have you tried the Ecolicious fly spray? I got a bottle last year and love the smell, I got it at the end of the summer though so can't really tell how effective it is yet.

    1. The ecolicious stuff is wonderful, it smells so nice. I found a bottle once, but since then our local store doesn't seem to order it and I'm reluctant to pay shipping on heavy things like bottles of liquid. I seem to remember it working just fine on my non sweet itchy mare, but no difference for Ginger :)

    2. I use Equispot every 2 weeks for ticks and midges, and it really works if I keep to the schedule. Of course it doesn't exist in Germany so I have to buy a lot when I visit home (no, you can't send it in the mail, customs made me sign a form releasing the banned substances for destruction, seriously!). The hard part is applying the Equispot to the midline/udder area of the horse without letting it drip onto the ground. And the plastic tube thingy tickles down there so that doesn't help! If you find a better way, let me know.

      I also use Desitin as a midline bug barrier. And Vaseline. Nice and messy.

    3. I haven't used the equispot in years, and am awaiting my first shipment (we also have to try to order it in from the states and it may or may not get through customs)

  2. I am not familiar with sweet itch but at our barn today, I noticed there seemed to be a crazy amount of horse flies -- which has never been a problem before. I ended up using fly spray on B today, which is unusually early for that kind of thing. So interesting what the change of seasons brings!

    1. It's been so ridiculously warm and damp the bugs here have already been out in force. Here's hoping for a warm, dry summer with lots of riding time for us both :)

  3. sweet itch sounds like pretty much the worst :( good luck managing it and staying on top of it this year!