Monday, July 9, 2012

Home Remedies to Help Stretch Your Horse Dollar

Properly caring for horses can quickly get expensive.  If you are like me, you are always looking for ways to save money without sacrificing the quality of care you provide for your horses.  In this week's blog, I've compiled a list of some of my favorite "home" remedies for horse care that may help you stretch your dollar.

Listerine® or its generic equivalent is probably my favorite home remedy.  It can treat mild to moderate skin infections like rain rot and can also treat mild thrush.  When conditions are ripe for the development of skin crud or thrush (i.e., wet), I will spray some Listerine® on my horses' legs and on the soles of my horses' hooves to prevent infection.  Note that you should use the plain brown-colored mouth wash, and not any of the flavored alternatives.

Equal Parts Listerine®, Ivory Soap, and White Vinegar make a fantastic scrub to treat skin infections like rain rot.  Put the mixture in a spray or empty shampoo bottle and shake well before use.  Wet the affected area, and scrub the mixture thoroughly into the skin.  Let it sit about 5 minutes and then rinse thoroughly.  Fore more serious cases, you can let it sit a few minutes longer before rinsing, but never more than 10 minutes total.  After thoroughly rinsing, dry the area as well as you can.  Moisture makes these skin infections worse, so do your best to dry the area after treatment.  Repeat every other day until the infection is gone.  On the days you don't scrub the affected area, you can spray straight Listerine® onto it.

A Mixture of Listerine®, Witch Hazel, and Baby Oil in a 2:2:1 ratio makes an excellent topical spray for itchy tails and itchy skin.  Tail rubbing can be a sign of parasites or a dirty sheath or udder.  If you've ruled those out, however, try spraying this mixture on the dock of the tail, making sure it wets the skin.  If you don't have all these ingredients, you can try using just witch hazel to soothe the itch or just Listerine® to treat any skin infection that may be developing.  You can use this spray daily or as needed to give your horse some relief.  Please note that frequent, persistent tail rubbing and itchy skin may be a sign of allergies, assuming you have ruled out parasites and a dirty sheath or udder.  You should consult your vet if you suspect that is the case.

Generic Triple Antibiotic Ointment made for human cuts and scrapes can also be used as a wound dressing for your horse's cuts and scrapes.  Just note that it doesn't replace a product like Swat for keeping flies out of cuts and scrapes during bug season.

Wintergreen Rubbing Alcohol makes a wonderful, inexpensive liniment.  Apply full strength to your horse's legs and hard-working muscles after riding or dilute in water and sponge onto your horse for a refreshing post-workout brace.  It can also be used under standing wraps.

(Left) Oliver, one of my school horses, getting proper post-workout care after a jumping lesson, including having his legs iced and rubbed down with wintergreen alcohol. 

Protect sensitive pink noses from
sunburn with sunscreen or Desitin

Sunscreen (the kind made for humans) is great for preventing sensitive pink noses from getting sunburned.  Buy no-name brands or whatever is on sale, and apply before turnout or riding.

Desitin® or its generic equivalent contains zinc oxide, which also works extremely well to prevent sunburn.  It tends to last longer than sunscreen and doesn't wash off as easily in water troughs.  It can also be applied to already-sunburned or blistered noses to soothe and prevent further burns.

Above & Below are the same horse.
This is why I love Ivory Soap!

Liquid Ivory Dish Soap makes an excellent, inexpensive, mild shampoo for bathing.  It can be used full strength or diluted in water to stretch your dollar even more.  If you have a palomino like my hunter, Beau (left), who loves to roll in the mud, you will quickly learn to appreciate the savings!

Cheap Human Hair Conditioner works great to condition tails after bathing.  Stock up on generic or on-sale conditioner instead of spending extra money on horse-specific brands.

Baby Diapers are great to use as a hoof wrap when treating an abscess or protecting a hoof from a lost shoe until the farrier comes.  If treating an abscess, first pack the hoof with Animalintex, ichthammol, or poultice.  Then, wrap the hoof in the diaper and secure with vet wrap over the entire hoof.  For turnout, cover the entire hoof with strips of duct tape over the vet wrap.

(Above) A hoof wrapped with a diaper and vet wrap.

(Below) Under the bell bot, strips of duct tape added to
the top and bottom of the hoof add durability to the hoof wrap.   

Baby Oil or KY Jelly can replace harsher, more expensive sheath cleaners.  Apply as you would any other sheath cleaner, and let it sit for a few minutes to loosen smegma.  Then, rinse thoroughly as usual.  

Olive Oil can be used in a pinch if you are out of leather conditioner or saddle oil.  While I don't use it exclusively to condition my tack and I don't think it is necessarily less expensive than most saddle oils, I have used it with good results when I am out of leather conditioner or saddle oil.  

I will note that I frequently use products specifically designed for horses, so I am not always reaching for the "homemade" substitution.  That said, over the years, I have found that these common household products can be effective and often cost-efficient as well.  Remember that none of these suggestions is a substitute for proper veterinary care.  Be sure to consult your veterinarian if you have any questions about your horse's health.