Mention mud fever and you’ll be met with groans of dread from any horse owner. If a horse’s legs have been damp for long periods, the skin defences weaken, allowing bacteria from the soil to get in and cause an infection. This creates patchy scabs of irritated skin, particularly around the heel and behind the pastern.

If point-to-point trainer and master of the East Sussex and Romney Marsh hunt, Di Grissell, spots signs of mud fever she applies Equicreme (£9.95, www.equicreme.com), while Caroline Churchley, groom for the Cotswold hunt, relies on Tetradelta (available from your vet) or “udder cream”.

Point-to-point groom Steph Woollon, who works for Emma Wilesmith near Ledbury, Gloucestershire, opts for Sudocrem (approx £1.79 for 60g from pharmacies). Designed to heal nappy rash, it is very effective for mud fever and helps to soothe cracked and wind-chapped hands.

Brushing off mud can become as irritating for the horse as for the rider, yet bathing isn’t ideal in cold weather. Some big yards have a purpose-built indoor bathing area, complete with warm water and heat lamps, but most of us have to devise inventive alternatives.

Team chaser Ali Brown uses a power hose with warm water to wash the horses before a competition and pops them on the walker to warm up. For hacking advanced event rider Fiona Forsyth simply washes the legs down and dries them off with a towel.

Louise Bell, who is a show producer in summer and runs a hunting yard in winter, says the key to keeping horses clean during winter is to clip them regularly: “My horses get clipped once a fortnight and with 30 horses in the yard we have a girl who comes three times a week just to clip.”

Di Grissell wipes liquid paraffin over the horses’ legs with a sponge before turning them out.
“It’s a bit like baby oil but more powerful and we wipe it off when we bring them in. It helps keep the natural oils in the horses’ coats,” she says.

Caroline Churchley smooths the horses’ tummies with baby oil before a day’s hunting to make mud easier to brush off.

When the coats grow out and it comes to moulting season, Ellie Hughes recommends the Slix Brush Block (approx £1.58, www.divoza.co.uk), which is great for getting mud and loose hair out of the coat.

This feature formed part of a winter management special feature in Horse & Hound (18 October, ’07)

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