Mid-South Eventing & Dressage Association

Wet Weather Skin Woes

04/16/2018 8:36 AM | Chelsea Smith (Administrator)

While warmer weather has all of us excited about the ability to ride in less layers than Nanook of the North, spring in Kentucky is not without its share of equine complications, including slightly feral steeds, abscesses from mud and the seemingly ever-persistent (and dreaded!) rain rot.

By Sarah E. Coleman


One of the most-common skin infections seen in horses, the technical term for rain rot is Dermatophilus congolensis. Caused by bacterial spores that invade the outer layer of skin, the horse’s body produces extra white blood cells as a response to the attack. The blood cells and protein then create tiny, pus-filled pustules on the horse’s coat. When the pustules mature, the skin beneath dies off.

Occurring in warm, damp conditions, rain rot can manifest in multiple ways, including as individual lesions affecting only portions of a horse’s body or in broad patches. Eventually these lesions form crusty scabs, which then peel off with clumps of hair, leaving patches of the horse’s body bare and potentially painful.

Common on the head, neck and back, some rain rot truly follows the path of the rainwater as it runs off the horse’s body.While your horse has an active case of rain rot:

  • Don’t share equipment, including saddle pads, girths, wraps and brushes
  • Disinfect the equipment used on the horse

Healing Options

Short of keeping a rain sheet on 24/7, it’s hard to prevent rain rot here in the Bluegrass. So what to do when your horse gets it? There are both over-the-counter options and some homemade remedies. If your horse has a very persistent case, it may be in his best interest to have a vet come out and either do a skin scraping or prescribe some other medications (shampoos that contain keratolytic agent are common) as secondary infections of the open lesions can occur.

OTC Options:

  • Antimicrobial and antibacterial shampoo or rinse (betadine or Nolvasan are options)
  • MTG
  • Equiderma
  • Hay, Where’s That Blue Stuff
  • MicroTek
  • Chlorhexidine scrub
  • Zephyr’s Garden fungal spray
  • Tea tree oil

Homemade Remedies

  • Clip the horse so air can get to the affected areas
  • Put a 50/50 mix of Listerine and water in a spray bottle and apply up to three times a day
  • Mix mineral oil and Betadine solution, leave on for three days
Do you have any remedies for rain rot you swear by? Share them here!

Midsouth Eventing & Dressage Association is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

MSEDA’s mission is to promote and preserve the sports of Eventing and Dressage in the Mid-South area, by providing leadership and education to its members and the community at large. To further these goals, MSEDA will provide educational opportunities, fair and safe competitions, promote the welfare of the horse and rider and reward the pursuit of excellence from the grass roots to the FEI level.

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